“Born Losers” (1967) directed by & starring Tom Laughlin / Z-View

Born Losers (1967)

Director: T.C. Frank (Tom Laughlin)

Screenplay by: James Lloyd (Elizabeth James)

Starring: Tom Laughlin, Elizabeth James, Jeremy Slate, William Wellman Jr., Jack Starrett, Robert Tessier, Jeff Cooper, Stuart Lancaster, Delores Taylor and Jane Russell.

Tagline: KITTEN ON WHEELS WITH HER BIKE, HER BOOTS and HER BIKINI! Out for kicks… in for trouble! She’s going to Join the… BORN LOSERS

The Story:

The Born Losers motorcycle gang has begun to terrorize a small California town. Victims and witnesses alike are terrified to testify against them.

Billy Jack is a former Viet Nam vet who lives a quiet life in the mountains.  On a trip to town, Billy Jack sees gang members savagely beating a man.  Although no one else is willing to help, Billy Jack grabs his rifle.  He orders the gang to stop.  One gang member says he doesn’t have enough bullets to get them all and they begin to surround him.  Billy Jack shoots one in the leg.  The police arrive and arrest everyone including Billy Jack.  Billy Jack later learns that his fine for firing the gun was more than the gang members got for assault.

News spreads that gang members have raped some young women.  Only one is willing to testify.  She is being kept in protective custody at a hotel.  When gang members lure the cop guarding her away, others go to kidnap her.  Billy Jack intervenes.

Billy Jack plans to keep her safe until the trial.

What chance does one man have against an outlaw biker gang?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Tom Laughlin had the character Billy Jack in mind for years before he ever made it to the screen.  Born Losers was written to cash in on the biker craze and be a springboard for Billy Jack.  Elizabeth James, the movie’s co-star wrote the screenplay using the name James Lloyd.  The thought was who would want to see a biker movie written by a chick?

Tom Laughlin, who played Billy Jack, directed Born Losers. He used the pseudonym T.C. Frank. His three children are named Teresa, Christina and Frank. His wife Delores Taylor has a quick cameo as a mother with two children (played by Teresa and Frank).

Movie tough guy, Robert Tessier, makes his film debut in Born Losers!

Born Losers was successful enough for Laughlin to get financing to make Billy Jack.  When Billy Jack became a breakout hit, American International re-released Born Losers.  They advertised it with a new poster that focused on Billy Jack.  The box office of Born Losers ended up being American International’s highest grossing release until 1979.

Born Losers generated 3 more Billy Jack movies; Billy Jack (1971), The Trial of Billy Jack (1974) and Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977).

Jack Starrett plays a deputy much like the deputy character he played in First Blood.

Most folks may be surprised my rating for Born Losers is so high.  The film resonates with me.  I saw Born Losers on a double feature with Billy Jack when I was in 9th grade.  (The perfect age for both those movies.)  My “date” was my girlfriend and future wife.  I love that Tom Laughlin had a vision and despite many, many obstacles (losing financing, losing distribution, etc.) was able to make his dream come true and create a legendary character.  Your mileage may vary.