Remember Billy Jack? Then you're probably over fifty. The indie flick was an unexpected smash in 1971 -- forty years ago -- spawning several sequels that delivered diminishing returns. But that hasn't stopped director/star Tom Laughlin from trying to milk his primary claim to fame after the cow's gone dry. And you can bet a judgment against him for not repaying a Fort Collins investor by a contractual deadline won't, either.
On Laughlin's website, BillyJack.com, he describes his next proposed Billy Jack opus, awkwardly entitled Billy Jack's Moral Revolution, as an "exceptional film investment... the only film investment to guarantee you, in a worst case basis, 100% of your investment plus a 14% return in 24 months (7% interest per annum)."
How? This logical question is answered with "two words" that aren't really two words: "Presales and the Billy Jack Brand, with its huge following."
That's arguable -- but it doesn't stop Laughlin from gilding the lily, albeit in an unexpected way. As the page notes, the celluloid renegade "previously wrote articles on why you should never invest in a motion picture." But now, he believes, "under certain conditions, you should." Here's his pitch:
"For over 30 years I have preached that investing in a motion picture was insane -- like throwing your money off the back of the train, or spending it at the casino. Back in the 70's we had thousands of Wall Street investor requests for a pamphlet I wrote -- 'How to invest in the motion picture business -- and why you never should!'
"Today, because of the dozens of presales now available from dozens of worldwide ancillary buyers for film that never before existed -- US theatrical rights, primetime TV, syndicated TV, cable TV, video/DVDs, music, merchandise, plus all of these same rights -- foreign theatrical and ancillary rights -- to each of these venues in every country in the world - it is realistic to generate profits of at least 17-35% or more on a film PROVIDED the film meets certain requirements, and adheres rigidly to a specific set of business principles.
"If these requirements are met you are better off having invested in a film meeting these requirements than having your stock in Enron, Comcast et al, or your pension in United Airlines or dozens of other corporations that will be dumping their pensions, or watch your bonds in the colossus General Electric fall to Junk Bond status."
Don't know if this argument persuaded Fort Collins' RaShelle Wilms, but she agreed to pony up $50,000. In her lawsuit against Laughlin, Wilms claims she was promised repayment plus 12 percent by the end of August 2009. But as of last year, when the suit was filed, she'd only received $2,500.
As seen in the court order on view below, Wilms was granted summary judgment in March -- and according to the Denver Post, Laughlin and his longtime costar, Delores Taylor, have now been ordered to pay Wilms $70,333.
Not that she should expect a check in the mail. The Post reports that Laughlin and Taylor have filed a notice to appeal -- which will likely delay the arrival of Billy Jack's Moral Revolution, to the undoubted distress of cineastes everywhere.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Below, find the trailer to the original Billy Jack, which features a scene of Laughlin kicking a grinning fellow in the chops: Can he still lift his leg high enough to do that? Also on view -- the aforementioned March order.
More from our Television & Film archive: "Poker Junkies: Cease and desist order for movie producers/Gene Hackman name-droppers."