July 5, 2012

Movie Review: T.N.T. Jackson (1974)

The letters T.N.T. will always bring AC/DC to mind. It is that rocker in me that always associates those letters with that band. Well, now my mind may ave some choices to make when those letters come up now. You see, I have just experienced T.N.T. Jackson, an exploitation mash up from 1974. It brings blaxploitation, sexploitation, Kung fu, and the Philippines crashing into each other with low budget producer extraordinaire Roger Corman guiding the way.

In actuality, all this really is is a rip off movie of more popular, and better made films of the era. Corman has always had his eye on the cheap knock off, ad that is not really a bad thing, and this really isn't that bad. Well, maybe it is that bad. TNT Jackson will never be mistaken for a well made film, it pales next to films like Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Blackbelt Jones. On top of that, star Jeanne Bell may be a stunner, but she does not have the screen gravitas that Tamara Dobson or Pam Grier possess.

The movie concerns Diana TNT Jackson and her trip to Hong Kong (played by exploitation movie stand in Philippines) to find her missing brother. Her journey takes her to the seedy side of town that is run by gangsters and other random lowlifes. Jackson comes complete with an attitude meaning she is going to find all manner of fights wherever she goes.

She quickly infiltrates a local drug operation and begins looking for her brother. Along for the ride is a martial arts instructor named Joe (Chiquito, who is also credited as Dynamite Wong). She eventually learns that a dealer named Charlie (Stan Shaw), who is also angling on taking over the business, murdered her brother. For this, he must die, after a brief sexual encounter, of course.

That about sums it up for the story. There is no subtlety or nuance, it is not a deep tale of revenge. It is simply a quick and cheap film to rush into theaters to. Make a quick buck. It is my understanding that it was pretty popular on the drive in circuit, and I can sort of see why. For as bad it is, there is something rather entertaining about the endeavor, plus it is less than 75-minutes long, so it doesn't overstay it's welcome.

This a film whose only authenticity comes from its location. It is surprising how much shooting on location can add to a movie. The acting is unintentionally comedic, and the dialogue filled with racial slurs and comments. The fights are plentiful and ridiculous. It is pretty clear that no one really knew martial arts. More often then not hey are just flailing at each other,making no contact, and having the opponent react I plenty as if they were crushed by the punch or kick. They also use the tricks of slow motion and undercranking in an effort to add some legitimacy. It doesn't work. Not even the added thwacking sound effects that are so popular in old school martial arts movies help.

For all of the exploitationy goodies, there is one scene for which this movie should be remembered, and if you have seen the movie, you know the scene. TNT has been found out, captured, and inexplicably stripped to the waist. She gets the drop on the bad guys, turns out the light and starts beating them up, the bad guys turn me lights on, she turns them off, this goes on the whole fight. It is amazing. It is one of those fights you need to see to believe.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, there are a couple of pretty bloody moments in the fights, surprisingly so. There is a brutal arm break and a solid punch right through the gut. Very nice.

The film was directed by Cirio H. Santiago, a Philippine born producer/director who made a career of working with Roger Corman and directing this type of film. He has a number of blaxploitation and 'Nam revenge flicks to his name. The writing credits go to Ken Metcalfe (who also plays the head of the criminal organization) and Dick Miller. Yes, that Dick Miller. I was surprised to see him there too.

TNT Jackson is not the best example of the genre but it has all the elements that make it more than watchable. I will not deny that this is a fun movie. Jeanne Bell is lovely to watch on the screen, the fights are hilarious, and it is just a fun old school drive in movie.



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