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October 04, 2006

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Open Season: My 90 Minutes in Cinema Purgatory

In 1973, I was in Beverly Hills with an afternoon to kill, so I went to see Billy Jack, starring a non-actor named Tom Laughlin. It was so surpassingly awful that I decided to see if I could sit through the whole thing just as a test of willpower. I made it, and until yesterday it had been the worst film I'd ever seen.

Until yesterday, because yesterday the operators of this blog forced me to go and watch Open Season. This is an animated (in the sense that it uses cartoon figures; there is nothing else animated about it) Sony Pictures movie in which a tame grizzly bear goes back to the wild, makes lots of new animal friends, and routs a mob of hunters. Because it is anti-hunting, some people have their bowels in an uproar over the thing. They needn’t worry.

I went to see it just after noon on a weekday so that I would not have to sit in a theater full of kids. I had never been in a multiplex before, and in theater 14 (out of 15), I found myself in the company of a meth freak, an out of work phrenologist, and two muggers who were killing time until dark. There was also a young dad and his daughter, whom I would guess to be about 6.

Now this is a kids’ movie, so I am hardly the one to decide whether it’s funny or not, so I listened to the little girl. If she laughed, I would assume that something was funny. She laughed once in the course of the entire movie. Otherwise the theater was quiet as a tomb. All you could hear, aside from the din on the screen, was the rustling of sleeves as people looked at their watches every five minutes.

It’s simply amazing what you can do with lack of talent. This thing was devoid of wit, charm, originality, and emotional content of any kind. Inevitably, you have to compare Open Season with Bambi, which was a true work of genius, whatever you may think of it, done by the Disney Studios at its creative peak. It moved people, and still does.

Open Season moved me—into the men’s room, where I nearly lost my lunch when I thought about the $10.50 I had spent to see it.

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Comments

jstreet

I was a kid when "Billy Jack" came out. Twelve years old and the only thing that interested me was the fight scenes. A few years ago, I had the "joy" of seeing that film again. It was the most awful, sorry excuse for a film I have seen since the "The Brady Bunch Christmas" movie I sat through some years ago. I'll take your work on Open Season. If my kids want to see it, I guess Mom will be taking them.

Kane

I am 32 years old, so I wasn't even born when Billy Jack came out. But my father warned me of the worst film ever in my teen years and it was Billy Jack. A couple of years ago staying up too late with nothing to watch I flipped across about 5 minutes of Billy Jack and it's the worst movie ever! I have a feeling my daughter won't being viewing either Billy Jack or Open Season.

Matt

I can imagine what it was like. I was snookered into seeing Runaway Jury a couple years back. I say snookered because NOTHING in the advertisements (or the original book, for that matter) told me it would be two hours of whiny, anti-gun progaganda so biased it would make Michael Moore blush. Liberal propoganda flicks used to disguish themselves as actual movies but nowadays, they don't even try. They just shove a pile of leftist manure under your face and say "Shut up, watch it, and then give some money to Howard Dean" And Hollywood wonders why the movie business is tanking.

Ben Dummer

It looks like Open Season accurately depicts the true colors of anti-hunters. I must also thank Mr. Petzal-reading his post is the most entertainment I will ever experience based off of such a pathetic movie.

JA Demko

Meh. Let's not invest too much outrage and attach too much signifigance to this, shall we? When were hunters ever depicted in a favorable light in cartoons? Does the name Elmer Fudd ring any bells? How about Gaston from "Beauty and the Beast?" For that matter, Wile E. Coyote, The Big Bad Wolf, Henry Hawk, The Weasel, and Tom Cat were all predators (hunters) doing what comes naturally and they were all evil buffoons as well. Ever seen Tex Avery's (brilliantly funny!!!) "Field and Scream?" If you're looking for pro-hunting cartoons, you'll look a damned long time.

Mike Diehl

I nominate JA Demko for new F&S Gun Nut Blog Host Pro-Tem. Give Moss the hook.

Ricardo Rodríguez

The only if not pro-hunting, at least neutral cartoon I can remember, was an episode of Turner´s Captain Planet where the villains are caged hunts outfiters and the planeteers got help from a "true" hunter that attended the hunt by mistake.

PbHead

You were forced to pay for your own ticket? Where is your F&S expense account with unlimited vouchers? I no longer aspire to be an outdoor writer. My dreams are crushed. Look on the bright side Dave, hunting seasons are getting into full swing across the country.

Richard A. Smith

So, wait a few years, and you're bound to find the DVD of Open Season in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. Then you can buy it, set it on a fence post and blow it to smithereens. Buy 2 of them, and I expect it would be a much more satisfying $10 spent. Thanks for the review, Dave.

Dennis

Im sorry that you had to sit through that torture. I think that Walt Disney is part of problem people have with hunting. They actually beleive what they see in stupid movies like this one.

ford

Mr. Smith has the right idea about the DVDs. But I think I would use the actual disk for skeet practice and finish off the case with as many .22 rounds as possible.

JA Demko

BTW, Tom Laughlin, the auteur who blessed us with "Billy Jack" is one of the giants of bad film making.
The Born Losers (1967)- introduces the character Billy Jack and sets him against a motorcycle gang. Not a competent actor in sight.
Billy Jack (1971)- absolutely dreadful, but it made money and caused the re-release of The Born Losers.
The Trial of Billy Jack (1974)- takes up with Billy Jack after he is sentenced for manslaughter. The movie climaxes with a Kent State-style slaughter of the students at the Peace School. Makes an episode of "Captain Planet" seem like it was authored by Henrik Ibsen.
Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977)- this sparkling gem of bad cinema was so excreble it received very little release, and since there was no release-directly-to-video option in those days, isn't as well known as the rest of Laughlin's body of work. Picture "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" only Mr. Smith is a half-Native American former Green Beret who is also a convicted killer and with the script re-written by a squadron of mandrils heavily dosed with LSD. Superbly bad cinema, by anyone's standards.
The Master Gunfighter (1975)- words are not adequate to describe just how surrealistically bad this movie is. Watch it just to see an Old West gunfighter with a LeMat and a katana. If I ever take up cowboy action shooting, I'm using this movie as a basis for my alias.

Laughlin also played in other people's movies; "Legend of the Lone Ranger" anyone?" Truly he is a legend. He even has his own website where you can wallow in all the awful glory that is Billy Jack: http://www.billyjack.com/

Mark

Billy Jack. Yup, it is a pretty lame flick. I think the only people that got off on it were militant, leftist 60’s Hippies. Wow! I just recall I saw a real live hippie last week! …Grey and carrying too much flesh, and smelling of patchouli.

I have a real problem in the personalization of animals. The Late Gene Hill articulated my sentiments wonderfully in his essay: “Bass Are Not Bucketmouths”. I read this essay at least once a month for strength.

El-Wazir

To: JA Demko

This was turning out to be SUCH a pleasant day.
Until I read your blog and descended into a living hell of Billy Jack flashbacks and general post-traumatic Sixties stress. Now, it looks like I'll have to start taking all those voices in my head seriously. The only problem is, all those voices sound exactly like Tom Laughlin. Oh, the horror!

Mike Diehl

Come now. Bill Jack was awful... but... "the worst?" Apparently youall never saw "Manos - Hands of Fate!"

Billy Jack is a stinker though. Definitely best seen with Mike Nelson and His Robot Pals.

Mac

Billy Jack - world's most ridiculous hat award. The only good thing about Billy Jack was the wonderfully hilarious spoof of it they did on Saturday Night Live where Paul Simon (the singer) played "Billy Paul", stupid hat and all. John Belushi is a bar tender and Garrett Morris walks in to his bar. Belushis says "Where's that barrel of flour we use to humiliate all members of a non-white race?" And he sprinkles flour all over Morris, and Billy Paul steps in to save the day. It was just hilarious, showing up the idiocy of the movie's premise.

And as for Disney, all I can say is "consider the source." They've had a thing for hunters for nearly 100 years now, and it's never going to change.

Mac

Did MST3K do Billy Jack? Too cool! That is a definite must see. Any of you not familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000 and you love movies (good or bad) do yourself a huge favor and rent some of their stuff. You'll laugh until you literally hurt.

b.fitch

Open Season ticket $10.50
Paint ball gun $200
Xbox w/ grand theft auto $370

Hunting is expensive?
Why are we losing numbers?

NY State Jr. hunting licence $5
Mossberg Bantam 500 20ga. $200
Taking a kid hunting PRICELESS

b.fitch

BTW Dave,
As far as Disney goes, Bambi
may have been genius and moving,
but I thought you were more the
Old Yeller type.

O Garcia

Disney hits:

The Rescuers- as the villainess chases the girl around the house and fires at her with a shotgun, we see an NRA logo with a slash across it

The Rescuers Down Under - George C. Scott (Patton) provides the voice for the poacher. Of course, Disney won't make the distinction between hunter and poacher, the better to push its antihunting agenda

Every Disney movie that doesn't show animals in their natural behavior. Owls chatting with mice and squirrels. Carnivores and sharks refusing to kill and eat prey.

The problem with Walt Disney was, he created the world according to his own image, and too many people believed him. Gentle, warm fuzzy animals showing uncanny, human-like loyalty to each other (the veritable Bambi being the best example). Walt Disney should have been a more thorough naturalist. But no, even if he did the proper research, he probably wouldn't have made a favorable movie about some of the the most loyal of pack animals, the African Hunting Dog and the North American wolf. It won't be a world in his image. They're not cute enough.

Oh, let's not forget the honorable Mel Gibson and his "Lethal Weapon" series. Is there a more hypocritical man than one who collaborates in bashing the NRA and gunowners while making money out of movies that show careless use of guns?

Oh, before I forget, why did Charlton Heston agree to starring in "Alaska"? Not a great move, IMHO.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115493/

Doesn't Moses know most antigun people don't distinguish between poacher and hunter?

Off the soapbox now.

Dave Petzal

To Mr. Fitch: I have never seen Old Yeller, or The Wizard of Oz, or Gone with the Wind, and hope to die without doing so. As Lenny Bruce said when asked if he planned to visit Disneyland, "Thanks, but I've got my own hallucinations."

I have, however, memorized all the dialog from "Blazing Saddles" and "Jeremiah Johnson", and will recite it at the drop of a hat.

tom

Dave,

I heard about a moose getting show with a 340 in Alaska. Do you know anything about it?????????

tom

"Shot"

Dave Petzal

Tom: Yes, I shot an attractive moose in southeastern Alaska on 9/18, and now I will never have to do that again. And it was with a .340 Weatherby Ultra Light Arms rifle, 275-grain Swift A-Frame bullets.

Charlie

The movie may not be the greatest, but the Burger King kids' meal toys are excellent.




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