28 For 28 The Lost Episodes: Day 8 – Jim Kelly

Obit Kelly

While we have made it a point to stay away from Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Pam Grier, and Ron O’Neal in oru 28 For 28 project, because even people who know nothing about blaxploitation typically have some idea who they are, and what they’ve done. We’ve gone back and forth on whether we should include Jim Kelly in 28 for 28, or put him into the list of blaxploitation elite, and obviously, we ultimately decided to go ahead and include him, and here’s why.

Jim Kelly died last year, and while there was a great deal of discussion about it among the hardcore film fans, it didn’t seem to have the impact in pop culture news that it should have made. While he was a superstar of blaxploitation films, the vast majority of people just know him as the black guy from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.

Jim kelly deserves much more respect than that.

Kelly was a top-notch athlete, just like his on-screen co-stars in several films, Fred Williamson and Jim Brown. While he played a little football in college, his primary claim to fame was being a real-deal, karate champion. He won several titles in the sport very early in the 1970s before finding his way into films by teaching Calvin Lockhart a few moves for the movie Melinda.

A year later, he was side by side with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and his career took off from there. He would go on to become Black Belt Jones and Black Samurai, as well as teaming up with Williamson and Brown for several films.

He eventually bowed out of acting and focused on playing tennis, a sport which he played frequently when he wasn’t kicking ass on the big screen in the 1970s.

He was a dual genre threat at the height of his career. Blaxploitation fans loved him for his roles like Black Belt Jones and Three the Hard Way, and kung fu fans loved him for his karate work in Enter the Dragon, “Black Belt Jones 2” and Hot Potato. I put Black Belt Jones 2 in quotes, because it was essentially a kung fu movie he made in Hong Kong years before it was ever released in the United States under the BBJ2 title in an effort to cash in on his box office momentum.

Jim Kelly with Fred Williamson and Jim Brown in Three the Hard Way.

Jim Kelly with Fred Williamson and Jim Brown in Three the Hard Way.

Why We Love and Respect Him: While he might have been an actor, he was one of the few action stars who really knew how to do the things he appeared to do in the movies. This guy was a real badass, not just a movie-magic one.

Best Known For: being the black guy in Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee.

Jim Kelly awesome Three the Hard Way Fight

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Melinda (1972) as Charles Atkins: Atkins is a martial arts instructor who teaches radio DJ Frankie Parker, played by Calvin Lockhart, who was really trained by Jim Kelly for the role. Parker is mixed up in a frame-job by the local mob.

Black Belt Jones (1974) as Black Belt Jones: Jones is hired by Sydney to avenge the death of her father, whose life was cut short by the mafia who desperately wants to get their hands on Papa Byrd’s dojo. Black Belt Jones comes to the rescue.

Three the Hard Way (1974) as Mister Keyes: Keyes is the martial arts master out of a trio of heroes, the others being a record producer and entrepreneur,  who stumble onto a plot by white supremacists to poison the water supply to kill black people.  Keyes has one of the best fight scenes in the film, which takes place in the middle of the street.

Take a Hard Ride (1975) as Kashtok: Kashtok is a mute scout who assists Tyree (Fred Williamson) and Pike (Jim Brown) in transporting a large sum of cash through the old west. Along the way they have to deal with western movie badass Lee Van Cleef. Kashtok is a highly skilled martial artist.

One Down, Two to Go (1976) as Chuck: Chuck believes a high-stakes karate tournament is rigged, and when he investigates the matter he’s put in his place by the folks who did the rigging. He calls in some old friends to help him get back at the hucksters who rigged the tournament and took the prize money which was rightfully his.

Black Samurai (1977) as Robert Sand: Sand is called on to stop an evil conglomerate from creating a super-weapon, but that isn’t their only intention. The group is up to their neck in voodoo and drugs, all of which create problems for Sand as he tries to save his girl and stop the creation of the weapon.

Bio Links:

Jim kelly talks about Bruce Lee and his filmmaking experiences in an interview from WonderCon

Flashback – Interview: Jim Kelly on Life After “Black Belt Jones”

“When I saw Superman on screen, I thought I could fly. I thought if I was on top of a building and tied a sheet around me, and I wouldn’t get way up, but I went up on my grandmother’s chicken house and thought I could jump off and fly like Superman because I saw it on TV,” said Jim Kelly, the martial arts star of the 1970s

1996 Interview

Jim Kelly IMDB

Jim Kelly Wiki

28 for 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends – Day 13 – Gloria Hendry

In the blaxploitation universe Gloria Hendry played the girlfriend of the most popular leading men in the business. She was on hte arm of Fred Williamson in Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. She was by the side of Jim Kelly in Black Belt Jones. She even played JIm Brown’s girl in Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off.

Blaxploitation is a small part of Gloria Hendry’s career, but man, was it good. She could have easily been another action flick leading lady like Tamara Dobson or Pam Grier. Black Belt Jones is evidence of that, when she’s doing karate kicks beside Jim Kelly.

GloriaHendryFilmStrip

Why We Love and Respect Her: Just because she played the girlfriend, it didn’t mean she had to be a timid one.

Best Known For: Being the girlfriend of the male lead, but being dangerous nonetheless. She was also a Bond Girl in Live and Let Die.

From Black Belt Jones…

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Across 110th Street (1972) as Laurelene: Laurelene is a dancer whose husband is being hunted by mobsters engaged in a turf war in New York City.

Black Caesar (1973) as Helen: Helen is the singer Tommy Gibbs marries and makes the mistake of raping and beating. She conspires with some thugs to kill her gangster husband, who is already knee-deep in a mob war. The James Brown songs make this one special.

Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off (1973) as Marcia: Slaughter got his revenge on the gangsters who killed his family members and now the gangsters’ family is out to get him for it. One of they ways they try to get to Slaughter is by putting a hit out on his girlfriend Marcia.

Hell Up In Harlem (1973) as Helen Bradley: This is the sequel to Black Caesar. In this one Tommy Gibbs has to rescue Helen from the mafia.

Black Belt Jones (1974) as Sydney: Sydney is a karate master’s daughter who runs into trouble with some gangsters and calls on Black Belt Jones for help. She teams up with Black Belt for some ass-kicking.

Bio Links:

Gloria Hendry IMDB

Gloria Hendry Wiki

Episode 96: One of the Good Ones

Episode 96: One of the Good Ones‘By Definition’ is back, folks, but this time we have Jason Price with us as we travel down the Blaxploitation soul train of awesome! First, Lee updates us on the water situation in West Virginia, Jason wins the first annual APC Beat Box Challenge, and a very drunk Jeremy talks Juggalette’s and sheds new light on a pretty sweet Natasha Leggero joke. Oh, they talk about music a bunch. Strap in, gentle listeners, we’re kicking off Blaxploitation month in slurred, Skype-robotic style!

Episode 96: One of the Good Ones