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Black Belt Jones
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Black Belt Jones: the stars

By The Man

We don't get to meet the female lead until some way into the movie, but she soon makes her presence felt. Not to be outdone by Black Belt Jones, ass-kicking sister Sidney (played by martial artist and movie favourite Gloria Hendry) dispenses with Pinky's hoods in a scene Bruce Lee himself would be proud of. She becomes fond of Jones and, in true movie fashion, they fall in love. At the end of the film Hendry uses her kung fu skills to great effect once again, helping Jones finish off the last of the Mafia hoods. Contemporary critics praised Hendry's performance. Her portrayal of Sidney is engaging, and after seeing that sequence, you wouldn't want to mess with her. While Jones and Sidney may end up together, they're treated as equals throughout the movie. It makes a refreshing change to see such a strong female character compared with the usual 'hooker' or 'submissive partner' stereotypes prevalent in the blaxploitation genre.

Another interesting aspect of Black Belt Jones is the subsequent fate of the actors involved in the movie. Despite its success, Jim Kelly joined the periphery of major black action stars after the film's realease. He starred in a feeble sequel called Hot Potato, which lacked the charm and energy of the original, then appeared in two poor films, Black Samurai and Kill Factor. Kelly did feature with Jim Brown and Fred Williamson in the later Three The Hard Way - a film worthy of his star status - but his career didn't pick up as a result. He went on to play a series of low-key roles in movies like Take A Hard Ride and One Down, Two To Go. Considering his obvious audience appeal and great martial arts skills, it's odd that Kelly didn't get the breaks. Having been on the inside of the Hollywood machine during the 1970s, he voiced strong views on its racist attitudes, and it's possible that his outspoken nature made him few friends among the studios. In recent years he has become a fairly reclusive figure, giving few interviews and keeping out of the media glare during the recent blaxploitation revival. Today, Jim Kelly is active on the US tennis circuit and appearing in occasional cameos, the most recent being in 'Afros, Macks and Zodiacs', a compilation of black action movie trailers.

Gloria Hendry fared better than Kelly. She appeared in many black films of the time, including Fred Williamson classic Black Caesar, and continued to work in film and TV throughout the 1980s. Her best-known role is an appearance in the James Bond-goes-blaxploitation classic Live And Let Die. Hendry seems at ease with her roles in these movies. She appeared at 1998's Blaxploitation Convention in New York, proving in the process that she still has her kung fu moves down pat.

All site contents ©2001 blaxploitation.com. The author has asserted his moral rights. Cover scans, album reviews, all other text content and/or pictures may only be used by prior permission of the.man@blaxploitation.com. But what the hell, I'm a nice guy, so drop me a line!