2/19/10

TNT Jackson (1974): She's Dynamite and She'll Win That Fight

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been celebrating Women in Horror month, but all of Rev. Phantom’s great posts for Blaxploitation History Month made me want to get in on some of that action-- and by action, I’m talking’ TNT Jackson. 1974 was a banner year for blaxploitation films with the release of Willie Dynamite, Abby, Foxy Brown, and Truck Turner. Director Cirio Santiago knew he needed something special to make his movie stand out. With a script partially written by Corman regular Dick Miller and Jeanie Bell (one of Playboy's first black playmates) lined up to star, Santiago brought the world of black cinema and marital arts together..

As soon as TNT Jackson (Bell) arrives in Hong Kong investigate her brother’s death, she gets jumped by a group of thugs on the street, but TNT is a “One Mama Massacre Squad!” and dispatches them with little trouble. TNT makes her way to Joe’s Haven, the last address she had for her brother. The owner, Joe (Chiquito), agrees to ask around for her, and soon all the clues point to the local drug dealers. TNT makes it her business to take down white king pin Sid (Ken Metcalf), his bitch girl friend Elaine (Pat Anderson), and suave up and comer Charlie (Stan Shaw). No matter if it means sleeping with the enemy or throwing down with some topless kung fu fighting, TNT is going to blow their operation wide open.

One the whole, Jeanie Bell might be lacking in the acting department, but she sure makes up for it with a zest for topless kung fu. The martial arts on display here are not crane style or snake style, and instead the practitioners seem to subscribe to the Rudy Ray Moore style. (And this came out before Dolomite, that’s how strong his influence is.) In other words, expect much posturing and making of faces when you check out TNT Jackson. Fans of ‘70’s chop socky or blackploitation film will really enjoy the over the top entertainment and the large amount of time devoted to kung fu fighting in this film.

Filipino born director Cirio H. Santiago, who often acted as a co-producer with Roger Corman, is perhaps best known now because of films like Vampire Hookers (1978) and Nam Angels (1989). I can’t say that I’ve ever seen any other films from Santiago’s catalog, but if TNT Jackson is any indication, Cirio knew how to make some extremely entertaining crap. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up for this film. I want it to be clear that the acting and direction are mediocre at best, and most copies of this film out there are terribly soft looking, rough transfers. It is in no way a film that should stack up against the Shaft’s and Superfly's of the genre, but it definitely stands head and shoulders above most of the second tier titles.

There are a few standout things to point out. Stan Shaw (who also appeared in Truck Turner) turns out a charismatic performance as hustler Charlie, and Filipino actor Chiquito was really fun to watch as comic relief/cavalry Joe. Ms. Bell herself deserved a bigger career following this film. She continued to take on bit parts in films for the next few years, but she was never offered another lead role and retired from acting only three years later. One of the best things about TNT Jackson is how readily available it is. It appears on several collections or, thanks to its public domain status, it can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. So celebrate Black History Month by checking out a forgotten blaxploitation gem that will really blow your mind.

Bugg Rating

7 comments:

  1. Actually Jeanne Bell did get another lead, and it was in a Santiago effort in 1976, THE MUTHERS. I reviewed it awhile back on my blog (it's # 32 in my series)...Jayne Kennedy was trumpeted as the lead on the VHS boxcover years later, after she'd become the bigger name thanks to her NFL Today gig. But Bell and Rosanne Katon topped the bill, and Trina Parks (DARKTOWN STRUTTERS), another lovely who should have had more film roles in the 1970's, was also on hand. If you liked TNT JACKSON you'll find a lot to like in THE MUTHERS as well.

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  2. Cool--I own this as part of one of those collections, but have yet to watch it. Think I'll check it out now.

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  3. Hal, thanks for the comment. I must have missed The Muthers when I was doing research, but it sure sounds like something that I want to check out. I checked out your site, The Horn Section, and I'm going to have to go back for some serious reading.

    Rev, As the man said, you gonna dig it the most.

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  4. TNT is great fun in that inimitable "entertaining crap" fashion, and the only other Santiago film I've seen, the post-apocalypse desert adventure STRYKER, is more of the same.

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  5. This movie is just too much fun. I go along with the other commenters in highly recommending this one.

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  6. Let me chime in and say that I really enjoy this film as well, I got it in one of those multi-disk box sets. It was a real blast, better than I expected really.

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  7. I started watching my Mill Creek edition a few months back but had other things to do and kind of forgot about it. I wasn't overwhelmed at the time, which probably has something to do with the fact that I was watching it about a week after my initial viewing of The Stabilizer. Sooner or later, I'll get back to it. You seemed to like it well enough, but I just had a hard time getting into it.

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