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Black Belt Jones (1974)

Having pulled off a major box-office coup with Enter the Dragon (1973), producers Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller were denied the services of their recently deceased star, Bruce Lee. So they turned to real-life karate champion Jim Kelly for this rollicking (albeit overplotted) mixture of blaxploitation and kung fu.

Reuniting with Dragon director Robert Clouse, Kelly played Black Belt Jones – the baddest mutha to ever lace up a pair of platform shoes.

The Mafia has its eye on Pop Byrd’s karate school because it is soon to be the site of a major city construction project.


Pop, as played by Scatman Crothers, is a wise (and wise-cracking) sensei who takes care of the inner-city youth while teaching them to channel their inner warrior.

The Mafia, led by Don Steffano (Andre Phillipe), sends African-American enforcer Pinky (Malik Carter) to intimidate Pop into giving up his studio. Unfortunately, one of Pinky’s goons inadvertently kills the old man.

Enter Black Belt (which is apparently his real name, though his friends call him BB), ready to avenge the death of his loving master.

He joins forces with Pop’s current group of karate-loving youths, as well as Pop’s daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry). Thankfully, Sydney is a karate master herself.

The fists and the furious action culminates in an all-out Battle Royale between the Mafia and the karate kids at a car wash.

BB and Sydney may be a little soapy, but they still know how to kick some serious multi-coloured techno-jive ass to some of the sweetest sounds this side of Curtis Mayfield.

Robert Wall’s fight sequences are slickly choreographed, and there’s even a romantic subplot.

Black Belt Jones
Jim Kelly
Gloria Hendry
Pop Byrd
Scatman Crothers
Alan Weeks
Eric Laneuville
Don Steffano
Andre Philippe
Big Tuna
Vincent Barbi
Nate Esformes
Malik Carter

Robert Clouse