Sunday, I learned that Jim Kelly had lost his battle with cancer on Sat. June 29, 2013 at the age of 67. This was particularly sad news for me, because Kelly’s work basically introduced me to an entire genre of cheesetastic greatness that I hadn’t really been aware of.
You might remember Kelly, and his fabulous afro, from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon where he was too busy lookin’ good. The role was small, but Kelly stood out enough to carve a career out for himself in the heyday of 70s Blaxplotation. The year after Enter The Dragon, Jim Kelly starred in Black Belt Jones, which is quite possibly my personal favourite So-Bad-It’s-Good movie in existence.
Poppa Byrd (Scatman Crothers) runs a local karate school to help keep the community youth out of trouble. Lately, Pops has returned to his old gambling ways, and leaves the running of the school in the hands of Toppy (Alan Weeks) and top student Quincy (Eric Laneuville). But when local mobster Don Steffano (Andre Phillipe) sends his henchmen Big Tuna (Vincent Barbi) and Blue Eyes (Mel Novak) to pressure on a community drug dealer named Pinky (Malik Carter) to acquire the dojo, things escalate quickly. Pops’ prize student Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly) must come to their aid and clobber the mob in Black Belt Jones.
In the late 90s I rented this movie for no other reason than the look of the box art. Look at it up there. A blaxplotation kung-fu movie. There was no way that this wouldn’t be one of the tastiest slices of cheddar I ever bit into. I couldn’t even imagine how fantastic it was going to turn out.