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Friday, December 2, 2011

TNT Jackson (1974) review


Jeanne Bell (Diana Jackson), Chiquito (Joe/Dynamite Wong), Stan Shaw (Charlie), Ken Metcalf (Sid), Pat Anderson (Elaine)

Directed by Cirio H. Santiago

"They call me TNT."

The Short Version: Largely forgettable throwaway drive in drivel from the team of Corman and Santiago is a terminally long 72 minutes containing some of the most unconvincing fight scenes put to film. Seemingly post synced and utilizing HK style thwocks and whooshes, this flick appears to be a quick cash in to steal the thunder from the bigger budgeted CLEOPATRA JONES & THE CASINO OF GOLD (1975) a Shaw Bros.-Warner Bros. picture that was in production at the time. With such a short fuse, this stick o' dynamite produces little more than a lot of smoke and no big bang.

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity***

Diana 'TNT' Jackson searches the back alleys and slummy districts of Hong Kong for her brother's killer. Along with a martial arts teacher named Joe, the deadly duo do battle with underworld drug traffickers to find the man responsible for her brother's death.

Fitfully terrible, if terribly entertaining B flick that can barely manage a 72 minute running time. The film was apparently a popular one with the drive in crowd as the producers would see fit to remake this most thin of plotlines some three more times over the next couple of decades. Former '69 Playmate Bell is a stunner, but when she fights, she loses a lot of luster. Her stunt double is painfully obvious and those shots are the only ones that bring the frequent fight scenes to life. The use of in camera edits to give the impression of speed fail to impress here and this cheap-jack approach to "enhancing" a fight scene would later be adopted for a number of independently produced kung fu quickies.

Santiago made a long career out of directing disposable garbage, but not without some pearls among the fake diamonds. He also enjoyed a lucrative partnership with famed producer/director Roger Corman who served as Executive Producer here in a strange brew of blaxploitation grooves mixed with kung fu thrusts and whooshes in what has to be some of the most pitifully choreographed fight sequences ever conceived. Oddly enough, the whole enterprise appears post synced and the sound effects are of the Chinese variety and sound the same as those heard in numerous indy kung fu productions many of which were of an even more tasty variety of crapola. Santiago reportedly simultaneously shot a companion piece to this film for the Filipino market entitled DYNAMITE WONG & TNT JACKSON.

The film is frequently nonsensical and the near non stop barrage of fight and cookie cutter comic book characters never let things like characterization or a cohesive story get in the way of one of the longest 72 minutes on record. It's not one of the worst of its kind--not for a lack of trying--but there's far better examples of the form out there such as the much more extravagant Shaw-Warner co-production CLEOPATRA JONES & THE CASINO OF GOLD (1975) which was in production during the latter part of 1974. It's not too far beyond the realm of possibility that this was Corman's way of beating that film to the punch with this barely legible copy whose ink had run dry before the film had finished.

The one scene in the film that most people are likely to remember is Bell's hilarious "fight scene" wherein she takes on a room full of bad guys while topless. I can't even remember why she was fighting here, only that she was half naked flailing her arms around. The long shots of her obvious stunt double are under-cranked and as said above, feature the films only instances of passable choreo. Sadly, there's not enough of these to bring this below average movie to the level of other such pictures of Nubian dominance such as CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) and COFFY (1973); the former likewise features unconvincing kung fu/karate sequences, but at least there was the towering charismatic presence of Tamara Dobson, an interesting story and Bondian style trappings to maintain viewer interest. The latter had Pam Grier who likewise had oodles of charisma and sex appeal for several actresses combined. There is none of that in this generic drive in quickie.

Jeanne Bell is quite attractive at least, if fairly forgettable as a screen presence save for the brevity of the topless fight sequence. Fans will likely recall her from such notable blaxploitation hits as TROUBLE MAN (1972) and THREE THE HARD WAY (1974). She also appeared in the trash classic THE KLANSMAN (1975) as well as television shows like SANFORD & SON and KOLCHAK, THE NIGHT STALKER. Stan Shaw can be seen in the immortal TRUCK TURNER (1974) and the thoroughly bizarre and playfully offensive DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975). As for TNT JACKSON, this is the best the film has ever looked and its fans should be pleased with this presentation. Santiago's movie is harmless, if forgettable fluff and anything but dynamite.

This review is representative of the Shout! Factory 2 disc set paired with FIRECRACKER (1981) and TOO HOT TO HANDLE (1977).


Samuel Wilson said...

Yeah, I enjoyed this in an undemanding mood but the Cleopatra Jones films were much more entertaining. I've enjoyed some Santiago films myself, but this wasn't really his finest hour -- great title, though.

venoms5 said...

Hi, Sam. I've seen this one twice now and aside from the improved picture quality, there's little else here besides a lot of unintentional hilarity to recommend it. And for a lot of people, that will be enough!

Thanks for posting, Sam, and I am waaayyy behind on some blogs and you've been real busy lately. I plan to fix that this weekend!

Maynard Morrissey said...

I've never heard of this movie before, but here in Austria there's a band called TNT Jackson :)

Skeme Richards said...

Always good reads my friend! I've been on the go traveling but your updates keep me motivated to get home so that I can sit behind the TV for some quality viewing!

venoms5 said...

@ Harry: Wow, I see the film was popular in Austria as well!:D

@ Skeme: Thanks so much, my friend. You're livin' the high life and I wish I was, too, but then if we were both doin' it, neither of us would be able to read anything at CAC! Thanks for stopping by, Nostalgia King, it's always a pleasure to hear from you.:D

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