Sometimes you’re watching a movie and you’re not really getting anything out of it, but you power through it just so you can say you watched some weird thing that nobody ever heard of. Or at least that’s what I do sometimes. Maybe that explains some things.
The culprit this time was BILLY BOY, a 1978 low rent South African boxing drama. I watched it because I’m on a long term quest to go alphabetically through every movie in this section at Scarecrow Video that’s English language martial arts movies like BLOODSPORT and ENTER THE NINJA and stuff like that. If you are familiar with alphabetical order at all you can see I have a long way to go. I’m still on the first shelf. Anyway, I suspect this one was put in there by mistake but I didn’t want to skip it because what if it was some amazing undiscovered treasure?
Duane Bobick stars as amateur boxer Billy Boy Lamont. His father (Willie van Rensburg, also the screenwriter) is a former fighter who is suddenly paralyzed, and Billy Boy can’t find any work to pay for his treatments, so he says he has to fight. Of course his mom (Trix Pienaar, THE COLOR OF FREEDOM) is against it (like Phylicia Rashad in CREED) and also he somehow knows that he’ll get a bunch of money for it.
While he’s out boxing the current Commonwealth Champeen Gerry Bendell (Tullio Moneta, DEATH OF A SNOWMAN, SAFARI 3000, STEEL DAWN, GOR II) decides to go find Billy Boy’s girlfriend Velma (Kim Braden, the 1970s Anne of Green Gables herself, also Picard’s wife in STAR TREK: GENERATIONS) and rape her. He traps her in a boxing ring, makes her shake hands and then beats her up. I don’t like that guy. For some reason they feel that the way to punish him for his savage crime is not using the law but by having a match against him.
There’s a little bit of training montage, I appreciate that. He does the usual thing of jogging while keeping up with his trainer on a bicycle. The more unusual one is running with a horse, holding it by a rein. He’s running in front of the horse! Try to keep up, horse.
He wears a yellow Adidas t-shirt for most of the movie.
The boxing is all very dull, real boxers sparring with the camera in the obvious places, nothing stylish or expressive like a ROCKY movie. I thought it was kind of funny that in the big match at the end there’s a long section that’s in slow motion and the commentator is describing what’s happening, but at regular speed. So does that mean they’re really moving that slow?
This came a couple years after ROCKY so you gotta figure that was part of their reasoning for making a boxing movie, but it doesn’t have a single tiny drop of the artistic quality of any aspect of that movie. The acting and filmmaking are more on the level of a ’70s softcore porn or z-grade martial arts import. A grindhouse drama, really. I did enjoy the (mostly inappropriate) big band smooth funk score and corny theme song that repeats the name “Billy Boy” over and over again. Also there’s a scene in a disco with a band performing. It’s a long tracking shot as they walk through the dancefloor and out the back door, but it’s not exactly GOODFELLAS glamorous because it’s all a bunch of normal people who don’t know how to dance.
The only other thing I enjoyed in the movie was the evil champion’s sicko mother (Molly Seftel), a very over-the-top performance. At one point Velma goes to her thinking she will cancel the match if she knows her son is a sexual predator. Turns out she won’t. “My son never rapes,” she says. “He doesn’t need to!”
The funniest thing about the mother is in the opening scene. As she watches her son beat a man she can’t help clenching her legs together and making absurd orgasmic faces.
Director Tim Spring later did REASON TO DIE starring Wings Hauser and two Dale “Apollo” Cook movies, DOUBLE BLAST and RAW TARGET. He was also editor of AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2 and assistant editor of BLOODSPORT 2. As recently as 2012 he made WHY THEY SANK THE TITANIC, apparently a documentary arguing a conspiracy theory that it was the Titanic’s sister ship that actually sunk (?).
There were alot of pretty interesting exploitation movies shot in South Africa in the ’70s and ’80s, because most of the world was disgusted with Apartheid and wanted nothing to do with them, which they would try to counter with tax incentives and low costs, drawing in producers with low budgets/moral standards. I’ll be writing a little bit more about this topic soon. In fact, somebody should do a documentary about it. Anyway, I can’t help but watch such movies with extra curiosity about the racial issues. This does have a few black characters. They’re a trainer, a henchman, stuff like that, definitely not well defined characters, and somewhat subservient. But it honestly doesn’t seem any worse in that respect than an American movie of the same type would be. Of course, if you’re comparing it to ROCKY it can’t compare to characters like Apollo Creed, but a bottom of the barrel ROCKY rape revenge version of ROCKY is a different matter and could very well be cast like this.
Bobick was a real boxer who became famous in South Africa after boxing there, so I guess they decided to give him a movie. Note how this flyer specifies that he’s fighting for “the white heavyweight championship of the world.” But he is American, and in fact nicknamed “The All American Boy.” As an amateur he beat Larry Holmes once. Joe Frazier trained and managed him. He got a gold medal at the 1971 Pan American Games and a bronze at the ’72 Olympics. His most famous fight was when he faced Ken Norton (MANDINGO) in 1977, having a 38-0 record with 32 knockouts, but then got beat in 58 seconds. Shit. Sylvester Stallone was actually at that fight. There’s a picture of him there on his Wikipedia page.
That was a bad year for Bobick. His brother Rodney, also a boxer, was killed in a car accident. Then he made BILLY BOY in ’78 and in ’79 he got knocked out in two consecutive bouts so he retired at the age of 28. But I bet he still has the tape of this movie and puts it on every once in a while.
Well, maybe not puts it on. But he might have a copy.
For my part, I’m about to provide BILLY BOY its first external review link on IMDb.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.