Monday, February 7, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Jim Kelly

Day Seven:

How's about a little kung-fu fighting?


Jim 'The Dragon' Kelly (b.1946) was your man. This athlete gravitated towards karate while he was in college and became professionally trained. He won championships and soon opened up his own Martial Arts studio. It was at that studio where actor Calvin Lockhart (The Beast Must Die) came in to learn Karate for a a movie. Lockhart was so impressed with his skills and charisma he got him a role in the film, a Blaxploitation picture entitled Melinda (1972).

Melinda led to the role he's probably most known for, Williams in the Kung-Fu Bruce Lee classic, Enter The Dragon (1973). Jim Kelly was a new man of action for film, and the world of Blaxploitation film fully embraced his skills... Up next was Black Belt Jones (1974) a fun entry in the genre from the director of Enter The Dragon.  


1974 saw Kelly in 2 action hits: Three The Hard Way (1974) which also starred Fred Williamson and Jim Brown and Golden Needles (1974) which saw a group of people (including Joe Don Baker) on the hunt for a statue who's needles inside of it possess a certain power.


Jim Kelly worked hard and steady throughout the rest of the 70's in films such as: Take A Hard Ride (1975), Hot Potato (1976), Black Samurai (1977), The Tattoo Connection (1978) and Death Dimension (1978). Some were hits, some not so much, but either way, Kelly was a bonafide star. He was the blaxploitation world's Bruce Lee, and we loved every minute of his brand of action


Jim Kelly's acting career cooled off a bit with the decline of the genre, but he appeared in 1982's One Down, Two To Go, an attempt to revive the genre which didn't work at the box office. And although he got the occasional part, Kelly's interest in Tennis had grown to the point where he became professional. Because of his athletic prowess he was a natural. He's since become a professional coach.

Jim Kelly, today.



2 comments:

Ty said...

Nice write-up! Black Belt Jones is a classic!

We just watched Hot Potato and Three The Hard Way for the site. Going to watch Golden Needles very soon!

Matt-suzaka said...

It's really too bad that he didn't work longer and make more films. He had such a great charisma and presence to him.

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