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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Senator Vance Hartke, Film Critic

Indiana's late U.S. Senator R. Vance Hartke has been accused of a lot of things over the years. But did you know that he has been blamed for blocking the release of a motion picture?

Albuquerque film commentator Devin D. O'Leary recently interviewed Tom Laughlin, creator and star of the 1970's Billy Jack series. His interview was on the occasion of the release of the 35th anniversary Ultimate DVD Collection by Ventura Distribution.

The series includes Born Losers (1967), Billy Jack (1971), The Trial of Billy Jack (1974), and, Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977).

Billy Jack Goes to Washington was not released theatrically. That's when our R. Vance Hartke entered the stage.

O'Leary writes about his interview in Alibi.com:
Q: You've refered to your next film, Billy Jack Goes to Washington, as the film that was not “allowed” to be released. Was that a function of political pressure in the country, or a result of changing corporate structure in Hollywood, making studios and theaters much more corporate controlled?

[Laughlin] Well, not only controlled, but [the studios] were the chief fundraisers for any politician, Republican or Democrat. Universal's Lew Wasserman, my dear friend, took care of the Democratic party. Pat Scrieber, the second-in-command, took care of the Republicans. They played the game.

We had a screening of [Billy Jack Goes to Washington] and Sen. Vance Hartke from Indiana came in. He stands up and attacks me afterward. Present is Lucille Ball, Walter Cronkite's daughter, Sen. Bill Cohen from Maine, and he attacks me. “You son of a bitch, you'll never get this movie released.” And, indeed we didn't. Now, three years later, he gets indicted for the exact same crime as we expose in that movie.

Mr. Laughlin maintains a website which shows the, uh, extensive range of his beliefs. He is planning another Billy Jack movie. Presumably, if his new effort fails to win release it will not be blamed on Vance Hartke.

What would you expect of the only Indiana senator ever indicted for playing the piano?
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