T.N.T. Jackson

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“More of a damp squib than dynamite.”

tntjacksonDescribed in 1975 by no less than Roger Ebert as, “easily the worst movie I’ve seen this year,” Jackson concerns the investigation of the titular T.N.T. (Bell) into the disappearance of her brother in Hong Kong. It seems to have something to do with the drug-smuggling ring run by Sid (Metcalf), whose minions include Elaine (Anderson), who might not be quite what she seems, and Charlie (Shaw), the only person in Hong Kong whose Afro can rival TNT’s for size, firmness or general Afro-tastic quality.  Someone keeps hijacking Sid’s shipments, so Charlie puts together a team of the colony’s finest fighters to protect it: seeing her chance to get into the organization, T.N.T. auditions and gets a job. However, no everyone is as convinced of her innocence as Sid.

I wouldn’t go quite as far as the late Mr. Ebert (though the cover on the right likely ranks up there with the very worst visualizations of all time!), but this comes over as a lame imitation of Pam Grier’s genre entries, with a greater emphasis on martial-arts, rather than gunplay or other forms of violence. Which is kinda weird, considering that Bell was previously most famous for being the first African-American woman to be seen on the cover of Playboy. The other oddness here is that it was co-written by cult actor Dick Miller, who had a long career working for Roger Corman, in the likes of Bucket of Blood, and The Little Shop of Horrors. This was the last of his three writing credits; I guess, he figured that after this, things could only go downhill.

There are a couple of scenes of striking brutality – an early arm-breaking and the finale, where she punches her opponent’s heart out – and one, which I’m still trying to figure out if it’s empowering or racist, where T.N.T., keeps turning the lights out because she’s almost invisible in the dark. Well, as long as she doesn’t smile, I guess. The fights are pretty unimpressive, with some painfully obvious stunt doubling for Bell. Truth be told, Anderson probably fares better than the heroine in this category, and the best fight might be between the two of them in a graveyard. However, much of this has not stood the test of time well, and the film desperately needs someone like Grier, to elevate proceedings through sheer force of personality.

Dir: Cirio H. Santiago
Star: Jeannie Bell, Stan Shaw, Pat Anderson, Ken Metcalf
Previously capsule reviewed in the Women Who Kick Butt box-set.

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