Hastobíga, Navaho Medicine man
Billy Jack is part of the Manse Mediatech's
Photo of Cellular App "My Movies"
However, the picture was embraced by much of America's youth, leading Laughlin to claim in 1975, "The youth of this country have only two heroes, Ralph Nader and Billy Jack." When adjusted for inflation, Billy Jack was, as of 2007, the highest-grossing independent film of all time. The film was among the first to introduce martial arts, especially hapkido, to American audiences. It contained elements of Jungian psychology and fictional depictions of American Indian beliefs, depicting a tribe that does not exist, the "Nishnobie." As part of the film's promotion, Bong Soo Han, who was in charge of the martial arts choreography for the film, toured the United States, giving hapkido demonstrations.
The Born Losers was reissued in 1974 and earned more than twice as much as it had in its original release.
The second sequel, The Trial of Billy Jack, released in late 1974, was a colossal box-office hit while not registering as a critical success. It is notable for its casting of notable Native Americans such as Sacheen Littlefeather and counterculture figures like Rolling Thunder, as well as its strong criticism of the Kent State shootings. However, Laughlin's unique promotion of the film was its real legacy. Unlike most films of the era, which opened in only a few cities before gradually spreading across the country, The Trial of Billy Jack opened nationwide on the same day, and commercials were broadcast for it during the national news. This promotion forever changed how films are marketed and has been called "the first blockbuster."
Laughlin had been in dispute with AIP and settled in 1974, agreeing to pay them $2 million, including $500,000 from The Born Losers reissue and $250,000 for AIP's percentage share of The Trial of Billy Jack.
In 1975, Laughlin released The Master Gunfighter, a Western set in the 1840s, detailing the plight of the Chumash people. Laughlin grew a full beard for the film, and his character fought with a 12-shot revolver and a samurai sword. Although it did reasonably well at the box office, critics were not pleased with the film.
He returned to the Billy Jack franchise in 1977. However, the fourth entry in the series, Billy Jack Goes to Washington, failed because of distribution problems, and it proved to be Laughlin's final film. Laughlin blamed individuals within the United States government for the failure of the picture, telling CNN's Showbiz Tonight in 2005:
At a private screening, Senator Vance Hartke [Note: Hartke was not re-elected in 1976] got up because it was about how the nuclear industry bought out the Senate. He got up and charged me. Walter Cronkite's daughter was there, [and] Lucille Ball. And he said, 'You'll never get this released. This house you have, everything will be destroyed.' "
At the time of the picture's release, Laughlin's company, Billy Jack Enterprises, had plans for a new Montessori school funded by his own foundation, a record label, an investigative magazine, books, a distribution company, and more message-laden movies, including a special subsidiary to produce films for children. He told People magazine, "Three years from today, we'll be the new United Artists. Either that, or we'll be out on our butt on the street." In 1976, Laughlin announced that he was more than $7 million in debt and blamed the financial troubles on unethical behaviour by Warner Bros. Pictures, which he said had illegally sold the television rights to his films.