Wednesday, 3 July 2013


My obituary of Jim Kelly, best-known for Enter The Dragon, but for me at his best as one-third of Three The Hard Way, is in today's Independent; you can link to it here. The track of Kelly's brief career as a blaxploitation star might be said to reflect his relative lack of acting ability--he had a certain presence (which his combat pout, combined with tufts of chest hair that appeared to be glued on, and loud exhales during karate fights all did much to dissipate; see below left) but there is self-restrained cool and there is the inability to emote. Fred 'the Hammer' Williamson had more of a career, but little of it was worthwhile so perhaps Kelly was better off pursuing other avenues which gave him more satisfaction. You could say that was what Jim Brown did, first when he gave up football, and later when he withdrew from full-time acting.

What is odd is the way Bruce Lee's star rose, fuelled by his death, no doubt. Lee is closer to Kelly in acting terms than he was to, say, John Saxon--for all that Enter The Dragon is a cult film, none of the three actors had great careers afterwards. I wonder how much camp is involved in the whole blaxploitation revival --certainly we could look at almost all of Quentin Tarantino's later career as an excercise in camp, if not an effort to become a high-priced Larry Cohen. That Kelly didn't join the Original Gangstas cast, or thht Kung Fu Joe is a figure of some fun in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka says something about the continuing value of Kelly's role.

Still, he seemed to appreicate his late renaissance in fandom, and take it with good humour. Speaking of which, you really should go to you tube and watch that 2004 Nike Chamber of Fears commercial, in which LeBron James goes head to head with Kelly--it is absurdly weird.

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