Jim Kelly: 8 Martial Arts Movies You May Have Missed

Enter the Dragon actor Jim Kelly passed away on Saturday after losing his battle with cancer. The martial arts guru was 67 years old.

Although many fondly remember the Paris, Kentucky native for his role in the Bruce Lee classic, he also appeared in several other martial arts films over the years. While they are enjoyable in their own right, none of them really enjoyed the same success as Enter the Dragon.

As fan of Jim Kelly, this writer strongly suggests searching out the titles listed below. However, a love of the martial arts genre is definitely recommended. After all, not everyone has an undying appreciation for 70s kung fu cinema. Casual moviegoers may not be so enthralled with Kelly’s less famous adventures. You have been warned.

Where can curious parties locate these motion pictures? That may require a little footwork on your part. Unfortunately, Netflix streaming only has One Down, Two to Go available to subscribers. If you’re still getting DVDs from the company through the mail, that might be your best bet.

Of course, there are other ways to acquire these films. Since The Inquisitr doesn’t condone pirating movies of any variety, you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.

Below you’ll find seven movies that every Jim Kelly fan should watch at least once during their lifetime. They may not be as infinitely rewatchable as Enter the Dragon, but they should provide plenty of entertainment for a rainy day or lazy weekend.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Black Belt Jones (Robert Clouse, 1974)
Released one year after Jim Kelly’s breakthrough hit Enter the Dragon, director Robert Clouse’s Black Belt Jones attempted to capitalize on the actor’s rising fame. The film finds the accomplished martial artist tackling the role of a fighter who is summoned to take down the Mafia. What the film lacks in plot it makes up for in kung fu madness. Clouse, who also directed Enter the Dragon, makes the most of Kelly’s abilities. Although it’s thoroughly entertaining, it wouldn’t reach the same level of success of Kelly’s previous effort. On the plus side, the film features a turn by The Shining star Scatman Crothers.

Death Dimension (Al Adamson, 1978)
Director Al Adamson is probably best known for the horror and exploitation flicks he crafted during the 70s. However, the filmmaker would make a rare foray into the world of martial arts with the 1978 action flick Death Dimension. Jim Kelly stars as Detective J. Ash, a man who is charged with saving the world from the diabolical Pig (Harold Sakata). The villain’s convoluted plot involves freezing everyone on the planet using a sophisticated bomb, a scheme that is ultimately thwarted by Ash. It may not be Kelly’s finest hour, but B-movie aficionados will surely get a chuckle or two from its cheesy charms. The film would serve as one of the actor’s last starring roles.

Three the Hard Way (Gordon Parks Jr., 1974)
Director Gordon Parks Jr.’s Three the Hard Way was released in 1974, the same year that Black Belt Jones attempted to wow moviegoers. The film found Jim Kelly starring with a handful of other popular African-American actors during the 70s. Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Kelly star as a trio of crime-fighting heroes who are charged with stopping a group of racists from poisoning the nation’s water supply. The film is one of the finer examples of 70s blaxploitation, and serves as a wonderful vehicle for Jim Kelly and his skills. The actors would later re-team for the 1976 effort One Down, Two to Go.

The Tattoo Connection (Tso Nam Lee, 1978)
Depending on where you live or which DVD you happene to purchase, this movie is either known as The Tattoo Connection or Black Belt Jones 2. Some home video releases also carry the title Black Belt Jones 2: The Tattoo Connection. Either way, the film is a must-see for fans of low-budget kung fu flicks. As with many martial arts movies, the story isn’t much to write home about. However, those who love fight scenes more than exposition will have plenty to keep them occupied for the duration. Tracking down a legitimate copy might be a little difficult, but the experience is worth the effort. Again, this one is probably best enjoyed by hardcore Jim Kelly fans only.

Golden Needles (Robert Clouse, 1974)
Enter the Dragon and Black Belt Jones director Robert Clouse would re-team with Jim Kelly once again for the PG-rated action flick Golden Needles. The film features a number of faces that should be familiar to fans of 70s cinema. Joe Don Baker, Elizabeth Ashley, and Burgess Meredith co-starred alongside Kelly in the flick. The story is definitely unique: Several groups are searching for a special statue that contains “golden needles.” When used correctly, they can grant the power of sexual prowess. If they used incorrectly, the person will die. It’s a strange plot, but then again, most movies from the 70s were definitely a little skewed. An enjoyable romp worthy of at least one viewing.

One Down, Two to Go (Fred Williamson, 1982)
Written, directed, and starring Fred Williamson, One Down, Two to Go finds the gang from Three the Hard Way getting back together for even more big-screen mayhem. The film finds a group of tough cops (Williamson, Kelly, Brown) going after the mob after their friend gets injured in a martial arts tournament. This effort isn’t much different than their previous effort, though that really shouldn’t matter much to fans. This may not be the best example of what Jim Kelly had to offer in his heyday, but it’s worth checking out on Netflix streaming if you have nothing else to do with your free time. However, it’s strongly recommended that you watch Kelly’s other efforts first.

Black Samurai (Al Adamson, 1977)
Before there was Death Dimension, Al Adamson put together the Jim Kelly flick Black Samurai. Based on the novel by Marc Olden, the film casts the actor as an agent of the Defense Reserve Agency Guardian Of Nations (D.R.A.G.O.N.) who is asked to rescue a kidnapped girl. Apparently that was a popular plotline in 70s action flicks. If you’re expecting Enter the Dragon-style entertainment, then chances are you’ll walk away disappointed. B-movie nerds will no doubt devour this particular endeavor without too many unwanted side effects. Wonky kung fu movies are a dime a dozen, but only a few of them were fortunate enough to feature the always-enjoyable Jim Kelly.

Hot Potato (Oscar Williams, 1976)
Last but certainly not least is director Oscar Williams’ Jim Kelly flick Hot Potato. The martial arts master stars as — you guessed it — a kung fu expert who is charged with locating a kidnapped girl in Thailand. As far as martial arts movies are concerned, it’s not the strongest contender in the bunch. However, those who enjoy Kelly’s brand of big-screen hijinks shouldn’t find too much to complain about. It’s a B-movie through and through, but it’s entertaining from start to finish. Folks who still enjoy collecting movies can grab this one along with Black Belt Jones and Three the Hard Way in set released by Warner Bros. If you can find it on the cheap, definitely snatch it up.

Since locating a trailer has proven difficult, you’ll have to settle for the poster.

Jim Kelly Movies

Are you a fan of Jim Kelly? What’s your favorite movie starring the late actor?