Good Guys Wear Black
|Good Guys Wear Black|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ted Post|
|Produced by||Allan F. Bodoh|
|Screenplay by||Bruce Cohn|
|Story by||Joseph Fraley|
|Music by||Craig Safan|
|Edited by||Millie Moore|
Action One Film Partners, LTD
Mar Vista Productions
Western Film Productions
|Distributed by||American Cinema Releasing|
|Box office||$18.3 million (United States)|
Back in 1973, one United States Senator Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus), the chief delegate diplomat in negotiating the terms of the end of Vietnam War, made a deal in Paris, France with Kuong Yen, the North Vietnamese negotiator. The deal called for Yen to release certain key CIA POWs in exchange for Morgan setting up a death-trap for an elite group of CIA assassins, known as the Black Tigers. The treaty signed, the Black Tigers were sent into the jungles of 'Nam to their unknowing demise, under the guise that they were on mission to liberate American POWs. However, the negotiators failed to realize one thing: the commando's team leader was one Major John T. Booker (Chuck Norris). So, needless to say and despite all odds, Booker survives. As do the four men wise enough to have remained in his general vicinity.
Five years after returning from Vietnam, Booker, now living in Los Angeles, California, is now working as a political science professor at UCLA, donning a post-war moustache, and with a hobby of race car–driving. Booker lectures to a bunch of kids on how the war should not have happened, and that the U.S. should not have been involved. He then jokes about singing patriotic songs the following week to atone. Sitting in on one of his lectures is a bright female reporter named Margaret (Anne Archer) who starts asking some very specific questions about the botched rescue mission. It seems that someone is slowly killing all the surviving members of the special forces team.
Booker is suddenly thrown back into his past when Morgan's appointment as Secretary of State spurs Yen to blackmail his ex-negotiations buddy into making good on his unfinished deal: the extermination of the Black Tigers.
|Chuck Norris||Major John T. Booker (The Black Tigers)|
|James Franciscus||Conrad Morgan|
|Lloyd Haynes||Murray Saunders|
|Dana Andrews||Edgar Harolds|
|Jim Backus||Albert (The Apartment Doorman)|
|Lawrence P. Casey||Mike Potter (The Black Tigers)|
|Anthony Mannino||Gordie Jones (The Black Tigers)|
|Soon-Tek Oh||Mjr. Mhin Van Thieu (The Black Tigers)|
|Joe Bennett||Lou Goldberg (The Black Tigers)|
|Jerry Douglas||Joe Walker (The Black Tigers)|
|Stack Pierce||Holly Washington (The Black Tigers)|
|Michael Payne||Mitch (The Black Tigers)|
|David Starwalt||Steagle (The Black Tigers)|
|Aaron Norris||Al (The Black Tigers)|
|Don Pike||Hank (The Black Tigers)|
|Benjamin J. Perry||Finney (The Black Tigers)|
|Hatsuo Uda||Shoeshine Man|
|Virginia Wing||Mrs. Mhin Van Thieu|
|Viola Harris||Airline Ticket Agent|
|Jacki Robins||Fat Lady|
|Pat E. Johnson||CIA Agent|
|Warren Smith||James (Morgan's Chauffeur)|
Norris had been offered a number of karate films but turned them down because he did not want to be limited. "Bruce Lee movies were all karate with a little story thrown in. I want to have a story with some karate scenes."
Norris said he "peddled" the script "all over Hollywood. The night before I was to meet this producer - I'd gone through everyone; he was the last - I thought, 'What can I say to this guy that I haven't said to everyone that's turned me down?' I went to bed, and about 2 o'clock in the morning, the answer popped into my head. And when I met the producer, he asked me the same question the others asked, 'Chuck, why will this movie make money?' And I said, 'First of all, there's four million karate people in America. They all know who I am. And if only half of them go to the movie, that's a $6 million gross on a $1 million budget.' And he said, 'Sounds good to me'."
The film was produced by Allan Bodoh, Mitchell Cannold and Michael Leone. Bodoh ran Mar Vista Productions, who in a two year period made Dirt, Acapulco Gold, Dogs and The Great Smokey Roadblock.
"I want to be as big in the movie industry as I've been in the karate industry," said Norris. ""I know I can do it because I've got the faith to do it."
Norris said his character of Booker "had more feeling than the Clint Eastwood characters. Booker's sensitive, caring about people, but if pushed he can take care of the situation. That's like me. I'm an easy going guy but in the ring I have a fanatical desire to win. I want Booker to be someone people can relate to, a hero to worship. Take Bruce Lee, who was an Oriental but able to pull Caucasians. I'm taking a little from Eastwood, a little from Lee, and a little special effects from James Bond. John T Booker is someone moviegoers can emulate, to be that kind of person, a guy who doesn't push his weight around, an easygoing person who can be dangerous." Chuck Norris had a long dialogue scene with James Franciscus about the Vietnam War. Steve McQueen, who Norris knew, saw it and advised Norris to let support characters take care of the exposition, "then when there's something important to say, you say it." "Let the co-stars do the b.s. dialogue," Norris says McQueen told him. "I do it. Eastwood does it. Bronson does it."
The film was originally rated R but Norris lobbied successfully to have it changed to PG. "My argument was the strong, positive image I project on the screen," he said. "The word karate, unfortunately, connotes violence to many people. Actually, it's a means of avoiding violent situations, and a form of defense if you have no choice and you're backed into a corner." 
The movie grossed $18 million at the box office, due in part to a year-long publicity tour Norris did. (The actor estimated he did over 2,000 interviews in a year and says he had to go to hospital for laryngitis."
The Los Angeles Times called it "cynical, reasonably entertaining... the slick, efficient murders are less gory to watch than disturbing to contemplate." The Washington Post said "the little plot it [the film] does have goes a long way." The New York Times said the film was "short on everything."
"The first time I saw myself, I didn't feel embarrassed yet thought I could be better," said Norris. "But, by the fourth viewing, I wanted to hide behind a chair."
According to Norris the critics "I was the worst thing in 50 years. Well, I wasn't good, but my feelings were hurt. I said, 'I'm not trying to be Dustin Hoffman; I just want to project a strong positive hero image on the screen.' I went to Steve [McQueen], and he said, 'In Good Guys you talk too much. Too much dialogue. Let the character actors lay out the plot. Then, when there's something important to say, you say it, and people will listen. Anyway, you'll get better as an actor. You should have seen me in The Blob."
The film was meant to be the first in a series. However no further Booker movies resulted.
Chuck Norris' character in The Expendables 2 is named Booker "The Lone Wolf", in homage to John T. Booker in Good Guys Wear Black.
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