Johnny Firecloud (1975)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This Indian-themed exploitation movie version of Billy Jack is as trashy as one might expect but is also surprisingly energetic and inspired. Johnny Firecloud shows its low-budget seams with its exploitative approach and the rough edges to its filmmaking (some of supporting performances are a bit cartoonish) but also works in several surprises for the patient drive-in movie enthusiast. For instance, Johnny Firecloud has an unusual sense of scope and ambition for a low-budget effort: Peter Good's widescreen cinematography gives the film an expansive, professional 'big movie' look and Wilton Denmark's tightly-paced script devotes as much time to surprisingly progressive-minded subplots about abortion and homophobia as it does to its action. Hispanic actor Victor Mohica is hit and miss as the film's hero but his work is balanced by a solid supporting cast: Ralph Meeker is both charismatic and sleazy as town kingpin, future soap opera star David Canary brings some genuine dramatic weight to the film as the town's conflicted sheriff and Frank DeKova brings a surprising amount of pathos to the potentially ridiculous character of White Eagle. Director William Allen Castleman lacks the kinetic flair that might have put the film's action content over the top but he maintains a sharp sense of pace and maximizes the film's quality elements to create a surprisingly memorable bit of drive-in fare. To sum up, Johnny Firecloud is an engaging little quickie that is likely to win over fans of b-movie action.