Archive for the ‘Blaxploitation’ Category

Shaft (1971) Film Review 5/5

February 9, 2006

That Shaft (Richard Roundtree) truly is one bad mother… well, I’d best shut my mouth, even though I’m only talkin’ ‘bout Shaft. Can you dig it?

Even if you’re white, “Shaft” is one of the blaxploitation movies that can really reach across all colors and barriers, simply because Shaft is such a cool sonofabitch. Everyone likes him. Black Panthers? Shaft’s friends. Blind people? Shaft’s friends. Gay bartenders? Shaft’s friends. Hippies? Shaft’s friends. Jews? Shaft’s friends. Old Italian cops? Also Shaft’s friends. Shaft truly is one of the people in this world who reaches out across all races, creeds, philosophies, and barriers simply through the power of his awesome fashion sense (I want that black leather coat he’s got) and incredible coolness.

Now, Ron, you mentioned all sorts of people, but not women. Is Shaft a friend to the ladies? Well, that depends. Do you mean ‘friend’ as in treats women well, or do you mean ‘friend’ as in ‘has a strong pimp hand and puts the bitches in their place, his bed’? If you said the second one, then Shaft truly is a friend to everyone. Shaft has a hot black girlfriend, and he fucks a hot white woman. Once he’s done fucking the white bitch, he does what every man dreams of; he tells her to get the hell out of his apartment and not to let the door hit her in the ass on the way out! When his girlfriend says that she loves him, he says ‘Yeah, I know. Take it easy.’

Can you see why Shaft is everyone’s hero (except feminists, who don’t count as people)? Brother has a way with the bitches that most men could not get away with today, AND he’s down with O.P.P. Yeah, you know him.

Shaft’s a cool character, to be sure, but does the movie do him justice? Well, the first key to a successful blaxploitation flick is to be cool, and “Shaft” the movie is very cool. It’s probably aged the best out of all the 70’s flicks I’ve seen in my many years of watching late-night TV. A lot of films from the period come off as cheesy, but “Shaft” takes itself seriously, and no amount of 70’s lingo can detract from a flick this gritty and exciting. If anything, it makes the movie better.

Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn)’s daughter Marcy (Sherri Brewster) is kidnapped, but nobody knows who did it. Bumpy, the HNIC of Harlem’s whores, drugs, and numbers racket, has a lot of enemies. On one hand, the Black Panthers lead by Ben Buford (Christopher St. John) hate him for the way he’s poisoning their community. On the other hand, the Mafia want Harlem, because they know that black people love to do drugs, have sex with whores, and gamble illegally. On a third hand, you’ve got the cops, lead by Det. Vic Androzzi (Charles Cioffi), who want this shit stopped before it becomes an all-out war in the streets.

In the middle of all this? Shaft, the only thread these four groups have in common. How’s he gonna get out of this and still manage to save his own ass?

Driven by Richard Roundtree’s coolness and a spectacular movie score from Isaac Hayes, the likes of which no one could do today, “Shaft” excels not just as the biggest and arguably best serious blaxploitation flick, but as one of the all-time greatest and most influential films from the early 1970’s. Shaft truly is a cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about.

Slaughter (1972) Film Review 4/5

June 7, 2005

“Slaughter” is yet another classic blaxploitation picture brought to us by our good friends at American International Pictures. I firmly believe that without these guys, there still wouldn’t be a place for black filmmakers like Spike Lee, the Hughes Brothers, and the Wayans Brothers. But please, don’t hold that against them; they’re really good people who’ve put out some great movies. You can’t blame them on the fools that have followed in their wake. If you want to look at a positive protégé of the blaxploitation movie, look at Mario Van Peebles’ “Baadasssss!” or any Quentin Tarantino picture. Hell, these guys have produced a litany of classics which have made their way onto this website (here are some: “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” “Dr. Phibes Rises Again,” “Black Mama White Mama,” “Blacula,” “Sisters,” “Coffy,” and “Foxy Brown”).

Done clicking? Good. I got reviewing to get to, and I can’t sit around with my thumb up my ass while you catch up on history, fool. If I don’t get this done, Jim Brown will kick my ass.

That’s right, kids. NFL Hall of Famer, the greatest running back of all time, and ass-kicking nonthespian Jim Brown is the star of this picture, playing the titular character Slaughter! I just can’t say Slaughter!’s name without that exclamation point, because Slaughter! just kicks that much ass in as non-emotive a way possible.

But really, that’s okay. When you’re a former Green Beret avenging the murder of your parents, you’re not expected to do much other than kick a lot of ass, take a lot of names, and be stoic and brooding. Jim Brown does all these things and more. It doesn’t really matter that he can’t act, you can just look at the guy and tell he’s going to kick someone’s ass, because he’s still fresh out of his playing days and probably the most ripped motherfucker on the planet at this time. Seriously.

So, somewhere along the hunt for revenge, Slaughter! gets into trouble with the authorities. Turns out busting into the airport with your car, gunning down some mobsters in cold blood, ruining a US Treasury investigation, and then chasing down an airplane (!!!) in the of the most awesomely lop-sided car vs. plane chases ever isn’t exactly smiled upon by A.W. Price (Cameron Mitchell), your token racist authority figure. Seems he’s got a job for Slaughter! in exchange for dropping the murder rap. And that job is to go after Hoffo (Rip Torn, holy shit!) and his band o’thugs.

But even Jim Brown can’t do it alone. He needs help, and this is where we get our token white sidekick and overall sneakthief Harry (the excellent Don Gordon, with a pretty good role considering he’s not Slaughter!), the token black girl/groupie/pretend reporter/Treasury agent Kim (Madeline Clark, whose character wears a lot of hats in this film), and the token white love interest/Mafia doll/Hoffo birthday present Ann (Stella Stevens, her two best assets constantly on display plot be damned), who actually doesn’t get dismissed from the film after she takes her clothes off a bunch.

Featuring prominently one of the most vicious beatings of a woman ever captured on film (I guess Ann never heard the phrase “Once you go black, you get your ass kicked by your Guinea boyfriend”), some good car chases, some great Jim Brown chases, some excellent comedy from all parties, some weird fish-eye lens shots of long-distance action, an excellent Billy Preston themesong in the “Shaft” tradition, and most surprising of all, gun battles in which people actually run out of bullets, and not just when it makes for more drama.

That Slaughter! never fails to make an entrance, whether it’s leaping through a window or strolling in a pimpriffic tux into an all-white underground casino where he sticks out like a gigantic Negro sore thumb. This one’s almost too good to be true and a hell of a lot better than I ever expected.

Blacula (1972) Film Review 3/5

February 21, 2005

Roaring in from the darkness, spreading evil and Black power everywhere he goes, is the African Prince Mamuwalde, better known as Blacula (William Marshall)! That’s right, a black vampire that isn’t named Blade. (Aside: Notice how every ‘back to the motherland’ type mentions the fact that black people were royalty in Africa, but slaves in America? Isn’t it pretty impossible for 20 million people to all be kings and queens and princesses? Who’d farm? Who’d scrape up the animal shit? Prince Mamuwalde sure as hell wouldn’t.)

Mamuwalde and his love Luva (Vonetta McGee) are on a mission to Europe, and their goal is to end the slave trade. There’s only one problem, though. One of the stops on their trip through the halls of power is a visit to Count Dracula’s (Charles Macauley) house, and he’s got a taste for dark meat, if you know what I mean and I think you do. That’s right, Drac’s got jungle fever, and I don’t mean Ebola virus. He’s got designs on Luva, and no pesky lover is going to stand in his way.

Blacula fights bacula, and with bloody-tears in his eyes, the Count sends Mamuwalde into the cold sleep of the undead grave with the curse… of his name! Blacula is born, and poor Luva is left to rot and die.

Or is she?

The year is 1972, and Blacula is discovered by two extremely gay LA interior directors/interracial gay couple, Bobby (Ted Harris) and Billy (Rick Metzler), both of whom end up becoming Fagulas. Once Blacula is free, he’s running around LA, indiscriminately killing cabbies, until he sees her. Luda, reborn! Or maybe just another mocha-colored hottie named Tina (also Vonetta McGee).

Lots of people are being sucked dry (and not in the way Bobby and Billy would like), and it’s up to Gordon Thomas M.D. (Thalmus Rasulala!) and the one good white person in LA, Lt. Jack Peters (Gordon Pinsent) to stop his reign of, what Skillet (the best character in the flick, played by Ji-Tu Cumbuka) would call, funky-fresh terror and stylish capewear.

This film does go astray, unfortunately. There are lots of deliberately cheesy things (like the credits with a vampire bat that keeps fucking blood droplets that turn into women) and there are lots of cheesy things that come from odd acting and a wooden script (like the dripping-with-gay-overtones staking of Black Fagula). Hell, at least it is funny, when there’s not boring and shitty talk about black politics.

The best feature of this movie? Finally, we have someone giving us Dracula’s take on the slave trade, race relations, and the slave trade! We’ve been waiting for years, and very patiently at that, and now we’ve finally got the precious nuggets of info that we couldn’t have lived without knowing! But, come on, Charles Macauley? Christopher Lee wasn’t doing shit in ’72, and he probably needed the money. You should’ve spent a little less on Afro-sheen and sideburn maintenance, and spent a little more on actors.

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996) Film Review 4/5

December 2, 2004

I am not really sure if this movie actually qualifies as a cult movie, but I tend to consider all parodies to be B movies in their souls. If said parody movie actually parodies an existing and popular genre of B movies, that makes the parody even more of a B rated film. If this film is the product of the world’s largest showbiz family (in the non-Catholic category), then I believe that this film does indeed merit its place here at

The Wayans Brothers strike again, all 19 of them. The first real breakout movie for this enormous family of black comic actors was “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” Then they moved on to “In Living Color”, they did this flick, then they returned to the parody gig with “Scary Movie” and the initial sequels that were progressively less funny. Anyway, the Wayans have become something of a comedy institution, and this movie is one of the reasons, along with the aforementioned FOX TV classic.

“I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” was a spoof of blaxploitation movies. “Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” is a spoof of, well, pretty much every generic early 90’s black gangsta movie. If you’re a pop culture addict like myself, you can pretty much pick out every movie they spoof when they’re spoofing it, even when they’re not all obvious like the spoof of “Back to the Future.” You can’t hit the pause button in this movie without finding a scene from another film being mocked, and that’s a good thing in these kinds of efforts.

The jokes are a combination of genre spoofs, individual movie spoofs, sight gags, actual jokes, dramatic irony, and of course, drug humor du jour. Some of the jokes work well; some of them don’t. There are more working jokes than failing jokes, though not all of the jokes are laugh out loud funny now that the movie’s almost ten years old. The Hammer spoof isn’t a good one, and it’s a little too long, but the scene at the end of Crazy Legs in the Jeffrey Ballet is hilarious.

There hasn’t been a movie made that wouldn’t be improved by the presence of cursing, jive talking, rapping and weed-smoking grandmothers, that’s for damn sure. Even now that most of the hood movies have faded from memory, the scene where Ashtray gets into a fistfight with Loc Dog’s grandmother is still one of the funniest scenes in movie history.

The movie, in general, is still very funny, but it hasn’t aged quite as well as it could have now that most of the people from hood movies are dead (Hi, Tupac), making hood comedies (Hi, Ice Cube), making crappy sci-fi flicks (Hi, Larry Fishburne), or flashing their breasts at the Super Bowl. Despite all this, though, it’s still worth a watch, especially if you’ve never seen it before. Be on the lookout for Bernie Mac, too. Blink and you’ll miss a great scene there.