Posts Tagged ‘blaxploitation’

Soul Vengeance

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

tn_soulvengeanceAlot of people have recommended the PENITENTIARY trilogy to me over the years. Apparently it’s a pretty crazy movie property franchise of the VHS era, so it made sort of a minor cult legend out of writer-director Jamaa Fanaka. He came out of the UCLA film school and a group of young black filmmakers known as “the L.A. Rebellion.” Other members include Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Haile Gerima, so he might’ve been the black sheep of the group, being more interested in exploitation type subject matter than his colleagues.

Although the PENITENTIARYs are what he’s known for, Fanaka (who was born Walter Gordon, by the way – he changed it to a Swahili name in college) actually started in the blaxploitation era. His first feature was 1974′s EMMA MAE, better known now as BLACK SISTER’S REVENGE. In 1975 he did WELCOME HOME, BROTHER CHARLES, which we will discuss here under its current video title of SOUL VENGEANCE. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Spook Who Sat By the Door

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

tn_spookwhosatbythedoor“Their first mistake was letting him in. Their worst mistake was letting him out.”

A senator’s polls say he needs more of “the Negro vote” to win re-election, so his strategist suggests accusing the CIA of discriminatory hiring policies. Cut to the CIA considering hundreds of black men as candidates and narrowing them down to 10 men in their training course.

They teach them to shoot, car bomb, collapse bridges, sky dive, scuba dive, judo, etc. But you only need one token to play Ms. Pac-Man so only one of these guys gets through: the guy who doesn’t make any friends, who “has a habit of fading into the background.” So much so that you barely even notice him in these early scenes. Some other guy seems like he’s the main character. But this is the guy. His name is Freeman and he’s played by Lawrence Cook, who also had parts in TROUBLE MAN, COLORS and POSSE. (read the rest of this shit…)

Django Unchained

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

A couple weeks ago the studio “lifted the embargo” as they say, and all the online critics unchained their DJANGO reviews even though non-critics wouldn’t see the thing until Christmas. I think that’s a silly ritual because I wasn’t gonna read that shit! This is the new Quentin Tarantino movie, you go in fresh. I already know I want to see any movie he makes, I don’t gotta read everything about it first. In case you’re different I’ve tried to mark the biggest spoilers in this review, but as usual I recommend seeing the movie first.

DJANGO UNCHAINED is the most straight forward movie Tarantino has ever made. It follows one main character from first scene to last, doesn’t cut away to another story or even jump around in time other than some very traditional flashbacks. There are alot of long conversation scenes, but it’s generally pretty clear what they have to do with the main plot of the freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx, STEALTH) becoming a bounty hunter and trying to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a plantation. And that’s not a misleading description, that’s really the movie, a racially charged western (or “Southern,” Tarantino likes to say) in the tradition of those CHARLEY movies I just reviewed.

So in a way it feels uneventful for a Tarantino movie, the first time he made one that was pretty much what I expected from the commercials. On first viewing it seems low in my rankings of the QT filmography, but that doesn’t say much. Tarantino sure knows how to entertain, and I happen to love this genre of badass black cowboys out for frontier justice against practitioners of the slave trade. For his first straight up genre picture that’s a good genre to pick. I love this movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Boss

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Don’t worry, this is the last of the pre-DJANGO slavery-themed reviews. I don’t want to ruin Christmas or anything, but I gotta finish the trilogy.

BOSS was originally called BOSS [word white people shouldn't say], but it was easy to change to just BOSS and therefore it’s the only one of the Charley trilogy available on a legitimate DVD. In this one it’s still Fred Williamson as Charley, but he’s just called “Boss.” (Or maybe “Bas” like Bas Rutten?) And D’Urville Martin is still his sidekick but he’s called “Amos” instead of Toby. Maybe it’s an alias. At this point they’ve left behind their town in Mexico and are traveling bounty hunters. But it definitely is meant as a sequel because Williamson says so on a title card added to the DVD where he explains why he approves of the use of the n-word in the title, dialogue and theme song. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Soul of (hahem) Charley

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The first sequel to THE LEGEND OF (cough cough) CHARLEY is the best of the series in my opinion. It takes place after the Civil War, so Charley is no longer a runaway slave, but he still has to deal with racists, including a former Confederate colonel who still leads his troop of assholes on violent rampages in black settlements.

Charley (still Fred Williamson) and Toby (still D’urville Martin) come across one of these towns right after everyone’s been massacred except for a little boy. By this time Charley is such a legend that the kid can’t believe he’s meeting him, it’s like he gets to hang out with Mohammad Ali. Or Fred Williamson.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Legend of (word white people shouldn’t say) Charley

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

I’ve been curious about this series of Fred Williamson slavery-era westerns, and with DJANGO UNCHAINED coming at the end of the month it seemed like a good time to finally get to them.

As the old white patriarch of a plantation is on his death bed he wants to free his favorite slave, who took good care of him. She says she’s too old to start a new life and asks him instead to free her son, Charley (Fred Williamson). Charley works as a blacksmith, which makes me think this was probly one of the inspirations for THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. But unfortunately he never uses his ironworking skills as a free man, not even in the sequels.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Friday Foster

Monday, July 16th, 2012

I didn’t realize this until recently, but the Pam Grier movie FRIDAY FOSTER came from a comic strip. It ran from 1970-1974 and was the first syndicated comic with an African-American woman in the lead. It was created by a journeyman writer named Jim Lawrence who also wrote for radio shows such as Green Hornet and comic strips based on James Bond and Dallas (!). The artist was a Spaniard named Jorge Longarón until the last year, when it was taken over by Gray Morrow, co-creator of MAN THING.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Dolemite Explosion

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

tn_dolemiteexplosion“Ron, now you know, I’m a great low budget filmmaker now. So when we bring somethin it’s got to be devastatin. I don’t want no bullshit.” –DOLEMITE EXPLOSION director Ron Hall, recounting what Rudy Ray Moore would always say to him

About a year and a half ago Xenon Pictures released the Dolemite Total Experience box set. I thought it was the same as the old box set I already had, except with more compact packaging and a better cover. I didn’t realize that it included Rudy Ray Moore’s unreleased final film, THE DOLEMITE EXPLOSION.

When I put the DVD in my first thought was they didn’t make this shit anamorphic? This is 2012! But in retrospect even the shitty transfer fits the home-made, do-what-you-can, sell-it-out-of-your-trunk ghetto tradition of Rudy Ray’s entire career.

It was hard for the fringe icons of the ’70s to recapture the magic even in the ’80s or ’90s. There was that SUPERFLY RETURNS movie with a different actor playing Priest for the hip hop age. There was the last Curtis Mayfield album with beautiful songs interrupted by terrible rapping, there were pretty good George Clinton albums trying a little too hard to cram in guest appearances by Ice Cube, there were attempts to remake DOLEMITE as a studio movie starring LL Cool J. Always trying to use what’s popular at that moment to try to legitimize the O.G. shit for the kids. Sometimes it’s okay, but it’s never a home run. It’s never devastatin. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Santa’s Revenge

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

tn_blacksantaI thought BLACK SANTA’S REVENGE was gonna be a real (but super low budget I’m sure) movie. Turns out it’s a 20 minute short (“mini epic” the credits say) shot by some dudes in Portland, Oregon. The writer/director David Walker is the guy that started the zine-turned-websight BadAzz MoFo, which I’m sure some of you are familiar with because of their coverage of blaxploitation and spaghetti westerns. (read the rest of this shit…)

Truck Turner

Friday, February 18th, 2011

tn_truckturnerEverybody knows Isaac Hayes’s music for SHAFT, but he also scored TRUCK TURNER. And while he was at it he decided to also star as Truck Turner. Why not? I guess at one point it was gonna be Robert Mitchum, which would’ve made for a really weird blaxploitation movie.

Under Hayes’s super-funky theme song the movie opens with a montage of vintage L.A. lowlife spots: liquor stores, blood banks, pawn shops, a corner where a bunch of old drunks have an awkward slap fight until a cop breaks it up. And I’m pretty sure those are real dudes. The montage also shows the signs for more than ten bail bonds places, which shows that our man Truck has alot of competition.

(read the rest of this shit…)