Posts Tagged ‘blaxploitation’

rrmdiscogf

Rudy Ray Moore was a real icon of the “blaxploitation” movie scene. He made his name on the club circuit, mixing R&B with blue comedy, his persona of a degenerate debaucher spewing obscene rhyming couplets gaining him a healthy underground following. He parlayed this character into a movie career, starting with “Dolemite”, where his stage act was coupled with low-rent action as he became the kung-fu pimp with a heart of gold. The majority of his films followed the same formula, mixing comedy with action in ever more inventive premises (“Petey Wheatstraw” even seeing him as a stand-up comic battling hoodlums while attempting to get out of a deal with the devil); until he decided to use his standing to make a “serious” movie with a real message: “Disco Godfather’ (sometimes known by the slightly more spoilery moniker “The Avenging Disco Godfather”).

Rather than his usual collection of pimps and ne’er-do-wells, here Moore is a good man, a kind man; the legendary disco DJ Tucker Williams, known to his friends as the Godfather of the Disco. He gets behind the decks every night and plays all the disco classics. Well, one disco record, which he plays over and over and over. On top of this he tells people to “put your weight on it”, an absolutely insane number of times, each with a slightly different intonation. “PUT your weight on it, put YOUR weight on iiiiiitttt, put your weeeighhtttt on it!”. If your weight is not on it by the half hour point of this movie, it never will be.

The wheels begin to come off this cosy set-up when his nephew Bucky takes some “bad shit”, trips out and the disco beats turn into rattles and left-over sound-effects from “Space 1999”. Not cool. Tucker immediately asks the most important question “Where is Bucky and what has he hayad?” before making the sensible decision to call an “Am-ber-lamps”.

Suddenly forgetting about the disco jams the film then takes on a serious, sombre tone. With one click of the Godfather’s fingers it morphs into a warning of the perils of PCP, so laughably misinformed and hysterical that it makes “Reefer Madness” look like “Requiem for a Dream”. The hospital Bucky ends up in is populated by victims of Angel Dust so demented they resemble extras cut from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for egregious over-acting, while the doctor charged with their care wanders around wearing shades indoors and signing off on exorcisms. We are even treated to the single greatest diagnosis in the history of film: “This kid is totally withdrawn from reality; he thinks he’s an unborn caterpillar”.

At this point we discover that Tucker is not merely a DJ, but a former bad-ass cop who quit the force due to the inescapable pull of the disco. So he goes to his old Lieutenant to tell him he wants to investigate the Angel Dust problem “on his own”, but also with the help of the police (what?), and is immediately given “reserve status”. For those who don’t know what “reserve status” is, it apparently means you and a buddy can go around slapping random strangers for absolutely no reason in a long montage before stealing a dog. Which is awesome.

The film soon makes it’s next big tonal shift as Tucker works out who the bad guy is, and who the mole is (apparently there was a mole), and sets about kicking ass all the way to the top. Luckily for him he is joined by allies such as a passing jogger who just happens to hate Angel Dust and know kung-fu. Every movie is made infinitely better by having random kung-fu joggers (as definitively proved by the 1982 trash classic “Pieces”) and this is no exception.

After the obligatory badly handled melange of action, the film takes it’s final big turn; descending into a weird psychedelic brain-rape of a finale that it would be wrong to spoil before you have had the chance to experience it for yourself. Quite simply it is the absolute last way you would ever expect this film to end, a jaw-dropping conclusion so out of left-field that you need the end credits to remind you what movie you were watching before it went off the deep end.

For those who know his work, watching Moore trying to reel himself in to get a PG rating is incredibly amusing (he even manages to stop himself from rhyming “Tucker” with “Mutha-f**ker”…but only just), and at times genuinely baffling (one scene involving a female dog that has apparently lived into it’s 50’s before running away from it’s owner is seemingly only there so they could sneak in the line “that old bitch finally left me”). He (mostly) left the rhymes at home for this one, and tried to deliver a serious commentary on 70s excess and the way drugs were destroying the black community (the big pile of cocaine being snorted off the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever” is as subtle as this message gets).

Although intended as Moore’s magnum opus, the real pleasure comes from how misjudged and batshit crazy everything is. From Moore’s ridiculous man-boob revealing outfits, to every shot clearly being done in one-take no matter how many times lines were fluffed or the cast accidentally laughed at serious moments; “Disco Godfather” is incredibly bizarre and tons of fun. Track this down and “put your weight on it”.

black dynamite (2009)

Posted: February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Black Dynamite is a Vietnam war veteran, ex-CIA agent and the baddest mutha on the planet. When his younger brother is gunned down by a shady Mr. Big, he vows to clean up the streets and find the killers, no matter what the cost.

“Black Dynamite” is a 2009 spoof of 70s blaxploitation cinema that is so expertly crafted and carefully realised that it could easily pass as a genuine forgotten classic. The film stock is grainy and washed out while the direction is intentionally flat; a camera struggling to keep up in the small boxy rooms that pass for sets, with the occasional fit of ludicrously low-fi and outdated camera trickery adding to the authentic feel.

The soundtrack (courtesy of hip-hop producer Adrian Younge) adds to the faithful period ambience, as dark basslines, jazzy flutes and funky guitars float through scenes like cigarette smoke filling a dive bar, while recurring motifs bookend moments of significance in a gloriously unsubtle fashion. The affection of all involved is obvious; this is less a mocking pastiche and more a “warts and all” love letter to a long neglected and much derided genre.

Michael Jai White, who also co-wrote the film, absolutely nails the lead role, perfect in every aspect from his look to his attitude. He kicks ass, growls one liners and dispenses street wisdom with equal panache in a thunderous gut-punch of a comedic performance. It is quite simply a wonderful display of knowing ham acting couched in effortless cool and barbaric badassery. There is also real depth to his “performance within a performance”, expertly conveying the air of a man who believes himself far better than his low-rent surroundings. His eyes angrily dart to a boom mic that has dipped into shot and he briefly glares at the director when a supporting player starts reading out his stage directions (“Sarcastically i’m in charge”). There is so much fun to be had just watching him and enjoying the comedic nuances that the film almost deserves a second watch to do just that.

Although white is outstanding, this is a film where everyone embraced the concept and all of the cast are absolutely pitch perfect in their delivery. Actors in small roles deliver stilted performances that would have the director yelling cut on a porn set, while slightly bigger roles expertly recall the over-the-top jive talking and contextually inappropriate wannabe preaching of so many blaxploitation actors.

The writing is also spot-on, perfectly sending up the conventions of blaxploitation cinema. The main revenge plot is deliciously hokey and contrived while the twists are knowingly outlandish and ridiculous. Much of the dialogue is a precise approximation of 70s movie jive talk cranked all the way up to 11 (“I said split, shake the scene you turkeys”) while the completely nonsensical grand speeches characters occasionally lurch into perfectly skewer the half baked cod-philosophising that trash cinema all too often descends into. There is still room for more conventional humour amid the lampoon, with plenty of fun visual gags and precise wordplay among the nonstop barrage of jokes, delivering far more hits than misses.

At first glance “Black Dynamite” seems like an unsustainable idea for a feature film, but thanks to clever writing and perfect execution it never loses steam, wringing every last ounce of potential from it’s one-joke premise. This is a film chock full of quotable lines and memorable moments, a perfect confection crafted with love and care that deserves to be cherished by it’s audience as much as it clearly was by those who made it.