One Down Two to Go (1982)Considering the stars (Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, and Jim Kelly), this should have been a whole lot better. Story of 4 friends who go after crooked fight promoters comes across more like Fred Williamson’s home movies. It’s helped by a fast pace and funky soundtrack, but hindered by the fact that Williamson and Brown don’t show up until the movie is almost halfway over. There’s an old white sheriff who keeps popping up (sometimes literally out of nowhere), chastising our heroes, and then letting them go (even though they’re involved in about a dozen murders and several exploding cars). You know you’re in low budget territory when 2 studs show up in limousines, pose for a bit, and then growl, “We’ll be at the Holiday Inn.”Note: I’ve seen this movie listed as being from both 1976 and 1982, but I think it’s 1982 – it’s got that classic 80’s fuzzy, washed out cinematography.
GANJA & HESS (1973) on Blu-ray for the first time.Originally released as "Black Dracula" in a 73 min. version (get it?) for the drive-in market, the 113 min. director's cut of "Ganja & Hess" is the most got-damn artistic, pretentious, fascinating, self-indulgent and yes, gory & sexy blaxploitation film ever snuck into an unsuspecting, not-ready-for-this-shit grindhouse audience. Imagine Abel Ferrara's "The Addiction" with black people if it had been directed by Ingmar Bergman slumming at AIP to cash-in on the blaxploitation craze (!). The camera work, acting and basic premise (blood lust, finding an ideal mate and the inability to die) all scream "Blacula" wannabe. But writer/director/co-star Bill Gunn clearly set his sights much higher than what his budget, cast, film stock and filmmaking skills would allow. It doesn't quite succeed at what it tries to do (parts of this movie make no got-damn sense at all), but "Ganja & Hess" is that rare times you're glad to get a pig in a poke instead of the expected posturing and pretend bravado you get in every other blaxploitation movie from this era. You've never seen a movie take a left turn as what overcomes Dr. Hess ("The Night of the Living Dead's" Duane Jones) near the end of this movie. And yet, if you're at all familiar with African-American culture and history, it makes so much sense for Gunn to show this facet of black culture to a mostly-black audience so used to expecting lowest-common denominator (i.e. typical Hollywood) characterizations and violent solutions to everyday problems.
THE GUY FROM HARLEM (1977)I saw the trailer for this as part of "42nd Street Forever!"(Patrick Bromley-approved). Wow, seeing this made me have a greater appreciation for the AIP blaxploitation. This extremely low-budget movie is inept in all areas. Bad directing, bad acting, bad editing and worst of all the title song(the only soundtrack) is mediocre. However, there is an Ed Wood-ness in that I think the director wanted to make a good action movie. Also, the creator of "Black Dynamite" had to have used the hillariously bad fight scenes as inspiration.
Black Belt Jones (1974)Jim Kelly karate chops his way through the bad guys in this HILARIOUS movie. The opening credits take place in the middle of a fight in which Kelly drops something like a dozen goons in the parking lot of a building. When one runs away, he shoots the guy in the ass. There's a car chases, Scatman Crothers, and a final showdown in a car wash that spills out (literally) into the street. As far as pure fun goes, this is hands down the winner so far for Junesploitation. What other movie features the hero saving the day, then telling his guys "Hey hey! Let's go to McDonalds!"
The Black Gestapo (1975)Pick an offensive N-word, any offensive N-word. It was a choice between good or bad. I literally flipped a coin. It came down good... but I over ruled it and watched the bad one. Such is the unpredictable excitement of my life.A Group of Black Panther-esque neighborhood protectors take on the Mafia and win, then the power corrupts one sect of the group who become the nazi inspired black gestapo and run the neighborhood just like the Mafia did. It all comes down to Panther vs gestapo. For such a cheap and nasty little movie it actually had a lot going for it. Some actors knew which movie they were in and had fun with it, some of the action set ups were overly complex that you had to wonder why, and the plot was actually interesting with something to say. At the end my enjoyment was a result of having very low expectations. It was not objectively good. And the whole black vs black thing kinda goes against the spirit of blaxploitation for me, but I guess it was for the good of the community which is alright. Oh, and the "good" option was going to be Willie Dynamite. Where Gordon from Sesame Street is a bad ass pimp who slaps around his women and does blow. It's great! Might try to in a double for today.
Blacula (1972)While it is not my intention to ignite a holy war, I feel it is my duty to point out that William Marshall's batwing facial hair is better than whatever deity you currently worship. Also, Blacula is a surprisingly solid movie. There are some genuinely effective scares (the darkroom in particular springs to mind) and the tragic romance angle present in all Dracula stories is handled quite well. I expected Black Belt Jones-level silliness, but the movie plays things pretty straight (outside of some blatant racism & homophobia which are an unfortunate product of the time, mostly played for comic relief here). I had seen it years ago but didn't remember much, so I'm pleasantly surprised. I've never seen the sequel, so I may check that out on a free space day.
Blacula has my favourite (in a "so bad its good" kind of way) musical sequence. The group, in particular the female singer, is trying so hard obviously thinking this is there launching point into stardom, while the editing it wonderfully poorly thought out. When you watch it keep your eyes on the band in the background. Wonderful!
Baby Needs A New Pair of Shoes aka Jive Turkey (1978)In 1950's Ohio a man running the numbers is being threatened by the 5-0 and the local italian gangs, whats Sweet Man to do?Overall this movie is a dud, cheap sets, poor editing where conversations are taken over mid word by music or sound effects. Also apparently if you just walked up and said "Can I be in the movie?" you were in it. A couple of cool parts though involve one quick yet well done car chase and a really gratuitous amount of blood and head stompings (one with a high heel!) Overall I can't reccommend this movie but it does have its moments. It does have Fine Ass Suitsploitation!
Willie Dynamite (1974)Its a twofer day today. I really like this movie. It has so much in it that are the reasons why I love Blaxploitation. Flamboyant and over the top pimps, sass and swagger and jive and turkeys, and a cool funky soundtrack.It benefits from being a Universal movie, as its a lot more polished than most Blax movies and is much more of a moral story than most (basically its the second half of The Mack, i.e. the fall of a pimp). But it has a lot of glorifying in the first half to make it fun. Its probably not a "great" movie or even an objectively good movie really, but its one of my faves. Id even say this is probably one of the last good Blax movies. 1975 was really a turning point where it all went bad.I dare anyone to watch the opening sequence with the title song playing (can be found on YouTube) and not want to watch the rest of the movie. And remind yourself, that glorious pimp in the farout hat and coat...is Gordon from Sesame Street! (never fails to blow my mind)JUNESPLOITATION!
Blacula (1972)I really can't say it better than the above comment...so just go read that again. And then watch Blacula.
The Mack (1973)Max Julien is the world's most unlikely leading man in this story of a pimp's rise to the top of the pimp world. Completely textbook blaxploitation, notable mostly for Richard Pryor's supporting role as one of Goldie's friends. I'm happy I saw it, but won't be going back to it any time soon. It's great if you want to see what blaxploitation is (representationsploitation), but not so much as a movie.
TNT JACKSON. I wanted to like this movie, I really did, but uhhh… it’s just bad. It’s poorly filmed and abysmally lit, with sluggish action. Star Jeannie Bell certainly carries that “badass chicks” vibe, and she was allegedly a martial arts expert in real life, but this fight choreography is ridiculously sloppy. The movie’s centerpiece is supposed to be the fight between Bell and the blonde girl (catfight-sploitation!) but it was over just as soon as it started. I’ve always believed that the worst movies are the ones that could have been great but are instead merely OK, and that’s the case with this one. Googling “TNT Jackson” pulls up a list of places to buy TNT in Jackson, Mississippi. Thanks, internet!
I had a busy day yesterday, and neglected to post that I watched Black Dynamite, which is what it is. I like it. Its a fun parody, but it feels like cheating because its a parody and not the real thing.
Black Dynamite is ten types of awesome. It's so authentic in its approach that if might as well be legitimate Blax. Great choice.