Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Junesploitation Day 23: Blaxploitation!

Expect The Savage. The Sensual. The Shocking. The Sad. The Powerful. The Shameful. Expect The Truth!

62 comments:

  1. Mississippi Burning: In the traditional use if yhe word exploitation I thought this fit the bill! There lack of black protagonists, which makes this interesting when put against the movement of Blaxploitation itself. Noone can deny the heartbreaking and gut reaching egfect it has especially any KKK scenes. I was scared and horrified despite studying this in history.

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    1. And as the headlines coming out of South Carolina show, sadly, there's a lot of that bad KKK feeling still being passed to younger generations. Sad, and scary too. Never seen "Mississippi Burning," got get on that train eventually.

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  2. Larry Cohen's ORIGINAL GANGSTAS (1996, 99 min.) on DVD.

    There is a nugget of a great idea at the core of Cohen's 'let's reunite the old gang one more time' blaxploitation all-star reunion (Williamson, Grier, Brown, Roundtree): the fun, violent hijinks these characters engaged in back in the 70's created blowback for the neighborhood they were trying to protect. The Rebel gang these old-timers formed back then is now the violent source of most of the crime in Gary, Indiana. The police and the mayor (i.e. Robert Forster and Charles Napier) can't do much when the Hammer's father and Grier's son become Rebel targets. So they and their pal Brown decide to show these foul-mouthed punks what Neve Campbell said at the end of "Scream 4": 'DON'T FUCK WITH THE ORIGINAL [GANGSTAS]!' ;-)

    Alas, Larry Cohen isn't Jack Hill and "Original Gangstas" isn't "Jackie Brown" (which, unlike this 90's limp pile of cinematic dirt, knows how to frame and use Pam Grier to the fullest extent of her talents). There is little joy or fun in this Cannon-esque blaxploitation revenge fantasy set in then-modern times. It's as if Cohen and Williamson (who produced the film) want to make us feel bad for having enjoyed their better and more entertaining earlier genre films. Direction is lifeless and the dialogue atrocious (either that or these actors are too old for the shit they's asked to do and say), and even the eventual dispatching of Dru Down's Kayo (i.e. the asshole henchman you can't wait to see go down hard) disappoints. Cool soundtrack, though, and it's great to see Isabel Sanford and Wings Hauser working. Easily among the dullest and least entertaining movies I've seen for Junesploitation, maybe ever!

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    1. I really want to see Original Gangsters; Sorry you found it dull, I still want to though!

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    2. It's not entirely without merit, but these folks have all done much better work. It wants us to wince at the violence when the young gang members inflict it on others, but feel cathartic joy and relief when the old gang kicks butt. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief as much as the next guy, but it's hard for me to buy a slow and plodding Jim Brown beating a 20-something dude that's taller and more ripped than him. And don't get me started on how much the movie wastes Pam Grier's assets. It's as if either Larry Cohen forgot the elements that make a blaxploitation film fun or he never had them to begin with. Other than that, though, enjoy. :-D

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    3. Larry Cohen did make some good blaxploitation flicks back in the day. This was not as good as those, not even close -- but I enjoyed watching it once even if I never need to see it again.

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    4. I originally mentioned Cohen's pedigree directing some blaxploitation classics ("Black Caesar," "Hell Up in Harlem," etc.), but had to delete that to keep my review down to 'Gabby Ferro would approve' length. ;-)

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  3. Glory (1989)

    I´m not sure if this one counts as Blaxploitation, but I will take this excellent Edward Zwick film in honor of ace composer James Horner, who died on monday in a plane crash. Horner was one of the composers in the early eighties, that made me a soundtrack fan.

    I watched this a month ago and it still is a powerful picture with great performances and a heartbreaking story. Every time I watch this,
    I´m initially irritated by Matthew Brodericks role, but in the end I always agree with his casting.
    Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Andre Braugher and Cary Elwes round out a perfect cast and there are several scenes during the film, that make me teary. Pathos always makes me weep.
    And Horners fantastic score utilizing a childrens choir for the most harrowing sequences is scoring at its best.

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  4. Trouble Man (1972)

    Very entertaining. Robert Hooks stars as Mr. T, a fixer of personal problems for the people in his community. Framed for a murder, Mr. T. has to figure out who set him up and clear his name.

    Trouble Man doesn't have the flash of some other more famous blaxploitation characters, but he's very, very cool. It's a fun movie though it does start to drag a little near the end as T goes off on his own to do detective work. Much of my enjoyment of this came from his interactions with other characters, where you get to see his smooth, collected personality played out. That gets lost when he's on his own, which hurts the movie some. Still, I liked this one a lot and I'm bummed Robert Hooks didn't really go on to do more starring roles in movies.

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  5. Jackie Brown (1997)

    Tarantino is one of my favourite writers, he cannot write a bad movie, well that I have seen and now I only have a few left to go. Pam Grier is stunning, Jackson chews the scenery in the best way, but knows when to pull it back and just be sinister in the best way, and Forster is just cool in this. For me, it's just like opening a novel of a favourite author settling in and enjoying the bliss.

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    1. This is one of my favourite movies :)

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    2. Mine too. It's easily Tarantino's best and most mature work.

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    3. I love Jackie Brown. LOVE.

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    4. Lotta love for this one. I really should get around to watching this some day.

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    5. After watching it I understand the love. It is a mother f-ing masterpiece. I know I need to live with it a little more, but this movie might up there in my favourites

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  6. The Last Dragon (1985, dir. Michael Shultz) (First Time Viewing): Half kung-fu movie, half music video, all 80’s! The best part of this movie is Julius Carry (or as cool people know him: Lord Bowler) as the Shogun of Harlem. He’s pretty awesome here. It’s not really a great kung-fu movie, or a great music movie but it all blends together into a high-energy mush. The closest thing I will compare it to is Streets of Fire, actually. Good stuff.

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    1. What I would do to be able to watch this for the first time again. One of the best of all time! Btw - Taimak has been touring with this movie and selling merchandise to try and raise funds to get a Blu-Ray release.

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    2. LORD BOWLER??? I must watch this.

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  7. Trapped In the Closet - Chapters 1-22 (2005) Dir. R Kelly; Jim Swaffield

    You ever watch Director's commentary for a film and the Director is just telling you what's happening in the movie? That's this movie except R. Kelly is singing everything you are watching while he and actors play roles and lip sync his "opera" which is literally a 90 minute song that never changes! This movie (?) is something of epic F-ing proportions. The plot -ha! - is that everyone is sleeping around and cheating on each other. The Lyrics are absolutely amazing (this is the guy who wrote "You Remind me of my Jeep") and there are waaaay too many great examples to give (he tries to rhyme began with minutes and nuts with spatula, he rhymes the same words; club with club, home with home, closet with closet and sings about his girl about to climax while he's got a cramp in his leg). Kelly is so committed to this it's a fascinating experience to witness. It wears out it's welcome halfway through when he starts dressing up as characters and intentionally tries to be funny so I recommend just checking out 1-12. I see why this has become a classic although I doubt I could ever endure it again.

    Oh, and there's 11 more chapters hahaha! No chance.

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    1. I remember when Jimmy Kimmel was obsessed with this and started making his own version of "Trapped in the Closet" with himself, Guillermo, Cleto and whatever star he could wrangle (Mike Tyson, etc.) re-enacting the roles and lip-synching their own lyrics. It was a laugh riot, especially since few people watched Kimmel's show back then and there was no YouTube or Facebook to spread the word. It was an early try-out at the type of attention-getting comedy pieces that he and Fallon now tag-team release to try and drum social media attention. You know, the thing that peaked with 'I'm f***ing Matt Damon' and he hasn't been able to top since.

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    2. I tried watching part of this once......I couldn't do it. I'll stick with Weird Al's Trapped in the Drive-Thru. Hilarious.

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  8. The Black Godfather (1974)

    I'm not sure how I feel about Marlon Brando in blackface.

    "What do YOU mean you people?" I kind of wish I watched Tropic Thunder. This was rough. It was nice to see Tony Burton from the Rocky movies. "He's not a machine, he's a man!" You can tell how much I liked this from how I'm quoting other movies. "Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots." Now, I'm quoting 2pac. So see The Black Godfather or don't. I don't really give a shit.

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  9. In Too Deep (1999)

    This is a really strong flick and the only great performance from LL Cool J that I can think of. Omar Epps is an undercover cop trying to take down LL. A mid film trip to the woods to cool out after getting "too deep" makes Epps' love interest subplot with lovely Nia Long an integral part of the story instead of a shoehorned formality. All the leads really give career best performances in this underrated almost classic.

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  10. Secret Agent 00 Soul (1990) - First viewing

    Billy Dee Williams plays James Brown III, the cape-wearing secret agent Double-Oh-Soul, in this parody of agent films that confuses tripping and falling over with comedy and secret agent with private investigator. It's such an incompetently made film with little plot and even less sense that it's actually quite entertaining. That it's only 70 minutes long helps. Oh, and the dancing and rapping mummies in the haunted house. They definitely help.

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    1. Btw, it's on YouTube here if anyone's interested.

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    2. This sounds amazing, thanks!

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    3. I just found out the director is a former stunt coordinator, which makes total sense. Probably 90% of the movie's budget went to various stunts, which are far and away the best made element in the movie.

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  11. Original Gangstas (1996)

    Here's a new thing: I completely agree with JM's assessment above.

    Fred Williamson. Jim Brown. Pam Fucking Grier. Ron O'Neal. Richard Roundtree. A cast like that directed by Larry Cohen should be a recipe for the greatest blaxploitation movie of all time. Instead, it's a limp "there's too much violence in our city, so let's go violently murder a whole bunch of people to put a stop to it" clone of the Death Wish movies, only without being as next-level bonkers (© Jason Mantzoukas) as those are.

    There's nothing here that puts it anywhere near the same class as Coffy, The Hammer, Foxy Brown, even Blacula...it's just another revenge movie with virtually no personality. Way too much talent for such little return. Probably the biggest disappointment of Junesploitation so far because it's jam-packed with wasted potential. At least Fred Williamson still has cinema's greatest mustache, though.

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    1. Maybe Cohen and Williamson wanted to experiment and show how characters, a plot and generic direction that could yield a cult blaxploitation flick in the 70's would result in an terrible-at-best contemporary flick. I mean, even the disappointing ending ('The goes the neighborhood') is straight out of blaxploitation 101 and not too dissimilar to every other blaxploitation flick I've seen. But everything I see tells me the blaxplotation all stars were either going through the motions (Roundtree's contribution is minimal) or doing a bad version of what they had done better years prior.

      Is it wrong to expect the director of "God Told Me To" and producer of "The Messenger" to use Pam motherfucking Grier to within 1/10th of her beauty and charm though? Or for Brown and The Hammer to acknowledge how ridiculous their stamina is and crack just a few decent 'We're too old for this shit' self-aware jokes? That's the main sin "Original Gangstas" engages in above all else: it believes it's own hype and thinks/acts as it walks on water. God, I'm so angry I feel like walking into a restaurant, turn off the jukebox and talk trash about the Bookmans to anyone who will listen. ;-)

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    2. I haven't seen the film since I was a kid, but if memory serves, the plot of Original Gangstas is very close to the plot of the Tom Skerritt vigilante picture Fighting Back.

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    3. It's Unoriginal Gangstas in every conceivable way.

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  12. BLACK COBRA (1987)

    Was Stallone’s COBRA really such a huge blockbuster that it warranted its own Italian/Blaxploitation ripoff? The good news is that we have Fred Williamson as the cigar-chompin’ indestructible rebel cop. He’s a force of nature in this one, punching and shooting his way through a small army of evil bikers. The movie slows down to crawl when there’s no action, but that’s usually the case with movies like this, and in this one the fights and chases are so good I didn’t mind. There are two sequels, which I totally want to see now.

    Accompanying short film: The third segment from TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975). Zuni fetish doll! How can something be so cheesy and so unbelievably terrifying at the same time?

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  13. Brotherhood of Death (1976, dir. Bill Berry)

    A group of black men fight in the Vietnam war and return to their homes in America only to be harassed by the KKK, so they decide to bring the pain. This is a clear influence on the Hughes Brothers' Dead Presidents, only instead of a robbery these vets pull off righteous revenge. I wish it had a little more action, but I love the anger and the performances. It's a really good movie. I watched in on Blu-ray, but it's currently playing on Netflix Instant.

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  14. Slaughter (1972)
    In a single shot: A car races down a dirt road, then turns into a skid, and while barely slowing down, Jim Brown steps out and fires a shotgun.
    I know: why aren't you watching this right now?! Slaughter is basically the coolest man on the planet: the ladies throw themselves at him, he punches racists in their turkey necks, and he has his own theme song. But can he solve the mystery of his parents' murder? Answer: he can rock an afro and a bowtie at once, so clearly he can do anything.

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  15. Shaft (2000)

    I decided to revisit this one for the first time I seen it since the theatres and its a real mixed bag. When it plays being a cop movie its actually pretty good but when its constantly reminding you how cool Shaft is things tend to drag. All that being said the action was pretty good when its happening and SLJ is still pretty badass. I read a little bit of trivia on this and apparently the original idea was to have the original Shaft (Richard Roundtree) and have Don Cheadle instead of SLJ, That would have been interesting but for now the movie is just a Patrick Bromley "its fine" for me.

    8 Word Review (In Preparation for SMM)

    "All movies would be cooler with Shaft theme"

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    1. I really enjoyed shaft 2000. I had also heard Wesley Snipes and believe it or not Chris Tucker were offered or were being considered for the role. Chris Tucker was red hot when this movie went into production so it kinda makes sense in that aspect. The action is good when it happens. This was my first time seeing Christian Bale and I really enjoyed him as the asshole. Also Jeffery Wright as people's was good. I thought he would had been in some bigger roles after this but he tends to just show up in small roles like Felix Leiter in James Bond.

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  16. Slaughter (1972)
    It's already been well documented how badass this movie is. All I can add is this: the Slaughter main title theme has been used in House of 1000 Corpses and it was Hugo Stiglitz' theme in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Now how badass is that?

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    1. Billy Preston did a kick ass job on that shit!

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    2. Absolutely!

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  17. Abby 1974 Aka The Black Exorcist

    This is a strange one, I don't know if I would recommend it? but if you are interested it is crazy and you wont forget it easily, Directed by William Girdler. With A really interesting performance by Carol Speed as the possessed Abby, William Girdler did admit it was a direct ripoff and AIP pulled the film once Warner Bros started breathing down there neck, the film was notoriously hard to see for years, there has never been a good release, there are a few crappy Dvd releases from a worn out 16mm, the language is as crude as the original, the face that flashes in The Exorcist called Eshu actually strangely looks like the incredible Hulk in this movie, its now on youtube in 6 parts, its well worth it if like me you just want to see everything, its a piece of history, I love that it exists and we can see it now

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    1. I tried to find this one because it had been recommended to me by a couple of people but couldn't track it down via the usual channels. Definitely one I want to check out.

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  18. Friday Foster (1975)

    I live next to a 70s themed coffee shop (called Coffy Cafe) that's almost exclusively decorated in Pam Grier movie posters, so this seemed appropriate.

    I liked it quite a bit. Pam is a treasure and the story went to some interesting places. And hello, Eartha!

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  19. I watched Undercover Brother from 2002.

    I love this movie and it's obviously not nearly as big of a blaxploitation movie as some of the others, but I really love every part of this movie, mainly Chi McBride, because I think whatever he touches is gold.

    A lot of really crap acting that works super well for me and I feel better for it. Weird that they got someone as big as Denise Richards to be in the role, but she did get to team with NPH again, which is why she did it, I can only assume. Written from a internet cartoon of the same name, it gave John Ridley (the writer) some red, as he has now produce 12 years a slave and now producing the Ben-Hur remake, which is remarkable.

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    1. Been a Chi Mcbride fan since I first saw him in Hoodlum.

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  20. Black Dynamite (2009)

    A parody of blaxploitation movies from the 70's, Black Dynamite is our lead hero: ladies man, kung fu master, and ass kicker. When his brother is killed, and the kids in the orphanage are all addicted to smack, Black Dynamite goes on a rampage to stick it to the man.

    When the film is trying too hard to be a parody of a blaxploitation movie it's not nearly as funny as some of the out right gags that could be in any comedy. For example, at one point Black Dynamite drops his nun-chucks,and another set is tossed in from off camera. A lot of random things like that happen, which I found hilarious. But those moments have nothing to do with the blaxploitation parody aspect, which was only mildly amusing.

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  21. Jackie Brown (1997)

    A nice homage to the Blaxploitation movie and while for me middle of the road Tarantino its still a fun watch. SLJ is in rare form in this movie and there's a lot of good character stuff, hell even Chris Tucker didn't annoy me and he always annoys me. My only slight prob with this movie is its long and it feels like it at time. I'd love to see Tarantino do another movie in this genre that perhaps is maybe a bit more action oriented, he's gotten really good at that in the last few years.

    8 Word Review (In Preparation for SMM)

    "Hey Deniro can last longer then 3 minutes!"

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  22. One Down, Two To Go (1982)

    Director Fred Williamson stars and enlists Jim Brown, Fred Kelly and Richard Roundtree to cap off the Blaxploitation era in classic form!?! Nope. Didn't really work out that way. Badly staged action and ZERO visual style drag this down to almost nothing. Bummer.

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  23. Black Belt Jones (1974, Robert Clouse)

    Almost the only good thing about this movie is that all the punches sound like someone snapping a snare drum. And, I guess, that Black Belt Jones appears to be his birth name rather than a code name. What a shoddy, ugly, unpleasant, boring movie. Bubble bath fight should have been one for the ages but it's shot like garbage and the stunt work is terrible.

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  24. Malcolm X (1992): I thought this would make an interesting fhoice to follow my earlier pick as a traditional use of the word exploitation. This is a wonderful movie. At first I think the running time might have hold me back, but I was fascinated the whole way through. Powerful, electric, full of dynamics of character and beautifully made with an incredible performance at the center. The passion from Spike Lee is clear and he never panders to the audience, allowing the morally questionable parts of the figurehead to be seen and understood as a reaction.

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  25. Truck Turner 1974

    Truck Turner stars Isaac Hayes as Bounty Hunter who gets a price put out on his head after he kills a pimp. What else do you need? I had a great time with this movie. The action is well shot and easy to follow something thats missing a lot these days. The dialogue is super cool and funny. I love 70's slang fashion and mannerisms. I recommend everyone check this movie out if you have not seen it.

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    1. This is a favorite of the genre for sure! Glad you dig it. Gonna try and find it on Blu Ray (set to be released soon) and revisit this badasssss movie.

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    2. Can't wait to hear that Jonathon Kaplan commentary.

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  26. Jive Turkey (1974) aka Baby Needs A New Pair Of Shoes

    It's difficult to pull off a period piece on a limited budget so it helps to have characters exclaim "this is 1956" several times throughout the movie.
    Paul Harris is cool and collected as a numbers man caught in the middle of street level rivals, white politicians, cops and the mob. The plot doesn't always remain clear but the dialogue stays sharp and there are great songs throughout this almost totally forgotten flick.
    Briefly strays into into horror movie territory when a transgendered prostitute/assassin starts killing fools.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wLeevM1Nuvw

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  27. The Slams (1973)
    It's Jim Brown vs prison politics. It's fine. The events surrounding his prison break are the best parts. Lurch from The Addams Family has a guest role, and Dick Miller appears for two scenes. They're two great scenes, of course.

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  28. Cleopatra Jones (1973)
    Tamara Dobson deserves a high place on the list of Blaxploitation heroines. As Cleopatra Jones, she's taking down corrupt cops and getting in the way of trashy drugrunner Shelley Winters. Tamara is bold and beautiful and badass, and I love her and this movie.

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  29. Blacula (1972) (first time viewing)

    Mamuwalde goes to Dracula in 1780 and says "hey man, let's end this whole slave trade thing". Dracula says "fuck you....I love slaves...nom nom nom. Now you're Blacula" Then he locks him in a coffin forever to torture him. Until a couple of gay guys open up his casket (in "modern day") to make a bed for their spare room. Blacula kills people then finds someone who looks like his dead wife and says "hey, you look like my dead wife...wanna stay with me forever?" She says "okay". Then (SPOILER) they both die (how is there a sequel?). Does this sound cheesy? Yes, it does. Was it a fun and different take on the vampire movie? Yes, it was. I recommend it.....good stuff.

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  30. Disco Godfather (1979, dir. J. Robert Wagoner)

    What did they do to my Dolemite? This was the last "real" Rudy Ray Moore movie, and it's easy to see why. It's equal parts hugely disappointing and satisfyingly bizarre. The Disco Godfather's NBA-hopeful nephew (Julius J. Carry!) freaks out on angel dust and is hospitalized, so DG declares war on the drug and anybody selling it. This is mostly done with socially conscious, grass-roots methods like staging rallies and talking to young people. What?!?! The movie has a shocking, serious after-school special vibe and is rated PG. There's barely even any cursing in it! Ultimately, The Godfather decides it will take ass-kicking to erase the wack, and he karates a bunch of henchmen, but the lead villain (Mr. Stinger) captures him and forces him to O.D. on dust smoke using a gas mask! The final ten minutes are a full-on hallucinogenic freak out where DG strangles the bad guy because he thinks he's his evil alcoholic aunt. This would have fit in better on Drugs! day. The best line is delivered by a cop pointing a shotgun as somebody: "Move and I'll blow your Afro off!" Trailer.

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  31. Coffy (1973)

    Didn't quite respond to it in the all out love way I was wanting to, but still enjoyed it. This is really my first proper introduction into the Blaxploitation genre so I've got plenty to learn, and I think one of the things people love about this movie is that it subverts a lot of the expectations and standards set in other movies in the genre. Case in point - Pam Grier - I never knew violent vengeance could be so damn sexy.

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