Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Junesploitation 2018 Day 5: Blaxploitation!

For every drop of black blood spilled, a white man pays!

64 comments:

  1. DEATH OF A SNOWMAN, aka BLACK TRASH (1976, 86 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.

    Like my pick for last year's Kung Fu! Day, the all-American Blaxploitation genre goes international in this mid-70's South African import. A wave of violence is taking down the mostly black criminals of Soweto. Lieutenant Ben Deel (Nigel Davenport, who looks/sounds Will-Ferrell-as-Sean-Connery-in-"SNL" goofy) and his a-hole captain (Peter Dyneley), both white, are suspicious of black newspaper reporter Steve Chaka (Ken Gampu) getting advance warning of these vigilante killings. Since he's good pals with Chaka (because MY-BEST-FRIEND-IS-BLACK-SPLOITATION!) Lt. Deel vows for the reporter's integrity, but not enough to prevent his captain from bugging Chaka's telephone and putting a tail on his car. Using newspaper connections in New York City (cue the sexist male researchers more interested in bedding busty secretary Beverly than helping out a colleague), Chaka stumbles on the truth. The passing-himself-as-Robin-Hood-figure Luther "Snowman" Daniels (Madala Mphahlele) is just a Cleveland mobster that wants to set roots in South Africa, turn the population into dope fiends and finance his American operation on the backs of Soweto's poor blacks.

    The racist-as-fuck theatrical trailer (not the one on YouTube), but the one on Amazon that starts "Filmed in the USA and South Africa by white South Africans!"... WTF?! :-O) makes this seem like the most controversial and taboo film of its day. Nope, it's just a generic blaxploitation pic with slightly above-average lead actors. There are even Asian drug traffickers (in apartheid-era Soweto?) who seem to exist only for the Snowman's hippie-looking enforcer to take down to steal their drug cargo. The version on Amazon has inserts of stock footage (New York at night, white strippers, close-ups of needles, etc.) that is clearly 15-20 years newer than the crappy 70's era low-budget print. This is the Junesploitation! equivalent of a satisfactory one-night stand: see flick, write about it, forget it ever existed. :-D

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  2. TROUBLE MAN (1972, dir. Ivan Dixon)

    Private investigator Mr. T – no connection to the A-Team – seems to know everything about the urban realm he inhabits. Nothing gets by him. When he is hired to figure out who is robbing illicit gambling operations, the outcome of his efforts is not what he expected. It also makes Mr. T a target. From the beginning of the film, its gritty credentials are established. This is largely a humorless film, making it feel more like a drama than exploitation for long stretches. This is not a knock against the film, though. Roberts Hooks and the rest of the cast give solid performances. The conclusion is violent for the period, involving more death than I anticipated. Definitely a film for those in the mood for the serious side of blaxploitation.

    The aspect of the Mr. T character that I most appreciated is that he relies on his wits more than his brawn or his gun to get out of difficult situations. He understands when the odds are against him or in his favor and acts accordingly.

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    1. Sounds just like John Shaft. Shaft's a bad mother (shut my mouth! :-P), but if you actually watch his original '71 movie (which probably influenced your '72 pic) he's a street smart dude that thinks before he fires a gun or throws a punch. "Trouble Man's" Mr. T intrigues me... hmm.

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    2. This movie (along with Bucktown) are what I'm going to be watching today (I've had them both on my DVR for a while); sounds like a winner!

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    3. I also watched Trouble Man on the DVR.

      You are not wrong, Vargas. Although Shaft was undeniably an influence on it, Trouble Man is a distinctive film.

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  3. Black Belt Jones 2 aka E Yu Tou Hei Sha Xing aka The Tattoo Connection (1978) – First watch on Youtube (but it’s on Prime in the US)

    It’s a pretty low budget Hong Kong kung fu production, that was Blaxploited through the addition of Jim Kelly (who’s having a LOT of fun here) and some funky 70’s riffs.

    Pretty entertaining, with Hong Kong diamond thieves, amusing one-liners, and packed with decent action throughout.

    Of course, it ends with the heros making plans to spend Christmas together next year.

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    1. Wait wait wait, I saw Black Belt Jones, you're telling me there's a sequel....

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    2. I think it's just a situation where someone tried to use the name to help sell it. IIRC Jim Kelly's character isn't even named Jones in this. Hot Potato is the actual follow-up to Black Belt Jones.

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    3. Also, this would better be described as a Kung Fu movie rather than Blaxsploitation. I realized my mistake 5 minutes in, but was having fun, so just rolled with it.

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    4. Junesploitation! categories are incestuos and can also walk/chew bubblegum at the same time. They can roll into each other's descriptions quite easily, and often do.

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    5. Is Hot Potato worth a watch? I didn't really care for Black Belt Jones. Copy I was watching had awful picture quality and the story just never grabbed me. I wanted to check it out though because Jim Kelly just has an amazing presence.

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    6. If you weren't into Black Belt Jones I think you can safely pass on Hot Potato for now.

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  4. Coffy (1973)

    Pam Grier in her iconic role. Its so much better than I expected. Pam Grier yelling Motherfucker and shooting pimps and drugdealers in their groin is awesome.
    Sid Haig as the sadistical Henchman Omar just makes the movie even better.
    The movie is quite ingenious in the many different ways to show topless women, mostly its just woman on woman fighting, but it does try to make it seem natural.
    Great action and great exploitation.

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    1. Coffy is one of the few films I have watched in which everything comes together perfectly: script, casting, direction, editing, music, etc. The little touches, like the placement of the razors, add even more to it. The conclusion is beyond emotionally satisfying. Not just great exploitation, Coffy is great cinema.

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    2. I second your second... because I can't third it now, can I? :-O

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    3. I wholeheartedly agree. A really great movie.

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  5. Bone (1972)

    A home invasion/exploitation/social satire/screwball comedy/arthouse drama-thriller blaxploitation film. Highly recommended.

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    1. Caught this for the first time on TCM Underground last year and loved it, really want to revisit it sometime.

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  6. Superfly (1972 - Gordon Parks, Jr)

    Okay, this movie dragged a little in parts for me. But I liked the grounded life on the street and heist nature of the piece. And Pusherman is a dope song.

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  7. I'm Gonna Get You Sucka (1988)
    Could technically work for either yesterdays theme or today. A strangley airless spoof of the genre, which is done much better later in Black Dynamite. Watchable for the early Wayans goofs, and for putting Isaac Hayes, Bernie Casey and Jim Brown all in a scene. Otherwise it's skippable.

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  8. Devil's Express aka Gang Wars (1976, dir. Barry Rosen, First Time Viewing on Amazon Prime) Textbook Junesploitation. This covers Blaxploitation, Kung-Fu, and Demons and Ghosts. Starring my new favorite actor War Hawk Tanzania as a Kung-Fu master who battles a demon in New York City. Do I need to say anything else? Highly Recommended.

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    1. Imma watch that shit right the fuck now.

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    2. I just watched this one myself. First time viewing. This thing is bonkers. It's the very definition of what we all love about exploitation. Also highly recommended.

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  9. Truck Turner (1974, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)

    What can I say that hasn't been said? It's nothing less than one of the coolest movies I've ever seen. Everything about the movie is top notch, but where it really excels is the cast. Everyone is giving spectacular performances. Special shout out to Nichelle Nichols for being so damn awesome.

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    1. This movie rocks! Yaphet Kotto kills it.

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    2. It's good. I love how Kotto changes the very tone of the movie.

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  10. I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

    First time watch. It's a blast. I appreciate that the Wayans family prioritize goofiness above snark and that they'll try anything for a joke. This is my favorite of the month so far.

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  11. Petey Wheatstraw (1977)

    I hate to be hyperbolic (false) but this might the greatest movie ever made (true). If you're a fan of Xero (Dennis) then you will love the first 5 minutes of this movie. It starts off crazy and doesn't let up. If you ever thought Aretha Franklin needs her comeuppance then you will not be disappointed. Kids aren't safe and neither are funerals. I want to talk about everything in this movie but I don't want to spoil the awesomeness. It's on Brown Sugar through Amazon. You can get a free week if you sign up. You deserve this.

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    1. I think it's also on Fandor (in the US and Canada), for those of you that burned up your Brown Sugar free trail last year. Fandor also has a free trial.

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    2. Unfortunately, the genre and exploitation selections on Fandor have diminished over the past year.

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  12. I started to watch Tattoo Connection, but it wasn't really feeling Blaxploitation enough aside from Jim Kelly. I ended up finding something that fit in with a double feature better though:

    Hammer (1972)

    Fred Williamson plays BJ Hammer, a dockworker turned Prize Fighter who gets mixed up with the criminal element and is eventually asked to take a dive. It's an early Fred Williamson movie and he's still finding his feet here a bit but he's still got enough presence and charisma to help carry what is a fairly standard story.

    Black Fist aka Bogard (1974)

    Black Fist follows Richard Lawson as Leroy Fisk, a man who ends up in a similar situation as BJ Hammer as he ends up fighting for a crime boss. Leroy fights in bare-fisted no-rules street fights though and his problems really begin when a crooked cop played by Dabney Coleman starts taking a large share of Leroy's earnings. There's more of an edge to this movie compared to Hammer, especially where things end up at the end which I think made me prefer it more.

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  13. Coonskin (1975)

    So hard to contain all my thoughts about this film, let alone give it a short review, but here we go...

    Such a fascinating picture, both in technique and scope. Patrick touts the idea of the ambitious failure, which I'd classify most of Ralph Bakshi's output under. However, Coonskin is such an abrassive, caustic work of cinema that it gets under my skin as a modern audience member, much less one in the 70s. The combined animation and live-action story starts with a literal "Fuck You" and never pulls a punch, even once. And I'm still not sure I caught all the targets it attempted to hit in its scatter-shot lampooning.

    Nothing about this picture is clean, everything is jagged and messy down to the thrilling action set piece at the very end. Certainly he never sought mainstream appeal, but this may be Bakshi's least crowd-pleasing and most meaningful work in terms of message. I'm not convinced it's a masterwork, yet, but I will need more time to process this film than any oher I'll likely see this month.

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  14. Trouble Man (1972)

    I'll echo A Casual Listener's sentiments.

    The only thing I have to add is about the very end. No spoilers, but it was pretty smooth... and a little rude.

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  15. Get Christie Love! (1974 dir. William A. Graham)

    This was a TV movie about an undercover cop(Teresa Graves) trying to take down a drug ring that later became a short-lived show that was referenced in "Reservoir Dogs". Graves does her best to distinguish herself from the Foxy Brown/Cleopatra Jones amalgamation of her character and is very entertaining. However, the movie feels like a generic cop show with watered-down blaxploitation elements, and the action and direction are unremarkable.

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  16. Graham the Haunted MarshmallowJune 5, 2018 at 2:38 PM

    J.D.’s Revenge (1976, dir. Marks)

    A law student is possessed by a long-dead mobster. This isn’t a niche film at all, it plays its psychological thriller elements straight. Great performance by the lead, bouncing back and forth between the two personalities. The movie is all about his transformation and he sells it. Supporting cast is all strong. Not a lot of fun to be had here, but a comfortable watch. Could have been a mainstream film, for sure.

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  17. The Bad Bunch (aka Tom) (1973, dir. Greydon Clark)

    This is the movie JB was trying to remember on the Kongcast; I thought it seemed familiar just a few minutes in. Greydon Clark never disappoints — he’s like Ed Wood in his need to make movies and kind of like a JV Jack Hill in the kinds of movies he makes. I love him. And he acts in this one! I know he means well here— the MLK quote at the end tells me as much — but the messaging of this movie is bananas. This was the most entertaining new-to-me movie so far this month, despite having to watch it on my phone on a plane. I will not miss a day of Junesploitation.

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  18. One Down, Two to Go (1982)

    A movie with Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, Richard Roundtree and karate tournaments should be much better than this.

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  19. Get Christie Love! (1974)

    This only kind of counts because it’s a tv pilot episode rather than an actual movie, but it owes so much to the blaxploitation movies of the era (era) that I think it should get a pass. Also, it’s pretty entertaining to boot.

    Reservoir Dogs had it right, it’s basically a Pam Grier tv show minus Pam Grier (and the over-the-top violence, nudity, and profanity that typically accompanied her efforts), but Teresa Graves is a lot of fun in the lead as an ass-kicking cop going undercover to nab a group of drug dealers. Bonus points for having her captain played by the perpetually rumpled Harry Guardino, always a fun presence (and my dad’s favorite actor). It would have been nice if the villains had been as memorable as the leads, but it’s still worth watching and I can easily see how it would have made for a fun weekly procedural.

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  20. Black Shampoo (1976)

    I think this is the first time I've seen an Blaxploitation film from the era where they were most popular. This character actually reminds me of Adam Sandler's character from Don't Mess with the Zohan, only he's hooking up with attractive women instead of old ladies. Its obviously intended to be alternate telling of the Warren Beatty film Shampoo that was released a year before. The main character is a black man working at a salon. White women are just constantly throwing themselves at them.

    Its definitely campy and the budget looks extremely limited. I doubt its considered a quality film in its genre. Its still campy fun though. There are several music sequences and excessive nudity that have no purpose other than to drag the movie out. The full running time is only 82 minutes. Definitely the weakest movie I've seen so far this month.

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    1. Oh, Mr. Jonathan.

      I cannot hear or see this title without thinking of the host of The Projection Booth podcast. He adores this film.

      Black Shampoo is not without amusing parts, but it ultimately is forgettable.

      There are plenty of 1970s blaxploitation films to dive into, Villain.

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  21. One Down,Two to Go (1982)

    Mr. Pomaro has a fair point with this one. Not really a movie with stakes, or much karate. It's got Jim Brown and Fred Williamson (who also directed) acting like a couple of Chuck Bronsons, making cars and bad guys blow up real good. The movie could have used more Joe Spinnell.

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  22. The Mortician (2011)

    B-O-R-I-N-G Man

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  23. CLEOPATRA JONES (1973)
    The ultra-cool Tamara Dobson plays an impeccably-wardrobed jet-setting secret agent fighting the drug trade, with her next assignment taking her back to her old neighborhood. Shellie Winters plays the villainous crime boss, and she goes full Nicholas Cage in a performance that must be seen to be believed. This movie is just terrific fun overall.

    CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD (1975)
    The sequel goes international as our foxy heroine does the Casino Royale thing. This one leans heavily into the Bond tropes, as well as a lot of ‘70s kung fu movie tropes. That might sound like crazy fun, but it’s too similar to other movies of this kind. It has its moments, but lacks the over-the-top fun of the original.

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  24. New Jack City (1991)
    A classic cops against drug dealers with an attempt at discussing social issues.

    Probably something I'll enjoy on subsequent watches since it's kind of all over the place in terms of characters, tone, editing. The fun part was I had no clue where it was going.

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  25. Disco Godfather (1979)

    A perfect selection for today's theme. I love Rudy Ray Moore's films, those that I've seen at least. This was a first time watch for me and it was exactly what I was hoping it would be.

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    1. This one was a bit rough for me. I checked it out because it was the debut film for the actor that would go on to be Sho-Nuff, in my all time favorite blacksploitation film. The story was typical fair and the 5+ minute hallucination scenes almost made it unwatchable for me. I might could find a new appreciation for it though after seeing Dolemite.

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  26. The Tattoo Connection (1978)

    I saw other people watched this too, so I'll just add "DIAMONDS!" I'm gonna have that stuck in my head for a while.

    Don't know how it looked on streaming, but the DVD version I have is a pretty terrible VHS transfer, but I think it really adds to the movie.

    Jim Kelly is so cool.

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    1. The stream is probably from the same source because that's exactly what it looks like.

      DIAMONDS!

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    2. Yep, all the home video and streaming versions of this flick come from the same (decades-old and unrestored) print.

      SAPPHIRES! Oops, sorry. :-P

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  27. Mean Johnny Barrows (1975)

    First time viewing. PEACE IS HELL.

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  28. Coffy (1973)

    Pam Grier is a force to be reckoned with. Smart and violent with a satisfying conclusion.

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  29. I forgot to put up a review of Black Dynamite from last night and as stated yesterday, I swapped blackspoitation with 80s comedies for my girlfriend's sake.

    Black Dynamite (2009)

    This was exactly what I was expecting and more. The end may have gotten away from itself but the plot, which I won't spoil here, is just pure fun. Me and my best friend of 27 years were crying from laughing so hard throughout this one. The final fight had us hurting from just how ridiculous the writers were willing to take this one. You get funny gags like the boom mic dropping into the shot or an extra saying "sarcastically, I am." When the nefarious plot is revealed I thought I would never stop laughing. Just a movie made with such love.

    Better Off Dead (1985)

    What is said here stays here right? I think I have a man crush on John Cusack. I don't know that I've seen a role of his yet that I didn't enjoy, even films I didn't particularly care for (Hot Tub Time Machine). This is like a lighter and 80s version of my beloved Harold and Maude. I was snickering like a 6th grader at so many of the gags, like the coupons being cut out of the cereal boxes.

    Pretty In Pink (1986)

    I've been working my way through John Hughes films as of late and they all kind of range all over the place for me. For instance, I loved Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but hated 16 Candles. This one fell in the middle for me, but leaning more towards Ferris Bueller. James Spader plays a slimeball like no other and Molly Ringwald is always charming. Allen Harper showed up and played, kind of the character I always imagined he would be in high school.

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  30. Like Ross, I also started Tattoo Connection, but wasn’t feeling it for today, so I’ll try to finish it on a free space day.

    Instead I put on Mean Johnny Barrows (1975).

    This is a weirdly slow movie that takes almost its entire running time to motivate the character to do anything. After opening with an incident in the Army that lands Johnny with a dishonorable discharge, we watch for an entire hour as he’s constantly given the short end of the stick, but refuses to resort to a dishonest lifestyle. Then for strange and sudden reasons, Johnny spends the last 24 minutes as a total badass dishing out revenge. I don’t know about this one. It’s slow and acts like it has a lot to say, but it never says everything it wants to about poverty or the plight of homeless veterans. It establishes a clear code for this character that is easily broken for an offer that he rejected earlier in the movie. And while the ending is a nice upswing, there are several clear moments where it looks like scenes were heavily cut down. I’d still recommend it as a unique experience with a great soundtrack, a good lead performance (and a really really weird Elliot Gould cameo), and lastly for the insane final twenty minutes.

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  31. The Bad Bunch (1973)

    Well, I finally got to see what I missed when a friend and I ran out of a screening at the McVickers Theater in 1978. This seems to be a low-budget, Vietnam-era (era) remake of The Razor’s Edge, but co-writer/Director/leading actor Greydon Clark can’t seem to get a handle on just what he’s trying to say. Every character is unsympathetic, and the skinny dipping scene goes on FOREVER. Terrific and terrifying first five minutes though.

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  32. ‬Cleopatra Jones (1973)‬

    ‪Watched this for the first time last year. So damn cool, so much fun. Had to watch it again.‬

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  33. Petey Wheatstraw (1976)

    I don't remember Dolemite making an impression when I saw it, but this was cool and genuinely funny at times. The plot is convoluted wackiness, but entertaining bad guys and Devil keep it moving and fun. This movie is good and interesting enough that I was reminded of The Jerk, Angel Heart, Pootie Tang and The Last Dragon. This one performed above expectations.

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  34. Black Belt Jones (1974)

    The was what I needed tonight, I really loved this. Badass ladies doing karate and katas. So so so many katas. Also is this movie positing that karate dojos operate like the military? Where people give orders outside of school and you get a 10 gun karate salute at your funeral?

    ... I want to believe.

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  35. Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

    Confession time - I love Blaxploitation. I've seen tons and tons of titles in this sub-genre. I wanted to watch something I've never seen for this day. Less than 30min into 'Scream Blacula Scream' and I was about to give up. So much of this movie is just people talking and slowly wandering around nice houses. William Marshall is still awesome and has great presence, I just wish he had more to do than wander around and occasionally bite someone. I had high hopes for this movie considering the inclusion of Pam Grier and voodoo but man, this movie has no pulse (duh-dum tss).

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  36. Abby (1974):

    The Exorcist goes Blaxsploitation! Super fun characters and soundtrack. Adam and I were discussing the awesome demon voice, too. Another Pure Cinema recommendation!

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