BLACK EMPOWERMENT NOT-SO-FEARSOME FOURSOME! Sindney Lumet's THE WIZ (1978, Showtime) for the first time. Also streaming on Peacock (with commercials).I was saving this one for Musicals! day, but eff it! :-P If black empowerment is the core of blaxploitation movement, it didn't get any bigger in the 1970's than having a major studio (Universal) put a $24 million budget (more than double the production cost of "Star Wars") behind a star-studded movie adaptation of 1975's Tony Award-winning Best Musical giving an all-black twist to the classic L. Frank Baum "Oz" novel. Even the diva-like behavior of Diana Ross forcing herself into the lead role despite being in her 30's (which hurts the movie anytime Dorothy has to emote or act youngish) must have felt empowering for audiences not used to seeing a successful female black entertainer get her way. Nipsey Russell's Tinman is the GOAT in the main cast (he blows Diana Ross away whenever they share a scene), and young Michael Jackson's Scarecrow is a better singer ("Ease On Down the Road") and dancer than actor. Ted Ross' Cowardly Lion is meh, but Richard Pryor's Wizard is more fun when he's an off-screen voice ("Last week y'all liked pink!") than when proto-"Superman III's" Gus Gorman shows up at the end. Mabel King swings for the fences and misses as Evillene, and Lena Horne looks dazed and confused uttering her Glinda the Good platitudes. While its failure in '78 comes down to the musical sequences alternating between excellent (the Emerald City Sequence dropped my jaw!) and abysmal (the Munchkinland number) with a lot of mediocre filling in-between adding up to a slug of a 134 min. running time, "The Wiz" is the kind of ambitious failure we celebrate at F This Movie. While Sidney Lumet's basic direction disappoints (master shots with minimal close-up inserts... yawn) this is a gorgeous Oscar-nominated movie with every cent of the budget on screen. From Albert Whitlock's matte paintings to Oswald Morris' cinematography and Stan Winston's special make-up (not to mention Tony Walton's production design and Quincy Jones' musical contributions), you can feel everyone giving it their all. Plus as a New Yorker, the on-location imagery (Dorothy chased by motorcycles atop Shea Stadium's light rails) and practical effect work shown here is staggering! And coming around the time blaxploitation reached its cultural apex, isn't empowering to see talented and expensive-to-hire white folks working to make a technically solid black movie for a change? :-P 3.25 TRASH CANS WITH SHARP TEETH CHASING AFTER TOTO (out of 5).
SIDNEY! Sidney fucking Lumet, Jesus Christ! :'(
Noel Nosseck's YOUNGBLOOD (1978, YouTube/TUBI) for the first time. Note: YouTube's Free with Ads version has fewer and skippable ad breaks compared to TUBI's semi-frequent, minutes-long and unskippable commercials.Is this a blaxploitation flick made to support its exclusive soundtrack composed by rock/soul band War, or did the band come to score an existing property? No matter, "Youngblood's" funky music is one of its highlights. Heck, most of the closing credits are for the music people and not the filmmakers. :-)By '78 blaxploitation was played out, so this tale of a young black kid (Bryan O'Dell) running with the Kingsman gang and taken under the wing of leader Rommel (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, riding the popularity of TV's "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Roots") feels like it's trying to have it both ways. While everybody talks and plays their characters like stereotypes, there's also an attempt to present them as people with everyday problems. It doesn't work with characters that have a couple of lines or scenes, but with the principals and supporting cast (like Youngblood's successful older brother and his white contact at the gun range, or Rommel's fed-up wife) you get invested enough for the poetic justice ending to cut a little deeper (emphasis on 'little') than most flicks. It's not perfect (Renn Woods' Sybil seems like she'd matter more to the plot given her prominent role early on), but when it hits a good moment or story beat (like Ralph Farquhar's Geronimo overdosing in a bathroom stall) "Youngblood" feels like an actual movie made by and starring professionals. 3 VANDALIZED PINBALL ARCADE WINDOWS (out of 5).
I was slightly confused when I saw the title, because the only Youngblood I know is the Rob Lowe ice hockey movie.
Yeah, me too. But this one came out 8 yrs. prior. 😶
There's a hockey movie called Youngblood? I thought I had seen all the hockey movies, but apparently not. I'll check it out. Thanks.
[Blumhouse's] THRILLER (2018, Netflix) for the first time.Don't let its generic title fool you. This is a fun little blaxploitation-y horror movie that is more likely to be many black teens' introduction to the genre (more than the horror classics cinephiles hold in high esteem) because they will relate more to young characters that look/act/talk like them. Set in South Central's Compton High School five years after an inciting incident straight out of "Slaughter High" and "Prom Night," the graduating class of 2018 have their upcoming big night ruined by the return of a certain person they all thought would be locked away forever. Cue the red herrings and guilty memories, which gradually give way to a body count and an appearance by Mykelti Williamson ("Heat") as a put-upon detective.While everything in "Thriller" is unoriginal (the bullies from "Carrie," the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" playbook, "Hell Fest's" hoodie clothes, etc.) and the young actors are a very mixed bag, it was a blast to have the old high school horror tropes be taken seriously (but not so serious as to not have fun at the clichés) and not be marred by an unnecessary white best friend or well-meaning teacher. And since this is a Blumhouse joint I felt safe from the cool opening credits that my time wasn't wasted on a blind Netflix pick. Worth a shot in the dark for June. 3 PUNK STUDENTS BITCH-SLAPPED BY PRINCIPAL RZA (out of 5).
FOX STYLE (1973, YouTube) for the first time. Note: this version has decent sound but the profanities are edited out. There are other versions on the web with uncensored dialogue. Your call.Talk about bait-and-switch! 24 minutes into "Fox Style's" tale of black Texas oilman A.J. Fox (Chuck Daniel) becoming a successful nightclub entrepreneur in New York City, complete with sexy songs boasting about A.J.'s prowess and awesome libido, the story switches gears. Fox is called back to Seminole, TX by his mother Hattie (Juanita Moore) to help save the local factory from being taken by rich Southern lawyers. You know, characters with names like 'Cunningham Calhoun' (WHAT??!! -LOL-). A subplot with Fox returning to New York to deal with pesky drug dealers trying to sell junk from his clubs feels tertiary, even though it's the only part of "Fox Style" where we actually see our "hero" beat some ass and earn the cool funky music. Because of course the soundtrack switches to stereotypical Southern songs and gospel when we're back in Texas.Like "Ganja & Hess" (also from 1973), it's rather startling to be going one way for most of a blaxploitation narrative before switching to something completely different. "Fox Style" makes the switch much earlier, so it's not as drastic an adjustment to see our hero use his smarts and money rather than fists or guns. It's also kind-of refreshing to see a badly shot/acted/dubbed blaxploitation pic that proposes black business ownership as an alternative way to put rich honkies in their place when they try to pull one over black folk. Reverse racism is also addressed, though only at the service of making Fox look like an even cooler dude than he already is. Again, not a great movie but different-enough to break from the genre norm. 2.75 CROOKED SWAMP LAND AUCTIONS (out of 5).
CANDY TANGERINE MAN (1975, dir. Matt Cimber)If you like your exploitation rough around the edges, Candy Tangerine Man might be for you. The film delivers the goods with interesting characters and plenty of low-budget action. This is sure to offend modern sensibilities, which makes it even more fun to watch. As a warning, the source material for the Vinegar Syndrome release was far from pristine, so expect to deal with lines and colored dots throughout the running time. The Baron is a pimp with the requisite flashy clothes and a sweet looking Rolls Royce. As the film begins, he is making the rounds of his ladies to get “his” money. Life for a pimp is definitely not without its troubles, but those the viewer first encounters are minor compared to what the Baron ends up having to deal with later. Cops, rivals, and his own allies undermine his position until he is forced to act. What the Baron is defending, though, is not necessarily what you think it would be. I am delighted to finally watch the film. It only took me four years of owning the VS disc to get to it.
If not watching movies (or playing videogames to completion) we own on physical media was a crime, everybody at F This Movie would be doing time... some of us for life! :-P
Foxy Brown (1974 - Jack Hill)It was the first time watching this movie for me - and I liked the badass/sexy Pam Grier and all the sleaze that comes with it. At the same time, it becomes very, very dark quite fast due to the rape/drug-plot, which I haven't expected. Overall a pretty good watch thanks to Grier's presence and the overall style of the movie. Three out of four old white men exposed in the corridor.
Friday Foster (1975, dir. Arthur Marks)As the poster puts it, Wham! Bam! Here comes Pam!Friday Foster is a magazine photographer who unwittingly gets tangled in a world of assassinations and political conspiracies. And because she's played by Pam Grier, she kicks ass.Like in all her 70's movies I've seen, Grier has an extremely compelling screen presence. Also starring an impressive supporting cast including Yaphet Kotto, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers and Julius Harris.
Death Force, dir Cirio H. Santiago, 1978There is so much wild swinging of samurai swords! Death Force can be really charming as goofy as it can be dull. But in that way it feels pure exploitation. But this is my Cirio H. Santiago and I would go back.
Truck Turner (Director Jonathan Kaplan, 1974)Released by American International Pictures as a double feature with Foxy Brown, this movie features Isaac Hayes as former pro football player turned bounty hunter Mack "Truck" Turner. After another successful job with his friend Jerry, he gets another bounty from Fogarty (Dick Miller), but not before seeing his girlfriend Annie (Annazette Chase, The Toy). She wants him to give up this crazy and violent life.That next job is all about catching a pimp named Gator (Paul Harris, Across 110th Street), who runs and ends up getting killed. His main lady Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols!) gets all of his prostitutes under control and makes a deal with all of the other pimps in Los Angeles. Whoever kills Truck Turner gets to be the main pimp. Only Blue (Yaphet Kotto) takes the challenge, but no matter what he tries or who he hires -- a veritable rogue's gallery of villainy -- Truck keeps making it through.Director Jonathan Kaplan, who went from movies like this and The Student Nurses to bigger things like Heart Like a Wheel and The Accussed, told Monthly Film Bulletin that Truck Turner was written for Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum or Ernest Borgnine, but Larry Gordon at AIP said, "Well, we can't get any of them so now it's a black picture."
BLACKENSTEIN (1973) A mad scientist tries to rewrite DNA of a wounded war vet, only to create… a monster! I was kind of bored with this one, to be honest. It didn’t have any of the style or edginess we get from the best blaxploitation films. I fear they came up with a funny name and figured that was enough. The movie’s Wikipedia page has a real funny list of unproduced sequel script titles, so there’s that. 30 days of Chinese fantasy movies, day 8 EXORCISM MASTER (2017) An orphan born with magic powers gets caught up in a conspiracy involving a mysterious underground tomb and an ominous mummified corpse. This reminded me a little bit of Army of Darkness in how our hero and his sidekicks kung fu their way through crowds of zombified enemies. The comic relief is a little too goofy, but I’m starting to get that’s the standard for these movies. Overall, I liked this one.
Hell up in Harlem (1973, dir. Larry Cohen)Larry Cohen makes uniquely awesome movies. This is no exception. Fred Williamson stars as Tommy Gibbs aka Black Caesar. This is the first time I've seen Williamson in his prime, as I mainly know him from his later career stuff, and holy hell he is awesome. Julius Harris (I know him as Tee-Hee from Live and Let Die) is also amazing as his rascally father. Great movie.
Bone(1972, dir. Larry Cohen)What starts as a exploitation picture turns into an absurd satire. Yaphet Kotto & Jeannie Berlin are my favorite parts of this. Not sure I will ever revisit but I am glad to have seen it.
TNT JACKSON (1974)Co-written by the great Dick Miller (though Corman hated it so much it almost ruined their friendship and Roger had it re-written) and directed by the great Cirio Santiago, this stars former Playmate Jeannie Harris as the title character, whose karate skills are so bad Santiago covers her with sped up shots and obvious stand-ins for the fight scenes, which gives them a charm all their own, particularly the topless one. Harris would later team with Santiago on THE MUTHERS, so they clearly got along. Stan Shaw is a stand-out here, who had previously been a martial arts instructor before this and TRUCK TURNER.
Trouble Man (1972)That was cool! Robert Hooks is Mr. T (not that one), a freelance badass who runs afoul of some nefarious types who frame him for murder, so he goes about the business of handing them their asses, all to the strains of an excellent Marvin Gaye soundtrack. There’s some dialogue that suggests he’s a private detective but he just seems to be a Guy Who Gets Shit Done and that works perfectly fine on its own, Hooks is a terrific lead who projects competence and confidence in equal measure. Being a product of the early 70s of course there are some distracting fashion choices and Dawn of the Dead-style tempera paint bloodshed, but if you can look past that it’s good stuff. I wish it had launched a franchise, I’d definitely be on board for the further adventures of Mr. T.
Maybe this movie/character was the inspiration for Lawrence Tureaud's famous alter ego? 🤔😒
Shaft's Big Score!(1972, dir. Gordon Parks)A more complicated plot than the first keeps it from being as engaging for me but Roundtree is the coolest. Parks and the dp ( Urs Furrer) shoot one hell of a good looking movie.
The Black Gestapo Good looking disc from Kino, decent movie. Weird one, an interesting one, because it doesn’t really follow similar patterns of other Blaxploitation films. There’s your typical villains which are disposed of fairly quick in terms of plot lines, then two factions of the militia group, or the Black Gestapo, fight against each other over what direction they want the group to go in. a lot of training and mobilizing scenes, which are kinda cool.
Friday Foster (1975)This time Pam Grier is a sassy photographer who finds herself mixed up in some sort of political intrigue which, of course, puts her life in danger. But that's just plot. What really matters is that Pam Grier does Pam Grier things to the beat of a killer funky-ass soundtrack which slaps like crazy. Carl Weathers plays the world's unluckiest and/or most incompetent assassin, Yaphet Kotto is the cool private eye who's seen it all, and Eartha Kitt dials it up to 11 as a kooky fashion designer. The clothes are great, cars explode for no apparent reason, there's sex, there's violence, there's no shortage of problematic content that would never fly today, and everyone's clearly having a good time, because despite touching on some serious themes of black empowerment and political representation, the movie keeps a very light-hearted tone throughout. And why shouldn't it? It's Blaxploitation, sucker!
Friday Foster (Arthur Marks, 1975)Adam summed it up perfectly!Just one more thing: it's pretty inexcusable that we didn't get 5 more Grier-Kotto movies after this one.
Thanks. And I agree! These two make a terrific duo.
This was my pick today, too. I knew I had seen it but wanted to revisit it because I like it more every time I see it. The first time I saw it I wrote it off as some Brenda Starr shit without any teeth, but that's totally wrong. It's got plenty of teeth. And I'm with Aude and Adam -- Pam Grier and Yaphet Kotto (RIP) are so great together.
Black Shampoo(1976) Dir: Greydon Clark, Skip E. LoweThis is just like the movie Shampoo but with more soft core scenes, some mobsters and a chainsaw. Its like Jon Peters finally got his real story out there. John Daniels plays Mr. Jonathon and is the best thing about the flick. He's the guy all the ladies want. To prove this the film opens with a woman so aroused by his hair washes she offers him oral sex. He of course accepts her offer so as not to appear rude. Later he makes a housecall to a prospective clients house and her two teenage daughters are so instantly enamored with him they strip down and offer him a threesome. The mom upon seeing this comes out and starts whipping the girls with a strap till the girls jump in the pool "Cuz mom cant swim" and invite Mr. Jonathon to jump in as well. He refuses and mom punishes the girls by riding Mr. Jonathon. THIS IS NOT A PORN and yet this is the first 10 minutes of the movie. How Vin Deisel hasn't remade this movie with him as the star blows my mind. These scenes and others cause the movie to at times plays like soft core porn but the dtv ones of the 90s not the classy Vaseline on the lens European ones of the 70s. The movie overall though is pretty middling. The action scenes are dull and the plot is pretty standard mob wants the beauty shop and the girl stuff. Being that is a movie set in a beauty salon in the 70's there was of course some homophobic scenes but one scene towards the end was particularly mean spirited and may bother a lot of viewers. Be warned. Another scene were Daniels convinces a women basically by forcing himself on her till she succumbs to his raw sexuality (*TM Harlequin) really doesn't play as "cool" as the film makers intended. But it is pure exploitation, and it is June. So there is that. There's probably better movies to watch(Try Coffy) but if you want to see some its on tubi.
Shaft (2000) dir. John SingletonI wanted to watch this anyways because Blank Check podcast was covering it this week. I thought it was pretty fun, and it's nice to see Samuel L. Jackson as the bonafide lead of a movie. I haven't seen the original, so I'm not sure how it compares. Jeffrey Wright was really good in it. I've had his voice in my head all evening. "I'm Peoples, I'm Peoples. I can't be your enemy, I'm Peoples."
THE HATE U GIVE (2018, dir. George Tillman, Jr.)My second Tillman movie this month! Not an exploitation flick, but easily the best movie I've seen this month. Very powerful and emotional and I just loved it.
It's been on my watchlist for a year at least, now I'm looking forward to it even more.
Boss *n-word* (1974)Because nothing says exploitation like a title I refuse to even type out. Fred Williamson is awesome as always.
New Jack City dir Mario Van Peebels, 1991I think the only way you can discribe New Jack City kmis blistering. Because it is on fire and everyone is hungry. Van Peebles, Ice T and especially Wesley Snipes - who practically glows in NJC. And I had to rewind three times when Snipes uses that 6 year old as a sheild. NJC reminds me a lot of old Cagney movies. It's all about the morality of the American Dream, while show casing Reaganism and just say no while showing the realities of the Reagen era (era). It's so freaken great!
Black Caesarwow, that dinner party crashing scene, and then the swimming pool! Larry Cohen a madman.
Bucktown (1975) - 6/10 Stolen armory tanks
thank you for recommending it! I think this movie is worth watchingword unscrambler
CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE (2003, dir. Andrzej Bartkowiak)In my opinion, this is a perfect Junesploitation movie. I couldn’t believe how much stuff it was throwing at the screen and hoping it all sticks. Kung-fu, hip-hop, tanks, a drawn-out strip tease sequence, sci/fi nuclear technology, MMA cage matches, evil Mark Dacascos, and much more. It’s just enough bonkers to be massively entertaining. Plus, the ending fight between Jet Li and Dacascos does not disappoint at all. Highly recommended for this month!
Three the Hard Way(1974)Dir: Golden Parks JrJim Kelly, Fred Williamson and Jim Brown team up to foil a white supremacist's plan to poison the water with a toxin that only kills black people. Fun movie with each actor bringing their strengths to the characters. Brown bullies, Williamson charms and Kelly kicks. Some good actions scenes in the movie my favorite being Jim Kelly fighting a group of police men that try to set him up. Well worth the watch. Its on Brown Sugar
Shaft (1971)When I decided on watching Shaft tonight, all I could think about was that Donald Glover bit about when he was like, yeah, being Spiderman would be cool, and people were all like, you can't be a black spiderman, what would be next, Michael Cera as Shaft?!?!?Thankfully I did not picture Michael Cera the entire time. Shaft is cool and I now want a brown leather coat.
Original Gangstas (1996)Yeah, this could have overall been a much better movie but this is what we got and I appreciate it at least for bringing this cast together.
Okay, Disco Godfather (1979) is a delight, with one of the most batshit endings I've ever seen. Also features the first acting credit for the Shogun of Harlem himself, Julius Carry, as the nephew of Rudy Ray Moore's title character.
The Liberation of L. B. Jones (1970)Directed by William WylerOn paper, a fantastic list of personnel, should be great, and it actually turns out to be special. Wyler’s last movie, Surtees on camera, Bernstein score, Kotto, Zerbe, Cobb, Hershey, Roscoe Lee Browne, even Lee Majors. Not really Blaxploitation, more like an “issue” picture. Lot of southern crackers, mouthing off, pulling shit on the brothers. Contrasts between the rich whites, and the poor blacks. Movie has a lot of the feel and look of In The Heat Of The Night. Sort of a catalog of white hypocrisy. Have to say that I thought this was going to have some sort of whitewashed ending that white liberals would feel comfortable with, but it really surprised me. It ended up being a portrait of the way southern towns and institutions legitimize and rationalize their own racism, and really stuck the landing. Ended up with a powerful and disquieting ending. It’s got some length, but worth sticking with.My complete Junesploitation calendar on Letterboxd:https://boxd.it/caPy8