Thursday, June 20, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 20: Blaxploitation!


  1. I am starting to feel some movie fatigue, but the show goes on.

    CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD (1975, dir. Charles Ball)

    Blaxploitation goes into full James Bond mode as the statuesque Tamara Dobson returns to her role as the American narcotics agent. This time she is in Hong Kong looking for a couple of missing agents. The first film has a lot more "soul" in its story, making the CASINO OF GOLD (at least to me) a step backward. The scope of the action is the major selling point of the sequel. There is a lot of action, culminating in a finale that wrecks an entire set. One of the Shaw Brothers was a producer on this, which probably explains why the film had a decent budget. There are plenty of martial art sequences as Cleo and her helpers fight their way through Hong Kong and Macao. Stella Stevens seems like an odd choice to play the villain, but that might have been the point of the casting. She acquits herself surprisingly well. Tamara Dobson's interesting fashion sensibilities add to the entertainment.

  2. Hammer (1972, dir. Bruce D. Clark)

    Hard-fisted dock worker B.J. Hammer (what a name!) gets into a fight with a hard-headed co-worker. When the mobster who runs the docks (because of course the docks are run by mobsters) hears of this, he recruits Hammer as a boxer. He triumphs at first, but soon finds out the outcomes are tightly controlled, and when the mob threatens to harm his girlfriend unless he throws his next match, Hammer has to find a way out.

    The story's not the most compelling nor is it exactly original, but Fred Williamson as the badass lead, Vonetta McGee (what a name!) as his love interest, and Solomon Burke's soundtrack help a lot.

  3. Hit Man (1972)

    I'm doubling the Grier factor this year.

  4. Dolemite (1975)

    (quick aside...years ago i tried to introduce my then girlfriend, now wife, to classic James Bond...Goldfinger and the like...after watching she said "so its like a non funny Austin Powers?". I laughed and reflected that seeing parody prior to source is an interesting situation.....more on this soon...)

    This is my first Rudy Ray Moore flick...but by no means my last. I had a BLAST with this movie! Its cheezy, bad line delivery, incredible wardrobe, all over the place, hilarious, and entertaining for days. The classic story of a pimp released from jail to help clean up an influx of drug dealing (but continue with his RR Moore is a presence. Also, to my complete surprise and enjoyment, this movie is clearly one of the biggest influences on Black Dynamite, which is one of my favorite movies of the last 20 years. It actually makes me like Black Dynamite more as while that movie is an incredible parody of the blaxsploitation genre, its also a great entry into the genre itself. One of my best viewings so far this month.

    Impossibly-named actor Warhawk Tanzania plays a kung fu fightin’ cop hunting an immortal demon lurking in NYC’s subway tunnels. As you can imagine, this movie is all over the place. There are tons of additional characters, and more time is given to the side plot about a gang war brewing in the city’s back streets. Fortunately, the fight choreography is thrilling, and the camera pulls way back so we can take in the actors’ moves. It’s nonsense, but it’s fun nonsense.

    BLIND RAGE (1978)
    An audacious plan is set in place to steal $15 million from the CIA. I won’t spoil it, but the plan had me asking “Are they really going there?” and then they really went there! This movie is a wild ride. The filmmakers’ attitude seems to be, “We don’t have Hollywood’s resources or money, but we’ll have all the action and thrills of a Hollywood blockbuster anyway.” It's an absolute must-see.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: THE MUMMY’S GHOST (1944)
    More mummy action with Kharis. John Carradine establishes his horror bona fides with him playing an evil cultist, and actress Ramsay Ames has hypnotic screen presence as our heroine. At only 60 minutes it’s not much of a movie commitment.

    1. Love Devil's Express! Force Force (1975) is another Warhawk wonder, check it out!

  6. Friday Foster (1975, dir. Arthur Marks)

    Just read Patrick's review, he says it way better than I can:

    Pam is the GOAT.

  7. Coffy (1973)

    Patrick has talked about how great this film is since the beginning of the site and I've always wanted to see it. Last year, on July 11 (11 days after Junesploitation ended!), it was on Showtime and I recorded it. So, yes. I've literally been waiting and looking forward to watching this for an entire calendar year! And, it does not disappoint. Man, Pam Grier is so good in this!

    1. Pam, the pacing, the villains... It is one of my few perfect films. Definitely a desert island film.

    2. Few things are more satisfying than a) finally checking a movie off the list b) liking that movie and c) getting to see something that's been on your DVR for a year. Glad you dug it!

  8. Welcome Home, Brother Charles (1975)

    Directed and written by Jamaa-Fanaka, who would later helm Penitentiary (1979), this is a gritty exploration of life and racism in Watts and Compton in the 70s. Charles is arrested on drug charges, and the bigoted cop who busts him tries to castrate him in the process. Upon his release, Charles struggles to establish a straight life, and in his frustration, seeks revenge on those who did him wrong... with a most unusual and shocking M.O.!

    For the most part, this is a moving character study, and Marlo Monte delivers an excellent performance as Charles. The realistic portrayal of life on the streets on East LA adds considerably to the empathy felt for Charles. And the exploitation factor is just about as sensational as it gets. There's not just that much of it, which was fine by me. I found myself rooting for Charles to overcome while also knowing the oppression he faced could not be escaped.

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  10. Death Dimension(1978 Dir Al Adamson)
    Although I haven't seen his whole filmography I've seen enough to come to the conclusion that I am not an Al Adamson guy. Jim Kelly as always is one of the most naturally cool motherfuckers ever but not even he can save this one.

  11. Coffy (1973)
    I’m surprised the song “King George” wasn’t a bigger hit… Coffy is very resourceful, a soul sister Macgyver: she kills with a shotgun, a heroin needle, razor blades, a stuffed dog toy, a sharpened paper clip, an automobile, another rifle, and a swimming pool. Impressive.

  12. Shaft (1971)

    This being the 3rd, and by far best, Shaft movie that I've seen, it makes sense that they keep trying to remake this. Roundtree is effortlessly cool and the writing and direction is breezy. Im.excited to check out the other 2 originals

  13. Shaft (1971)

    A cat so cool he keeps his heat in the fridge.

    After a pretty slick first act, I thought the story REALLY bogged down and lost momentum... but it looks great, the score rules, and Richard Roundtree really is a bad mother-shutmymouth. I can mostly dig it.



    I really wanted to watch the 2nd movie because it's one of a handful of 4K titles I just bought during the Barnes & Noble 50% Off Sale going on 'till June 27. And the 1st one was an option Roku's algorithm labeled (incorrectly) as Blaxploitation!, but once I started there was no turning around this Junesploitation! train once it left the station. :-P

    An uncredited Roger Corman produced this 1971 Filipino-flavored, women in prison ensemble flick more concerned with checking a laundry list of tropes (nudity, prison escape, more nudity, whippings, nudity again, etc.) than the acting. "Women In Cages" features Pam Mother-effin' Grier (hey, blame Blogger censorship! :'( ) as Alabama, the Harlem-born-and-bred warden that prioritizes bedding her more attractive prisoners above anything else. As the only black performer in the cast playing an unlikable villain Pam acquits herself well. I love Grier as a strong hero/defender/avenger in most of her starring roles, so it was a nice change of pace to see her be the unredeemable heel. Despite most of the visible cast being local Philippines folks the story centers on Jennifer Gan's "Jeff" (!) as the doe-eyed innocent American taking a drug trafficking rap for her no-good boyfriend Rudy (Charlie Davao). Fellow inmates Sandy (Judith Brown) and Stoke (Roberta Collins) tag along to help with escape plans, but the latter has ulterior motives and a drug habit to feed (with hilarious bad overacting). At 80 minutes "WIC" moves like stink, has that sense of 'life is cheap' grime Filipino exploitation is known for and features attractive women you want to see pull it off and get out on top... ahem! Too many commercials on Pluto and too abrupt a cut-off ending, but a worthy 3.5 WHEELS OF TORTURE RED LETTER MEDIA WOULD BE JEALOUS OF (out of 5).

    I know you're thinking I meant Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus as the "black performer" in "Tropic Thunder... when in fact I meant Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino. ;-) But yeah, only a beloved performer at the height of public goodwill from his post-drug rehab career comeback (with his "Iron Man" signature role fresh in people's minds) could get away with the 'method actor too deep into character' role Downey pulls off here. You couldn't get away with that now, or Tom Cruise's hilarious over-the-top impersonation of Harvey Weinstein-meets-Scott Rudin movie producer in the post #MeToo era (era!). That said and despite not really being in Downey's acting league, the handful of scenes where Brandon's Alpa Chino and Lazarus-as-Sarge cross cultural/ethnic swords are my favorite because at least "TT" confronts its own gimmick head-on. And isn't that what Blaxploitation Day exploration in June is all about?

    Continuing with my theme from 80's Horror, so glad to have actual helicopters performing many of the cool aerial shots. I'll take this 4K-enhanced jungle helicopter shots over something like the CG choppers in A24's "Civil War" (barf!). I'd forgotten that Nick Nolte was in this, that Steven Coogan is basically a glorified cameo, that Jack Black was platinum blond and that Bill Hader outshines Matthew McConaughey the couple of times they share scenes in Les Grossman's office. Remember when Ben Stiller could star, direct and co-write (with Justin Theroux) a nearly $100 insider Hollywood studio comedy? It's only 16 years old and "TT" already feels like a relic from a bygone era, one that could tackle taboo subjects with its tongue firmly in (somebody else's posterior) cheek. :-) 3.5 G4 PRIVATE JETS (out of 5). I would quote THE LINE of "TT" ('You never go full...') but I don't think Blogger would let me post this review if I did. :-(

  15. Blackula (1972)

    Only managed to watch half of it yesterday, but was loving it. I will finish it tonight and possibly watch the sequel for AIP day. I don't want to get behind! Some previous years this is the point where I lost the pace and ended not quite completing Junesploitation (burnout, family stuff, work stuff). But I'm determined to finish this year! Bonus, I'm not feeling burnt out at all, and my schedule for the rest of the month isn't crazy. All I need is for those pesky NHL playoffs to end, which will free up more time.