Happy February! It's Black History Month, and Analog Medium is taking a quick look at the wonderful world of blacksploitation cinema. African-Americans have been carving out their own identity in film ever since Oscar Micheaux made his first film in 1919 - years before the first blacksploitation would emerge. Film making gave African-Americans the chance to showcase the greatness, the struggles, and the uniqueness of their culture from their own perspective. Black exploitation movies gave film makers, regardless of ethnicity, the chance to make assloads of money off exploiting the black identity. It's a shame that the titles of most African-American movies made these days start with the words "Tyler Perry". Whatever happened to the days when Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was the top grossing independent film in the country (1971)? I've picked three flicks from 1976 to help recapture some of that oldschool flavor for you.
The Human Tornado (1976) aka Dolemite II
Good sequels are hard to make, especially with no budget, but that's exactly what Rudy Ray Moore managed to do with The Human Tornado. This time Dolemite goes on the run from a racist honky sheriff trying to frame him for murder. He shows up in LA just as Queen Bee's nightclub is getting shook down by racist Italian mobsters. Good thing Dolemite's on the scene. Everyone's a pansy compared to him, no matter their ethnicity. Be sure to check out The Human Tornado if you enjoy constant offensive humor, singing, dancing, spontaneous rhyming... oh yeah, and kung-fu. Also you can expect to see: 10 boobs, 2 unshaven female private parts, 5 naked men, 4 sex scenes (3 of which involve Dolemite), an explosion, 2 car chases, 3 kidnappings, and 11 people killed on screen. All that and a bald Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) make The Human Tornado a true blaxploitation tour-de-force.
Drum is an example of a certain subgenre of blaxploitation film: the ones made by white people (looking at you Django Unchained). The director and writer of Drum were white, as well as the author of the original novel (Kyle Onstott, the same guy who wrote Mandingo). It's fascinating, and often extremely awkward, to see how white people represent racism and the African-American identity in film. Basically, there are a lot of N-bombs dropped with hard "grr" sounds. If you can deal with the colorful language, and an intense glimpse at slave life in the South just before the Civil War, definitely give this movie a go. The art department did a smashing job throughout, as well as the cast. Pam Grier, Warren Oates (Sgt. Hulka from Stripes), and Yaphet Kotto (the black dude from Alien) all play memorable roles. If you're not convinced, check out the numbers: 3 fights, 1 slave revolt, 1 massive explosion, 1 burning body, DOZENS of on screen deaths, 3 sex scenes, tons of implied sex, and about 25 boobs (but not Pam Grier's, gotta watch The Big Doll House for some of that action).
The Monkey Hustle (1976)
Yaphet Kotto (Drum, Alien) and Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite, The Human Tornado) bump heads in yet another blaxploitation heavyweight from 1976. Both actors play streetwise jive talking hustlers on the streets of Chicago. I should stress the jive talking aspect of The Monkey Hustle. It's as if the screenwriter thought all black people talk like Fat Albert characters. But I have to give The Monkey Hustle credit because the story actually originated from a black guy and the screenwriter and director were white, making it a cross ethnic collaboration. There are many more reasons to enjoy The Monkey Hustle: 1 boob, 1 food fight, 1 cat fight, 3 real fights, 2 car chases, a flare gun, lots of running from the cops, and 7 people sprayed down with fire hoses. I thoroughly enjoyed it in the most ironic way possible. It taught me the cure to the black man's woes lies in petty theft and block parties.
- Silver Screen Kid