The Review: I’ve been hearing about Dolemite since forever. I knew about it before I even knew about the blaxploitation genre it’s self really. I remember reading the review for it over at badmovies.org, listening to their audio clips and thinking to myself, man I have got to see this. A pimp who curses with every breath, sometimes rhymes and has a stable of karate fighting ninja Ho’s? Could it really be as great as I have it built up in my head? Well let me tell you, the film exceeded all of my expectations. I knew it was going to be bad and funny, but I had absolutely no idea. I remember a few years back Mad TV used to have a skit that made fun of the character of Dolemite, basically making fun of how completely inept the films are. Dolemite would fight off the ‘honkeys’ using the hokiest karate you have ever seen, with the actors deliberately doing their absolute worst. I remember one episode where I believe Dolemite had to go to The Moon (or something along those lines) to retrieve his ‘pimp cane’, of course when he did much bad karate ensued followed by Dolemite getting it on with some foxy ladies. The little skits were actually some of the best things that were happening on Mad TV at the time, of course only in my opinion. This was somewhere along the time “Stewie” and “Mrs. Swan”, two somewhat annoying characters with even more annoying catch phrases, took over the show. It seems to have been on a steady decline since it’s conception as a tv show, but I’m moving off topic. Watching Dolemite the other day, it’s pretty shocking how much the movie and those skits do have in common. The skits were taken to even higher degrees of stupidity of course, but Dolemite truly is the Plan 9 From Outer Space of blaxploitation. It’s unintentionally hilarious at every corner, the paper thin plot doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense at all and much like Plan 9, there appears to be some heart to the film. This, and that fact that it truly is one of the most entertaining films you’re going to see within the genre, is what makes you truly grow to appreciate and like the film. You have to imagine no one on set really knew what they were doing, had no budget and tried their best to make as entertaining a film as they knew how to do. They succeeded, but probably not in the way they had hoped. When I laugh at a movie for being ‘bad’, I like to think that I’m not doing it out of some need to hurt the creators of the film or to insult the film it’s self, it’s just that with all of the heaviness of any genre, there’s always the need for something a little lighter. Sometimes a film can be bad and suck the air out of the room for being horrendous and awful, and sometimes a film can be cheesy and inept by critical standards, but can truly bring a smile to your face. Maybe just because it’s fun to spot the mistakes within the film, sure, but there can be a special magic to a good b-movie, and I think Dolemite has just that. Between the hilarious and over the top dialogue, atrocious acting by pretty much everyone involved and all of the bizarre edits and plot inconsistencies, it gels into something wholly it’s own. Something bad, yet appealing. Something genuinely entertaining even if it’s not exactly something you’ll be showing to your family over Easter Holiday. It will take a special soul to really enjoy the inadequacies of Dolemite, but for the right person under the right circumstances, you’ll no doubt leave as entertained as I.
There isn’t a vast audience for the film out there, but the many reviews that take focus on it generally tend to focus on the same things, and with great regret I can’t help but do the same thing. You can’t talk about Dolemite without mentioning all these little idiosyncrasies that make it so memorable. It’s not a film that has too many layers or deserves a vast article focusing on the superb cinematography. The reason to love the film so adamantly is how very stupidly fun it is. You can’t talk about Dolemite and not mention his karate fighting stable of Ho’s. It’s a package deal, even if the Ho’s don’t get to do a great deal of fighting. Being that I rented this film on vhs (that would be the reason I took the images from the badmovies.org review, sorry Andrew but I needed some screen caps. Hopefully my linking the site twice in one review is substantial enough payment, because I’m a broke mutha), I was lucky enough to get the ever so classic Xenon video box, which I love completely. Dolemite, or perhaps just the Xenon vhs, is the only film where in the credits on the front cover there is someone listed as “Martial Arts Champion”! Is it really necessary to have a martial arts ‘champion’ on set? Wouldn’t it be more valuable to have a fight choreographer? I have no idea what the ‘champion’ title means, it’s as if someone on set had a tournament and whoever’s martial arts won received their name on the front of the film’s poster. It’s truly bizarre, and considering the complete lack of decency within the fighting it’s self, it just makes things even more hilarious. I’m not speaking out of turn either. The ‘karate’ within Dolemite is the stuff of legend. The very first fight sequence that establishes our character had me laughing so hard I was afraid I would wake the neighbors. It happens during a flashback to when Dolemite was arrested by the FBI (err, I think they were FBI. If not, they were all plain clothes detectives). Some cops come up, demanding to look in Dolemite’s trunk (considering this was a clear violation of his rights, it seems that if Dolemite had so much money he could clearly take this to a higher court through some fancy lawyers. Racist G-men or not). Not surprisingly, when they open it up a bunch of fur coats and cocaine are found and they want to take Dolemite to hit the mainline express to prison-town (don’t ask me where I came up with that one). Dolemite, being the bad mofo that he is, let’s loose his fury with the ever classic “you’re going to have to TAKE ME!!“, what proceeds is one of the most astonishingly bad displays of martial arts that cinema has ever seen. The camera follows the punches from behind our fighters, the punches and kicks don’t connect very well and it’s all so very sloppy. It truly is quite the display. The greatest fight scene has to come when Dolemite is accosted by the two racist cops who lay a few punches on him. Dolemite jump kicks one in the back, this somehow knocks him unconscious. Since the kick hit him dead in his back I can only imagine he hit the ground face first, but that’s really putting too much thought into a Dolemite fight scene. The other cop isn’t so lucky when he receives some very badly aimed punches followed by a kick to the head that is easily TWO FEET away from ever touching his face, and yet our cop falls to the ground writhing in pain. These two scenes, gathered with a large and very sloppily edited bar brawl are only one of a million reasons you and everyone within your family deserves to see Dolemite and obviously should see Dolemite.
It’s 110% pure campy fun, sure it’s horrendously made, but as much as it is unintentionally humorous there are some very intentionally entertaining additions to the film. The dialogue is atrocious by university standards of course, but when you watch the film as a viewer and not a critic, a lot of this is truly classic. Who could ever forget when Dolemite is informing a police officer to please make room for him to get into his car, only Dolemite puts it a little more blunt when he says “Man move over and let me pass ‘fore they have to be pulling these hush puppies out your motherf***ing a**!” (censored because, well, as stupid as it is, my reviews are for everyone even if the films in question aren’t). Dolemite spits out things as equally as clever and obscene throughout the course of the film and this is why we like him so much, why kids everywhere (well, not everywhere) want to be Dolemite. He’s such a larger than life character, a true bad mofo if ever one did truly exist. It’s stupid to say about such a bad movie, but that’s the way it is with me. The characters other than Dolemite are just as widely drawn, Creeper – The Hamburger Pimp is probably one of the weirdest characters ever written. Perhaps Rudy Ray Moore had talked about this strange heroin junkie during his standup act, but for those of us who haven’t heard any of his albums, it’s just one more thing never explained throughout the course of the film. I personally wanted to know more about The Hamburger Pimp, did he sell the hamburgers to get smack? Why was it important for us to waste thirty seconds watching him doing a jive strut down the street after ‘pimping’ a hamburger from that fast food place? Things the audience may never know. We’ll also never exactly know why the local preacher was given guns, or really even what he wanted to do with them. Sure, he was a militant, but he didn’t exactly seem to have a fanatical following. Another big question is to what is even going on in the film. The plot literally makes no sense at all. The mayor wanted Dolemite out of jail, and that mysterious third party, was that the FBI agent? What was he doing making deals with the mayor? Why didn’t the mayor have Dolemite killed while in the prison? Why did the warden of a prison have so much authority when letting a prisoner go? How did Dolemite get out of prison on bail when he had just committed homicide and already had a criminal record even though if he was released he would likely be on a serious probation? You just can’t ask questions like this! There are no answers! The film’s script wasn’t meant to be questioned, it was only there to form a shell for Rudy Ray Moore to ham it up as the biggest and baddest pimp to ever come from the realm of blaxploitation. Dolemite could chew up The Mack any day of the week. Max Julien never displayed any Kung Fu of note anyway. Yet, while the plot is filled with more holes than Clyde Barrow’s Sedan (that’s a historical reference kiddies), it’s the amazingly bad production that gives Dolemite a lot of the cult appeal it has. The film has what is easily one of the worst pieces of editing I’m familiar with, right up there with the teleportation of a character directly into scene in The Girl With The Golden Boots (I swear I’ve brought that same error up in a previous review). During a lovemaking session between our main man Dolemite and one of his Ho’s, we are given a shot of Dolemite and his honey lying in bed wrapped in sheets. They begin caressing and preparing to do the horizontal jig, when all of a sudden, the film cuts to the same exact shot, but after the sex! The camera remains in place, only Dolemite and this girl have moved a little on the bed (neither in a position that looks remotely like they could actually be doing ‘it’) and are both now moaning. There was no cut to a clock, or a shot of the windows to show the gradual loss of time. Not even a closeup on clothing or the camera fading out. No, we’re treated to the exact same shot we started with in what is such a ridiculously clumsy edit that I almost lost faith in the idea of cinema as art. The film is full of a million other herky jerky edits that make the film look like it was put together by a blind man, but in the end it’s all a part of why the film has to be seen to be believed.
The acting, as mentioned, is almost pitiful to watch. A favorite bit of drama for me comes near the beginning where Queen Bee is so excited that Dolemite is being released from prison that she begins to tear up. The complete lack of any resemblance of emotion in the way she says “Dolemite, I’m so happy” should provoke uproarious laughter throughout any average human being, as a matter of fact if you don’t laugh, I have to think that you are insane. I still can’t get that out of my head and I doubt that I ever will. The direction in the film doesn’t even really seem worth mentioning, because I find it doubtful he was really instructive in the making of the film. I could be wrong and he was making the best of a bad situation, but I find it hard to believe he was very interested in what was going on while the cameras were rolling. His portrayal of Willie Green is actually one of the better performances throughout the film, but that doesn’t say much. Perhaps he just wasn’t that great of a teacher at this point in his life. Never the less, the lack of true guidance on the set seems to have been a blessing for the film, because I have to imagine if the story had been told in a mediocre (rather than horrendously bad) way, the film probably wouldn’t have taken on the cult following that it has. Tough guy gangster films were a dime a dozen at this point in cinema history. The film is a finely crafted piece of seventies cheese, whether you’ll like it is truly based upon your character. If you don’t dig it, that doesn’t make you a square, but it does mean this type of cinema might not be up your alley. If you do love this seemingly noxious piece of b-cinema, join the club because I can’t get it out of my head. Sure, it may seem offensive to the ‘art’ to give such a bad film a four rating, but if you don’t have fun while watching this film it’s hard for me to sympathize. A classic in the area of b-films, a king amongst slop. I love it adoringly, and as should anyone with a heart.