Blaxpo | Varied Celluloid

Dynamite Brothers, The

Posted by JoshSamford On December - 24 - 2011

The Dynamite Brothers (1974)
Director: Al Adamson
Writers: John D’Amato, Marvin Lagunoff and Jim Rein
Starring: Alan Tang, Timothy Ray, Aldo Rey, Lam Ching-Ying, Carol Speed and James Hung

The Plot: Our story immediately begins with Wei Chin (James Hong) showcasing his guards as they do a little Karate out in the front of his mansion. We quickly find out that Wei Chin is a drug pusher who is looking to bring in a huge shipment of heroin that will then flood the ghetto. Wei Chin is awaiting the arrival of Larry Chin (Alan Tang), a foe from his past who he feels may be a danger to his drug-smuggling business. When Wei Chin arranges for his soldiers to be waiting for Larry at the dock, they are quickly dispatched since Larry is also a master of Kung Fu. After roaming Los Angeles for a few days, Larry is eventually picked up by the police who try to put him in a squad car with Stud Brown (Timothy Brown), but the two manage to escape with their superior fighting abilities. Larry intends to search out his missing brother, while Stud simply intends to survive. After hooking up with The Smiling Man, a pimp who runs a bar, these two find work putting the hurt on Wei Chin and his drug business. Both men eventually find love, Stud with a mute girl who works at Smiling Man’s bar (Carol Speed), and Larry with a young woman who gave both he and Stud a ride into LA. However, their love lives will have to wait as they battle their way through the criminal element in order to put an end to the drug business and find out where Larry’s brother has disappeared to.

The Review
There are few things that could get me as hyped up as a genuine combination of the blaxploitation film genre and the Kung Fu film world. When you take two equally great things, there is the understandable belief that the end results will be even more spectacular. Although the main cast attached to this project are unquestionably third or fourth-tier for either of these genres, this combination is enough to immediately grab my attention. When I did just a wee bit of studying on the film, I did find a surprisingly strong supporting cast and a pretty sordid reputation. Not known as a fine piece of cinema, Dynamite Brothers has certainly developed a cult appreciation throughout the years. Knowing these few things about the film, I knew it was only a matter of time before I covered it here on Varied Celluloid. It could very well be seen as a Kung Fu title, or Blaxploitation pick, but most of all The Dynamite Brothers is a strange little number that at its very best paints a portrait of 1970s cinema in a nutshell. At its very worst, however, it is also a magnifying glass for what cheaply made independent exploitation titles were like during this era as well. The Dynamite Brothers works best as a distraction that shouldn’t be taken all too serious, but instead it would be best reserved for a fun evening with some friends.

Filled to the brim with colorful character, Dynamite Brothers is certainly a title that reflects the time and era that it was made in. Characters such as Razor J, a goon who wears sunglasses while in dark nightclubs and uses a straight razor to carve up his enemies, is only the first of many stereotypical villains within the film. Wei Chin is another money grubbing nefarious dweeb played by James Hung, from a long line of dweebs that he has played throughout his career. Carol Speed, the blaxploitation legend, shows up in a supporting role as a mute, which is really something surprising. Had she been able to speak, I am sure she would have had the best line delivery within the entire film. The police captains are everything one expects from the blaxploitation genre. Racist, fat, corrupt and terrible in their roles. Aldo Rey is surprisingly bad in his role, and seems to be cashing a check without the slightest bit of care. It might as well be Dolemite all over again, because Rey and the rest of the police officers are played without any sense of realism or subtlety. Then there is The Smiling Man. A bar owner and entrepreneur who is being pushed around by Wei Chin’s people, because Wei Chin wants him to push dope. Smiling Man has a distinguished look, as he deeply resembles some kind of strange cross between the idealized version of a voodoo witch doctor, and your run-of-the-mill Los Angeles-based pimp. He stands out in a movie full of over-the-top stereotypical characters, which is quite the accomplishment.

The movie is often filled with really unsightly cinematic mistakes. It becomes obvious why the movie was chosen by the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when they decided to create the roadshow known as Cinematic Titanic. Although it never delves so low that the entire production seems incompetent, it certainly isn’t far from being considered as such. When you watch the movie, there are simply moments that stick out as being laughable. Shots such as the one where Timothy Brown and Alan Tang jump out of the back of a “speeding’ truck that seems to be moving at about three miles per hour… these things are quite noticeable, and the movie doesn’t do the best job in hiding how cheap it appears to have been made. The acting, from the majority of the cast, also leaves a lot to be desired. The movie, due to the poor acting, is reserved for the world of b-movie cinema and it has no chance of being anything else. Al Adamson, who was a b-movie veteran well before this film was ever thought of, surprisingly doesn’t show off a great deal of talent in this production. You would think that a man who had been involved in so many productions would at least know how to make his project look or feel vaguely interesting, but unfortunately he does not deliver. Instead, the plot meanders at times and the movie lacks any sort of visual punch that might liven things up.

The fight choreography, which is always a important aspect of a true Kung Fu film, is actually well accomplished. This should come as no surprise, since genre veteran Lam Ching Ying was actually the choreographer for the film. Best known as the star in the Mr. Vampire series, he was always quite adept in his own fight scenes, and he was a solid choreographer as well. Although Timothy Brown certainly had no history within the genre, he does do a decent job at making his fight sequences look convincing. With a background as a NFL star, Brown certainly possessed the raw athleticism needed for such a role and it no doubt helped him to take on many of the very demanding action scenes. Alan Tang is also quite serviceable in his role, but he hardly seems up to being a martial arts cinematic hero. He has screen presence, but throughout most of the film he simply seems to stare off into space. Timothy Brown, it would seem, was the intended star for this vehicle. The former NFL star does a competent job, but he hardly impresses. Best reserved for action scenes, and filling extremely tight pants, his acting abilities are just enough to get him by. The actors who portray the police officers throughout the movie may be the weakest links during the entire movie, as they constantly drag the movie to a ridiculous halt.

The Conclusion
This is everything you expect from a cheesy piece of seventies exploitation. Extremely poor jazz music (think: the jangly piano tunes heard in Manos: The Hands of Fate), bad acting and a pulp plot that barely ties together. However, the movie can be quite a bit of fun when it hits its stride. The character introduced throughout the movie are all fun, and the action sequences are handled very well. I give the movie a high two out of five. It isn’t great cinema, but it serves its purpose.

… Tick… Tick… Tick…

Posted by JoshSamford On September - 14 - 2011

…tick… tick… tick… (1970)
Director: Ralph Nelson
Writers: James Lee Barrett
Starring: Jim Brown, George Kennedy, and Fredric March

The Plot: In a small southern county during the midst of the civil rights movement, trouble begins to brew. Jim Price (Jim Brown) is a well educated black man who is encouraged to run for sheriff by a group of civil rights activists. When he actually manages to win, due to the dense population of African Americans, he faces a new and more dangerous hurdle. The local white population, who aren’t accustomed to seeing a black man in power, aren’t willing to give up such a position without a fight. Price must continually deal with the threat of violence on a daily basis, and must also hire a all new police department with a new set of deputies. Amongst the locals affected by Jim Price’s recent election is the previous sheriff himself, John Little (George Kennedy). Little, who respects the law and doesn’t share the same racist sentiments of his friends and neighbors, finds himself confronting his own bitterness. He feels bad for Price and realizes that this man is looking at a danger that seems insurmountable. When a young teenager from out of town runs down a little girl and kills her in cold blood, Price is dealt a tough hand as he must arrest a white man who just happens to have a very powerful father. With the tension brewing, this small southern town is only days away from exploding.

The Review
The Blaxploitation genre is all too often unfairly judged by those who simply aren’t familiar with the great span of films that can, and should, be included within this vast library of films. When audiences hear the term Blaxploitation their minds are likely filled with visions of Jim Kelly, sporting an absurdly large afro, kicking bad guys in the face. If not that particular vision, maybe they just think about the Son of Dolemite skits from Mad TV which perfectly exemplified the very worst that the genre ever provided. As is usually the case though, making harsh judgments based upon limited information will only help further ignorance. Although there were far more genre pictures made underneath the Blaxploitation umbrella, there were still a great number of well crafted and important dramas made within this time frame as well. …tick… tick… tick… is a socially conscious look at the racial dynamics of the late 1960s and 70s. As a film it fits in well with other spectacular works from this era such as In the Heat of the Night and Across 110th Street. Although the action is sporadic, which might scare away some genre-fans, the film is wholly well crafted and stands out as one of the most inspiring and positive message-films to come out of the racially provocative climate of 1970s filmmaking.

The Blaxploitation title is a misnomer and it generally causes more confusion than is necessary. Although these were films that often featured some form of genre conventions, they were not all a part of the “exploitation” subgenre of the time. With films such as J.D.’s Revenge, which saw the classic Jekyl and Hyde story brought to life for a different audience, there was a definite feeling of genre pastiche, but there was also a great deal of quality within the storytelling. These weren’t all cheap exploitation films in the same manner as Dolemite, many of these films gave black actors the first spotlight in their professional career. With that newly found attention they could take the ball and run with it. Although Jim Brown had already found some success in acting before …tick… tick… tick…, the film certainly shows the young actor finding his own voice and delivery. This is no doubt due to veteran director Ralph Nelson being at the helm. He allows the quiet and mild-mannered Brown to really settle into his role and shows off his best traits. While not as flamboyant as Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Jim Brown was equally as charismatic in his own way. While I’ve not enjoyed him in action capers that require him to be boisterous and over the top, such as in Slaughter, he really fits the mold of a reserved and stoic leading man. In the role of Jim Price, Brown finds the perfect vehicle to show off all of his best qualities.

The rest of the cast are all very solid in their roles, but its the dynamic between Jim Brown and George Kennedy that holds the true power of the entire film. Although the film could be seen as being naive to a fault, and I’ll get to that shortly, I think there are many moments throughout the movie that seem to capture a great deal of truth. George Kennedy’s character of John is the second main “hero” within the story and his role is far from conventional for a title such as this one. He plays a man who is as every bit a “good ol’ boy” as the rest of his hate-filled constituents, but he is a man who is battling his own ways. Throughout the movie we hear his wife use racially derogatory terms for Jim Price (Jim Brown), we see his family being harassed for what is seen to be cow-towing to a black man and we watch this character endure his own inner torment at being bested in the election for a new sheriff. In the earliest scenes of the movie we watch as John prepares for his last day as sheriff. We hear him discuss with his wife how he plans on showing the new sheriff around the office, showing him where the files go and giving him the main tour, but when the time comes and he looks into this black man’s eyes he finds himself unable to do anything but walk out. Despite being a good man on the inside, he can’t put away his own prejudices and he must then come face to face with his own weaknesses. The majority of the picture, from John’s point of view, finds himself battling with this weakness and shows him trying to become the man he thinks that he has always been.

The character of Jim Price is every bit as interesting in his own manner. A properly trained officer who never stood a chance at even becoming a deputy due to his race, he takes up the sheriff’s position after a Northern special-interest-group gets involved and gives him the encouragement to run. Price is a man of conviction, and although he realizes the dangers involved in this job he can’t let the opportunity pass him by. Jim Brown plays the role in a quiet manner that gives weight to his performance when placed alongside the well-trained veteran George Kennedy. Although these two actors don’t share a great amount of screen time with one another, in the scenes that they do share both actors bring a sense of history between one another to the table. They work within the environment and a sense of social climate is prevalent throughout the movie. Although the movie tends to be so hopeful about improved race relations that it borders on naivete, the actors bring a sense of realism to the film and its easy to get behind these characters and root for the protagonists. This spirit of goodwill is felt throughout the picture and elevates it above many films of a similar type. You can feel this in George Kennedy’s character, or even in the role of the mayor. In a more conventional film these characters would have likely been villains, but in this film they are simply men coming into confrontation with change… and they are ultimately receptive to their new way of life.

The Conclusion
While it may not be a perfect film, …tick… tick… tick… is a movie that is fairly unique. There are some who will scoff at its hopeful attitudes and less than demonizing look at Southern racial clashes during the civil rights age, but in the context of the 1960s/70s it seems that this sort of hope was needed in order to escalate the waves of change that would someday come about. A very solid film that I highly recommend. It receives a four out of five.

Take a Hard Ride

Posted by JoshSamford On June - 30 - 2011

Take A Hard Ride (1975)
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony M. Dawson)
Writers: Eric Bercovici & Jerrold L. Ludwig
Starring: Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Lee Van Cleef and Jim Brown

The Plot: Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef) is a bounty hunter who takes his job perhaps a little too serious. We learn this by watching him gun down a good man who committed a crime decades in the past and has since certainly worked off his crime. He’s not a man concerned with justifying his line of work, he’s just concerned with doing it well. When Morgan, a wealthy rancher who is trying to move $86,000 to Mexico, dies of natural causes he leaves his best friend and ranch hand Pike (Jim Brown) in charge of this mission. This makes Pike one of the most wanted men in all of the old west. He soon meets up with the cunning and dangerous Tyree (Fred Williamson) who wants his own shot at the gold, but is willing to help carry the money to Mexico before making his play. Along the way these two stumble upon a family who have been slaughtered by cowboys. Amongst them is Kashtok (Jim Kelly), the Indian raised African American who uses his fists instead of a gun. This strange group of travelers are going to have to contend with every gun in the west, as well as the dangerous Kiefer, as they travel all of these lonely miles.

The Review
Many things can probably be said about director Antonio Margheriti, but I can’t imagine many people claiming him to have ever been a boring director. Like most Italian genre film directors during the seventies, he was a workman who took on whatever project was sent his way and during that time he worked with many of the more popular actors within his native Italy. It was during this time that he met Fred Williamson on the set of the original Inglorious Bastards, and the two seemingly hit it off in a big way. When it came time for the two to pair up yet again it would be in a co-production between American film studios and Italian benefactors with the spaghetti western title Take a Hard Ride, which seems to be the perfect combination of blaxploitation attitude and western archetype reconstruction via the spaghetti western subgenre. A film that is rarely dark, always fun and features some of the most charismatic actors of 1970’s era genre-film, Take a Hard Ride is a film made entirely for the sake of fun.

Margheriti had to be placed under a certain amount of stress, with this being his first American co-production, but you really wouldn’t think it while watching the film. Considering that studios generally hate experimentation since it breaks away from the patterns that have lead to success in the past, and this was true even in the pre-Jaws 1970’s, it’s interesting to see Margheriti do his best to hit all of the weird high notes that make up the Italian system for building a “Western”. Starting the film off with a massive close-up in the fashion that this film does, it almost seems almost like the entire film is intended as a love letter written specifically for Sergio Leone. Starting off on a close-up of Lee Van Cleef playing a harmonica, this long panning shot backs away in a moving fashion and we see that the camera has traveled through a wooden fence. The shot is complex for this sort of production and hardly seems to allude to any nerves on the part of Margheriti, who seems to enjoy playing with the genre while the producer’s backs are turned.

Although not nearly the dark epic that most of Leone’s westerns always turned out to be, Take a Hard Ride is instead much more taken by the comedy side of the business. Taking a page out of the They Call Me Trinity playbook, the movie becomes a much more slapstick affair and rides on the charisma of its two main stars: Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and Jim Brown. Although Jim Kelly receives equal billing and certainly shares a decent amount of screen time, since his character is unable to speak he never really gets to demonstrate his onscreen presence. So instead we saddle up with Williamson and Brown who have never really been better. Jim Brown is quiet and menacing, which probably wouldn’t be hard for any man his size, but he manages to actually craft a real character within this role and stands up well next to the much more outspoken Williamson. The character that Williamson plays, Tyree, is the perfect sort of loudmouth braggart for Williamson to slip into and make lovable, as only he could. Speaking with a really strange southern accent, “The Hammer” is absolutely brilliant here.

Although this is basically the Western version of the “chase movie” (See: Eat My Dust, Grand Theft Auto and Smokey Bites the Dust), the amount of genre veterans who were in their prime while working on this simply made it invulnerable to formula. Although he was a bit past his prime even at this point, Lee Van Cleef does an honorable job in servicing the film as well. At this point in his career he had started to look pretty old, but he had not yet become the pudgy version of himself that would be involved in the Master Ninja series. Still, when you see Cleef you immediately think “spaghetti western” and he is perfect in doing that for the movie. His character, who sports a long black duster, also works as another visual reminder of Sergio Leone’s work. Why it was needed, I certainly can’t say, but I enjoyed its presence.

The Conclusion
Although this isn’t a title that really deserves a lot of concise evaluation, it is still fairly great in its own right. It rides the dusty and well trodden hills of genre-convention, but it doesn’t get bogged down at any one given point. The cast are all spectacular in their roles and the movie on the whole is riddled with excitement. If there’s one thing that boosts this from being a three into the four territory, it has to be the chemistry between Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. These two steal the show and craft some truly great moments as their friendship unfurls before our eyes. Definitely search the Shout! Factory disc out, which is bundled with Rio Conchos, as you really can’t go wrong with this set.


Posted by JoshSamford On February - 21 - 2011

Penitentiary (1979)
Director: Jamaa Fanaka
Writers: Jamaa Fanaka
Starring: Leon Isaac Kennedy, Wilbur ‘Hi-Fi’ White and Thommy Pollard

The Plot: Martel ‘Too Sweet’ Gordone (played by Leon Isaac Kennedy) is a tough young man who runs into some trouble with a couple of bikers who try their best to rough up a young prostitute. When ‘Too Sweet’ begins to batter the two goons, he is struck over the head with a bottle and knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he is in prison. A victim of the racist system, Too Sweet must now contend with life on the inside. The prison is ran by a group of individuals who are obsessed with breaking in the fresh meat, so that they can make them their sexual slaves. ‘Too Sweet’ however refuses to give in and displays his tremendous natural fighting ability. This gets him a shot in a boxing competition that offers many rewards, such as free time with a woman and even time taken off of a sentence! Will ‘Too Sweet’ make it through the tournament and what will happen with his new enemies within the penitentiary?

The Review
By the time the seventies were coming to a close the blaxploitation genre was beginning to fade into obscurity, certainly when looked at in comparison to its popularity during the years previous. There were still films being made, such as Rudy Ray Moore’s Disco Godfather (1979) and South African Death of a Snow Man (1978) amongst many others, but the lines had been blurred so much at this point that this genre, that never really was a “genre”, was beginning to peter out. Director Jamaa Fanaka was a filmmaker from a specific time, who could only have worked within that very specific generation, and his time and place was within African American independent cinema during the 1970’s. Best known for the Penitentiary trilogy, Fanaka is a very different and interesting character from blaxploitation film history. Since the majority of all casts in blaxploitation films were obviously African American, many might have been left with the impression that these films were also directed and written by African Americans themselves. This was unfortunately not the case on most occasions. There were only a hand full of African Americans standing behind the camera within this movement. Fanaka is interesting because, unlike someone like Melvin Van Peoples, Fanaka had a definite love for genre filmmaking. Each one of his five films, made between the years of 1975 to 1992, all fall within the lines of genre-cinema in some form or another. Often times they were bent into weird and unrecognizable shapes along the way, but by and large his films had a certain commercial aesthetic to them that lead many to embrace his particular form of entertainment. Penitentiary itself stands out as easily one of the better, and certainly most interesting, prison films made within this time and era.
The film opens up as a regular run of the mill exploitation film, starting off in a dusty desert surrounding with a group of bikers harassing ‘Too Sweet’. Your first impression is that this film will take us the route of a generic biker film similar to Born Losers (the first Billy Jack film which featured similar scenery and a biker’s run-amuck plot device), but in the very first moment where we actually enter into the prison system: we are transported to a different world. This is where the film delivers something completely unlike anything you have ever seen before. Characters break through the fourth wall on regular occurrence, walking directly into the camera and staring into it while mouthing inaudible words and threats while their happiness and anger scream intimidation. Their wild stares and incessant dancing gives the appearance of something foreign, or completely wild, hidden away within our “justice” system. The criminal system, within the first few shots, is shown to be a complete and total madhouse. Insanity at it’s most tantamount. This isn’t a place to be reformed, it’s a place where sanity is apparently deprived of all its citizenry. Within this secular society, all of societal norms have been flipped upside down and a war of sexual orientation is being battled about.

Although, at its very heart, this is a very simple boxing story set within a prison and has a fair amount of comedy thrown in to entertain, but one gets the idea that Fanaka definitely went for some of the social commentary that his film makes. The state of the criminal system is of course shown to be predominately black, with several allusions to slavery being made in the form of homosexual aggression lead by a select number of authoritative leaders within the prison. Fresh prisoners who aren’t acclimated to the rough and tumble way of life that is now in front of them are made into sexual slaves for the high ranking gang leaders. Human beings are treated as objects, expressed perfectly in one pivotal sequence where the young Laverne is chastised by another inmate and is told “You my stuff now! You my stuff!”. The heartlessness of slavery is captured within scenes such as this better than any civil war feature I believe that I have ever seen. Although the white warden isn’t shown to be as insufferable as many of the black inmates, he is still very much a plantation-owner of sorts. The character generally even looks the part. So, within this strange world of slavery upon slavery, the character of Too Sweet stands up as a strong black male who may be held within the confines of this system, the prison/America, but he will not play ball and he will fight to have what he desperately wants: freedom/equality. This is all very surface level observations, but what I like about Penitentiary is that we as the audience can pick up on these small bits of subtext but at the same time we can also enjoy the plentiful action sequences throughout.
Never willing to abandon the fun nature of cinema, Fanaka crafts an action film in the midst of his counter-cultural observation on American “justice”. The action is generally divided into two parts: the realistic boxing sequences, and then the rehearsed and choreographed street fights. As a fight fan myself (boxing and mixed martial arts), I always keep an eye on fight choreography. What is interesting about Penitentiary is the way many of the in-ring boxing sequences are handled. Rather than a Rocky style of back and forth action, which is often well choreographed but entirely fake looking, the actors in Penitentiary look to really throw their punches and are legitimately trying to make contact with one another. If you have ever seen a legitimate street fight between two untrained guys who simply want to slug it out and throw the most ridiculous haymakers that they possibly can, then you have seen what some of the boxing in Penitentiary looks like. Overhand lefts and overhand rights, thrown in succession without halting, by both combatants… that is really all there is to these boxing sequences, but in the context of the movie it works tremendously well. After all, these are just men throwing punches at each other without any kind of legitimate training. When a fighter who has no self control steps into the ring within any full contact sport, they will act in basically the same fashion. When offense seems to work, who cares about defense?

The Conclusion
Does Penitentiary have issues? Sure! You can pick it apart, with the budget obviously being a factor in many of the goals Fanaka likely had for his film. However, I must say, Penitentiary succeeds as a piece of entertainment and as a time capsule for independent African American filmmaking. I have become such a fan of this movie, I can’t help but recommend it. I give it a four out of five stars and hope others take the time to track it down if they have not already!

Disco Godfather

Posted by JoshSamford On November - 17 - 2010

The Plot: In the height of the disco age, our story focuses on a man named Tucker Williams who is best known by his alias, “The Disco Godfather” (played by Rudy Ray Moore). When the Godfather’s nephew, young Buckie, has his basketball scholarship dreams dashed by a friend who gives him a hot dose of the brand new drug called PCP… the Disco Godfather swears vengeance! The Disco Godfather, who is an ex-police officer, has all of the connections to convincingly hunt down the drug dealers who have poisoned his community with this new plague. He visits the local hospital, which is packed full to the brim with young kids who are suffering PCP induced comas, and he sets his mind to bigger things. He helps establish programs in order to “attack the whack” and put an end to this nightmare of drug horrors. However, as the Disco Godfather digs deeper and deeper into this assorted mess, he begins to discover that these drug cartels go up further than anyone could have ever imagined!

The Review
Rudy Ray Moore is a celebrity within the blaxploitation genre that draws some very different reactions. Depending on who you ask, you’ll either hear him revered as a saint or as a blasphemous curse on the entire genre. He is beloved within hip-hop and African American culture for his party albums during the seventies which were very popular. They were groundbreaking in their taboo subject matter, and pushed the limits of vulgarity as an art form. However, when it came to the cinematic scale, his movies were by no means “good”. His catalog has become the fodder of B-Movie fans who love the consistent continuity errors and dreadful acting.

To be completely honest, I am not a big fan of Moore’s comedy recordings. Although they most certainly have their audience, as a totally square cracker, the comedy simply alludes my own understanding. Despite it being slightly mean spirited, and lacking in compassion, I tend to enjoy Moore’s filmography as a connoisseur of really bad movies. That might make me a bad person, that might make me a less cultured hooligan, but it doesn’t make me wrong. Disco Godfather is a bad movie. Poor conception, poor execution and generally bad in almost every way except that one area that tends to matter most: entertainment. Disco Godfather, despite everything I may have to say about it, is ridiculous in its levels of entertainment.
Disco Godfather is a movie that you really CAN judge based entirely on its name. Do not feel bad about judging this book by its sequin-laden cover folks, because chances are you KNOW what this movie has in store for you. Simply from knowing Rudy Ray Moore’s involvement, as well as the title of the film, Disco Godfather more or less played out exactly as I had it built up inside of my head. My expectations were that the film would take place in a bizarre fantasy disco world that would be inhabited by caricatures. I expected some kind of conflict would take place, and it would ultimately draw the Disco Godfather from his discotheque, and then he would have to use poorly choreographed martial arts in order to destroy some kind of nefarious scheme that was, more than likely, concocted by the white man. As it turns out, I was right.

That really is Disco Godfather in a nutshell. As with any great piece of literature though, it isn’t ultimately about the destination of the story, but the follies along the way. Similar to Great Expectations or Moby Dick, while we are discussing literary works, Disco Godfather squarely places itself in a very certain time and a very certain place. That place is of course the tail end of the seventies disco subculture! If you have seen Dolemite!, chances are the last thing you ever expected to see was Rudy Ray Moore sporting a skin tight, baby blue, sequin covered jump-suit. Well, if you watch Disco Godfather… prepare yourself, because you’re treated to just such a sight within the opening minutes of the film. Rudy Ray Moore, sporting the biggest grin in cinematic history, pops and locks his way down the electric slide line in true seventies fashion. The moment is very surreal to say the very least, but never lacking in humor. Intentional or not.
Rudy Ray Moore is the MVP for this picture, without question. Although Disco Godfather is a step up in most technical regards in comparison to Dolemite!, the one consistency from both pictures is Moore’s performance. Equally intimidating and hilarious, Moore is the glue that holds the film together. His performance is generally poor in all fashions, but its the astounding manner in which he delivers his performance that makes the movie so unique in its entertainment value. Moore enters into scenes with a grin upon his face, despite there being no reason to be so upbeat and he generally fluctuates between two modes: suave and mad-as-all-get-out. He defines the two-dimensional performance here and yet remains so incredibly likable in his performance that it is hard to imagine any audience member walking away with any ill-feelings toward him. He may win over audiences in the most simplistic of manners, but he absolutely does win them over.

Despite Rudy Ray Moore’s awful/brilliant line delivery (“Bucky! What have you HAY-AD!?”), the rest of the cast are generally decent. There are a few spotty moments here and there, but for the most part the cast does a good job in supporting this far fetched, PCP ridden, story. Carol Speed (Abby, The Mack) is good here but her role might as well have been billed as a cameo. At the end of the day, this is Rudy Ray Moore’s show and it is as ridiculous as the man himself ever thought of being. A favorite moment of mine came towards the end of the film and shows Rudy Ray Moore hunting down the PCP traffickers in a alleyway, and this of course proceeds to escalate into a kung fu battle. The choreography is honestly a vast improvement for Moore, but what makes the sequence memorable is when a jogger stumbles upon the brawl and asks “Hey, what’s going on here?,” to which Moore replies “These guys are selling PCP!,” which causes our jogger to throw off the towel from around his neck and join in saying “PCP? Well then, let’s kick some ass!“. If that doesn’t define this movie, what does?

The Conclusion
Ridiculous. Stupid. Hilarious. Brilliant. All are words that describe Disco Godfather adequately. You, as a film fan, should know whether this is a movie you want to track down. I will say that it at times has pacing issues during the first half, where Rudy Ray Moore seems to spend more time at the disco than he does tracking down any PCP dealers. When the movie picks up, the silliness rarely lets up. Part of me wants to sway anyone from ever seeing this movie and then another part of me wants to implore everyone to search it out. For my rating, I have to sway towards the side of entertainment. I give the movie a three out of five. It was a close vote and almost made it to a four, but those previously mentioned pacing issues really slow things down during the first half. Regardless, check out this ridiculous piece of fluff as soon as possible!





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