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Before ‘Dolemite,’ Rudy Ray Moore was an accomplished early rock and roll singer
06.09.2017
09:33 am
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Rudy Ray Moore is best known for his Dolemite character which appeared in a string of low-budget 1970s blaxploitation films. His jive-talking, rhyme-spitting comedian/pimp/martial artist character has become a cultural icon and has been homaged by Mad TV and in the loving blaxploitation tribute, Black Dynamite.

Moore’s best films, Dolomite, The Human Tornado, Disco Godfather, and (my personal favorite) Petey Wheatstraw have all been recently reissued in gloriously fully-loaded, ultra-deluxe Blu-ray editions by boutique label Vinegar Syndrome, and I can’t recommend them enough for fans of ‘70s so-bad-it’s-good grindhouse fare.
 

Rudy Ray Moore, straight pimpin’, in “Petey Wheatraw, The Devil’s Son in Law.”
 
Though Moore, who left this mortal coil in 2008, sold thousands of spoken-word “party records” as a comedian, he is not widely remembered for the dozens of records he released as a musician. Moore is considered by many to be “the Godfather of rap,” as his rhymed “toasting” storytelling style is often cited as one of the great inspirations on that musical genre; but Moore’s own musical recordings are, by and large, straight r&b and early rock and roll affairs, with many of the early singles demonstrating obvious Little Richard and Chuck Berry influences. 

His talent as a singer rivals his talents as a comedian and martial artist—and depending on your level of Rudy Ray Moore fandom, that is either a slight or high praise.

I’ll let you be the judge.

Have a listen after the jump you no-good, rat-soup-eatin’ motherfuckers…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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06.09.2017
09:33 am
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‘Thomasine & Bushrod,’ the blaxploitation Western with music by Arthur Lee and Love


 
Thomasine & Bushrod is one of four movies Super Fly director Gordon Parks, Jr. (son of the director of Shaft) made before his death in a plane crash at the age of 44. Written by its leading man, Max Julien of Psych-Out and The Mack fame, the movie—often called the “black Bonnie and Clyde”—costarred Julien’s longtime girlfriend, the formidable Vonetta McGee. Julien had previously written Cleopatra Jones for McGee, who appeared in the contemporary genre pictures Blacula and Shaft in Africa, but after Warner Brothers cast Tamara Dobson in the title role, the couple undertook this collaboration, a revisionist Western in which two sexy fugitives deal out justice to despicable white sadists.

(Incidentally, this was not McGee’s first Western. A decade after Thomasine & Bushrod, Alex Cox cast McGee in Repo Man on the strength of her performance in “the greatest of all Italian westerns, Sergio Corbucci’s Il Grande Silenzio.”)
 

Love circa 1973
 
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s score quotes the melody of the film’s lovely theme song by Arthur Lee of Love, first heard at the 29:20 mark. I assume Julien and Lee knew each other through Hollywood circles; all John Einarson’s Love biography Forever Changes has to say on the subject is that Lee sold Julien his house on Avenida del Sol in the Hollywood Hills before moving to Sherman Oaks in 1975. Lee’s “Thomasine & Bushrod” is now available as a bonus track on the CD edition of Black Beauty, the 1973 album recorded by an all-black lineup of Love that sat on the shelves until High Moon released it in 2012. This less-than-optimal-quality sound file is the only version on YouTube:
 
Arthur Lee, “Thomasine & Bushrod”:

 
As for the movie, you can now rent it for $2.99 (in SD) or $3.99 (HD) on Amazon or YouTube (embedded below). Lee’s song doesn’t play in full until the end credits. I hope the rattlesnake that bit McGee during filming got a taste of outlaw justice from Jomo’s pistols.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.24.2015
01:53 pm
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‘Good… and long’: Blaxploitation ads for Winston cigarettes, 1970-1973
11.05.2015
10:05 am
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The term ‘Blaxploitation’ was coined by NAACP head/film publicist Junius Griffin in the early 1970s to describe the genre of African American action films that followed from the examples set by Cotton Comes to Harlem and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, but the term certainly could have had other applications—racially targeted marketing that sought to move destructive commodities like malt liquor and menthol cigarettes to underclass populations has long been, and justifiably remains, a highly contentious matter, and is inarguably more literally exploitative than any “exploitation” film. Flashbak.com compiled a lode of eye-popping examples from a print campaign for Winston cigarettes.

After World War Two American tobacco companies started to explore new markets to maintain their not insubstantial prosperity. The growth in urban migration and the growing incomes of African Americans (called at the time the “emerging Negro market”) gave the tobacco companies what was sometimes called an “export market at home”. Additionally, a new kind of media started to appear after the war when several glossy monthly magazines including Negro Digest (1942, renamed Black World), Ebony (1945) and Negro Achievements (1947, renamed Sepia) began to be published.

These relatively expensively produced magazines were far more attractive to the tobacco advertisers than the cheap ‘negro’ daily newspapers of the pre-war era, with glossy pages and a far wider national distribution. The magazines meant for a purely African American audience also meant that advertisers could produce adverts aimed and featuring African Americans away from the eyes of white consumers.

 

“Rich.” “Long.” Got’cha. Wink wink.

The juxtaposition of aspirational fashion, rogue-ish male confidence, and burning cigarettes carries an unmistakable message so old it’s hardly worth spelling out. The longing looks from the women in the near-backgrounds aren’t terribly nuanced in their subtext, either. But all the problematics of death-dealing aside, these are objectively awesome photos, amazing snapshots of a time and place when African American culture was asserting a more prominent place in the US mainstream. Airbrush out the cigarettes (or don’t) and change the captions, and these would be amazing menswear ads, too.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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11.05.2015
10:05 am
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‘Blackstar Warrior’ the truth behind the riddle of the myth of TV’s legendary black sci-fi hero

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No one I know was ever really sure they had seen Blackstar Warrior, the legendary (emphasis on the “legend” part there) “Blaxploitation Star Wars” series made sometime in the 1980s, but most claimed to have heard of it. What they had heard proved equally elusive—rumors, half truths, strange clues, on-line interviews, comments seeded on forums, long conversations at sci-fi cons that mulled over dreams of half-remembered episodes that may or may not have been seen.

Then the evidence started to arrive.

One day, clips from a documentary appeared on YouTube that told the tale of writer/producer Frederic Jackson Jr. and his attempts to make the first blaxploitation science-fiction movie in the 1970s—Blackstar Warrior—about a hip African-American spaceman Tyson Roderick who has been described as “James T. Kirk’s evil twin… a ruthless and daring sexual egomaniac,” who was “unapologetic, tough as nails yet tender-hearted.” A man who mixed the coolness of Shaft and Superfly with the leadership of Captain Kirk.

To produce his dream movie, Jackson Jr. sold his car wash business, but just as he was about start filming everything fell apart when police raided the BSW studio set and arrested Jackson Jr. and his crew for allegedly stealing costumes from the Star Wars set. It has been claimed that to avoid prosecution Jackson Jr. sold his movie script to George Lucas. Though there is no proof this ever happened, some Blackstar Warrior conspiracy theorists claim parts of Jackson Jr.‘s script ended up in The Empire Strikes Back—citing the inclusion of black character Lando Calrissian as proof. But still no one was ever really sure

From such inauspicious beginnings, Blackstar Warrior morphed from a potential blockbuster movie into a cult TV series, which first aired at 10am on a Saturday morning, September 29th 1979. Leonard Roberts starred as Tyson Roderick, with Mindie Machen as his blonde-haired pneumatic robotic partner, Alphie.
 

 
The ‘truth’ about ‘Blackstar Warrior,’ after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.22.2015
10:42 am
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Feast your eyes on these awesome Blaxploitation movie posters!
09.15.2014
11:56 am
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The term “blaxploitation” was coined by Junius Griffin, head of the Los Angeles National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). One of the aims of blaxploitation movies was to create debate and help advance equality in race relations across America. However, the subject matter of many of these films was considered to be upholding negative stereotypical images of African-Americans rather than progressing any sort of social and cultural equality.

While there is obviously some degree of truth in this, blaxploitation produced enjoyable films that often had a radical edge which most mainstream movies lacked. As for the criticisms over narrative, plot and acting, well these were usually the same problems to be found in all exploitation movies. For me, blaxploitation movies were one of the most enjoyable highlights of 1970s cinema, as they brought this poor white kid from Scotland a sense of a world that was sensational, exciting, entertaining and far more real than the sub-genre of bad comic book pap being pumped out of Hollywood during this decade. Moreover, the soundtracks to many of these films were among the best put on celluloid.

Though by no means a definitive collection, this selection of blaxploitation film posters gives a fairly good idea why these films had such massive appeal.
 
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More posters after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.15.2014
11:56 am
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‘Kiss My Baadasssss: Ice-T’s Guide To Blaxploitation’
05.15.2014
10:53 am
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Ice-T, still taking fashion cues from his superfly celluloid heroes
 
If you’re looking for a primer on blaxploitation cinema, I can’t imagine a more appropriate guide than Ice-T. “Kiss My Baadasssss: Ice-T’s Guide To Blaxploitation” has great commentary, with speakers ranging from feminist icon bell hooks to Isaac Hayes, but it’s Ice’s enthusiastic narration that truly sets the tone. He’s not kidding when he says “these movies were what made me”—the film even contains commentary from author, reformed pimp, and Ice’s namesake, Iceberg Slim. It’s a fair and sympathetic look at an influential (yet often unfairly maligned) genre, and it follows the trajectory of blaxploitation from its groundbreaking heyday to its descent into B movie madness.

The 1994 short was apparently an episode of a UK series called Without Walls, where (as far as I can tell), they just got interesting people to talk about something they liked or didn’t like, filmed them, and then edited it for cohesion. In this instance at least, the result is charming and (yes kids!) educational. While it’s pretty short, it’s a comprehensive little crash course in the blaxploitation genre.

Parts two and three can be found here and here.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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05.15.2014
10:53 am
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*Brilliant* blaxploitation ‘Mad Men’ parody: ‘Don-O-Mite’
04.11.2014
02:38 pm
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If this was a real AMC TV show, I’d watch the shit out of it!!! It plays like Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song meets Putney Swope, written by Rudy Ray Moore and directed by Melvin Van Peebles.

The character “Black Peggy” as a Pam Grier meets Angela Davis-type won my heart! Brilliant.

An ad agency—naturally—Leroy & Clarkson created this entertaining piece.


 

 

 
Via Laughing Squid

Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.11.2014
02:38 pm
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‘Black Shampoo’: The action explodes when the ‘loving’ machine turns into a ‘killing’ machine
10.23.2013
06:18 pm
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Black Shampoo is a 70s blaxploitation groaner that gained extra currency in the 1980s due to its ubiquity on the “Midnight Movies” shelves of the first wave of VHS rental stores.

While it’s not nearly as brain-damaged as Rudy Ray Moore’s cheerfully demented Dolemite films, or, say, The Black Gestapo, Black Shampoo is still pretty mind-melting. It was directed by Greydon Clark, who helmed such grind house gems as Satan’s Cheerleaders, Dracula vs. Frankenstein and Skinheads.

Black Shampoo is a bit like two films in one: In the first part of the film, as with Warren Beatty’s Shampoo, we meet a super-stud playboy hairdresser (John Daniels). As we find out, he also happens to be a highly skilled fighter.

Here’s the plot description from the DVD cover. It’s pretty succinct:

John Daniels plays Jonathan Knight, the owner of “Mr. Jonathan’s” the most successful hair salon for women on the Sunset Strip. His reputation as a lover has become so awesome that he is sought after almost as much in that capacity as he is for his experience as a hair stylist. Everything is cool for Jonathan until he messes with the mob in an effort to protect his young attractive receptionist, played by Tanya Boyd (Celeste in Days of Our Lives), from her former boss. Action explodes when the “loving” machine becomes the “killing” machine. Jonathan, chainsaw in hand, gets down to the get down on the vicious mob gang that wrecked his shop and kidnapped his woman.

Chainsaw in hand? Yes, chainsaw in hand. Black Shampoo is highly entertaining, if somewhat crude. I confess to having watched this sucker three times!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.23.2013
06:18 pm
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‘Sugar Hill’ and her zombie hitmen should be on your Halloween movie list
10.15.2012
10:48 am
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“She’s Super-Natural”- and that is a top-notch Afro pun.
 
As we relish the season of scary movies, it’s easy to get discouraged when rifling through all your old stand-by DVDs. Have all the Halloween movies memorized? Can’t stay awake through another Friday the 13th sequel or remake?

Fear not! There are so many unsung glories of the horror genre!

Sugar Hill is a blaxploitation/horror crossover gem that has all the pulpy hallmarks of both. It’s a surprising yet sensible combo; though blaxploitation only rarely intersected with horror, the blood and guts so frequently thematic to both make for a simpatico pairing. When Sugar’s fiance refuses to sell his night-club (his voodoo-themed night club, naturally), the mob beats him to death. What follows is the classic revenge plot of a blaxploitation film, mixed lovingly with the campy gore of a supernatural zombie flick—what’s not to love?
 

 

Posted by Amber Frost
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10.15.2012
10:48 am
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Machete Maidens Unleashed: A look at ‘70s Filipino Exploitation Flicks

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Mark Hartley—the man who brought you Not Quite Hollywood, the documentary on ‘70s and ‘80s Australian action, suspense and horror b-movies—is back to lay the same treatment on the Philippines. Machete Maidens Unleashed shows how that country became the shooting locale for tons of American-funded monster movies, jungle prison movies, blaxploitation and kung fu hybrids—along with better known shoots like Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which apparently left the land strewn with sets that got repeatedly reused.

Adding to the genre-crazy atmosphere was Prime Minister Ferdinand Marcos’s harsh and corrupt Bagong Lipunan (“New Society”) program of martial law, during which he and his family ruled with the kind of impunity that eventually led to his downfall in the mid-‘80s.

Check the trailer—it’s quite wild—and look for this ‘un soon at yr local movie establishment.
 

 
Thanks to Mark Turner for the heads-up!

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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08.05.2010
01:51 am
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