Saturday, November 08, 2008
Movie Time: Rewind: Dolemite
I am back very early in the month with this installment of the Rewind,where we turn back the clock on some great films from before my birth year, 1976. This month's film I almost did last month, which is why I am posting it so close to the previous post. The film just makes the cut off having been released in 1975 and stars an actor who recently passed away this past October. Rudy Ray Moore's blaxpoitation classic, Dolemite.
The 1960's was a very trying time for studio bosses. They had lost most of the stars that had been carrying them for years, either to age of box office appeal and spent much of the 60's establishing new routines and stars. Gone were the days of the studio system and creating new actors, actors were now freelance and work for hire. They could go to any studio they wanted and set their own prices. By the time the mid 70's came around, films were able to be made by any number of people. Small studios and independent features sprung up and from this came the exploitation genre.
Exploitation films were usually cheaply made, designed to be viewed for their often racy or lurid subject matter. As the case, the films were usually low quality in terms of acting, scripts, or film production, though not always. They also tried to exploit certain aspects of films that you couldn't find in major studio films, like sex, violence, and horror for shock value. This is sometimes called Grindhouse Cinema, as you produce the films (or grind them out) as fast as you can with little care for the technical aspect so you can turn around and produce another film in the same manner. Blaxpoitation arrived as grindhouse films made specifically by the black and African American community. They often featured tough male leads or sexy female heroes fighting against a disparate white majority. Some of these films were major steps in social relevance, like Shaft with Richard Roundtree or Coffey with Pam Grier or Super Fly.
Dolemite was not one of those groundbreaking films. Though it is by far the funniest and my favorite blaxpoitation genre. Dolemite is written, produced, and directed by Rudy Ray Moore, who is also the title character. Moore started out as a stand up comedian who did Dolemite as a character in his act, then spun him out into this film and several sequels, Like Dolemite 2: The Human Tornado, Shaolin Dolemite, and Return of Dolemite. Though to be honest, my favorite title of a Moore film is Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son in Law, about a man who marries the Devil's ugly daughter to go back to Earth to get revenge on the men who killed him. I got turned onto Dolemite after seeing a snippet of the film in the 1996 comedy The Great White Hype with Damon Wayans and Samuel. L. Jackson. That movie was about an egotistical boxer played by Wayans who agrees to fight the next great white contender, who has been promoted by a fast talking Don King type of promoter played by Jackson. Wayans character watches Dolemite before the fight to get ready. i was so enamoured with that small piece of footage from a very bad film that I tracked Dolemite down at a video store. It was so much fun to watch the film with a group of my friends, all of us groaning and laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the movie.
Anyway, the thin plot of Dolemite is as follow. Dolemite is a pimp/hustler who runs a nightclub called The Total Experience. When two white detectives frame him on behalf of his rival Willie Greene, he is sent to jail for having stolen furs and narcotics in the trunk of his Cadillac. While he is jailed, Willie Green takes over his nightclub and starts a drug trafficking ring.
In jail, Dolemite ultimately gets freed by the warden (the only non evil or incompetent white actor in the movie) to get revenge and right the name of Dolemite on the street. Dolemite returns to his girlfriend, the Club's Madame called Queen Bee. The good news is that Dolemite knows kung fu, the better news is that Queen Bee sent all of Dolemite's "ho's" to kung fu school while he was jailed. Can Dolemite and his all girl army of Kung fu ho's take back the club from Willie Green or will the man hold him down?
Look, let's be honest here. You have to have a real love for truly bad cinema to enjoy this movie. For me, it's so bad that it enters a kind of cult status, Like Plan 9 From Outer Space. It has to be experienced to be believed. Don't really try to follow the story, because characters wander in and out with little reason, like my personal favorite The Hamburger Pimp. I don't even know what he does, but he's the Hamburger Pimp. The kung fu is terrible as most of the action is so badly choreographed that you can see the actors hardly hitting. The fight sequences are so bad you can see the space between the punch and the actors body. The boom mike also appears in numerous scenes and many times crew members can be seen in shots. I would also like to point out that their is some really exploitative nudity on the film, and not the good kind. Let's just say that some people take their clothes off that proably shouldn't!
The dialog is a 70's smorgasbord of jive talk. It's so funny and outrageous, that even 10 years after watching it, my friends still walk around throwing lines from the movie. Just remember that I am not saying the dialog is good, the acting is so stilted and forced that it kills anything. The true value of the film is in it's exploitative nature. The film doesn't take itself seriously and neither should you. Sit back and take in the awful splendor of Dolemite. There is nothing quite like it. I can guarantee that you might (okay probably won't) like it, but you will never forget 1975's Dolemite, starring Rudy Ray Moore from C.I.E. Studios.