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June 14, 2010

The Movie Burrito: Volume 0 - Mamba Jamba Kick Yo' Ass Blaxploitation Movies

by David Hayes

Black Samson (1974) – You know, anything beginning with “black” in the seventies film world is going to be a treat. You already know there will be an oppressed African-American hero (this time Rockne Tarkington fills the bill) who must fight against the man and rescue/liberate/kill someone else for revenge. The incomparable William Smith, not to be confused with the DJ Jazzy Jeff version, is the slimy villain. Oh, and there are boobies.

Kenner (1969) – Jim Brown travels to India. That’s all we really need to say about that! Seriously, what in the blue hell is Jim Brown doing in India?! I know, I know, he is exacting vengeance on someone because of some transgression. I’m just asking who would greenlight this pitch: It’s a crime caper, ok? We send Jim Brown to India… What? Yeah, The Dirty Dozen Jim Brown, and he befriends a little Indian kid… What? No, an Indian from India… God. That production meeting must have been a pleasure.

Sugar Hill (1974) – Sugar Hill (Marki Bay) is your average, everyday run of the mill streetwise drug dealer’s girlfriend. And we know what happens to them. Their boyfriends get shot by a white guy who runs the cartel (Robert Quarry, Count Yorga himself, in this instance) and they go on a path of revenge. Sugar is a little different. With the help of a voodoo priestess, she makes zombie hitmen to exact her vengeance. Zombies and Count Yorga with a little dash of patented blaxploitation nudity and violence makes this a sweet, sweet treat!

The Guy from Harlem (1977) – Did blaxploitation filmmakers in the 1970s just not want to come up with a good title. Check this out. Title: The Guy from Harlem. Tagline: The Guy from Harlem. Plot: The Guy from Harlem. Lead Character: The Guy from Harlem. Damn. At least it lives up to its name. There is indeed a Guy from Harlem in the movie. He shoots people.

Tick Tick Tick (1970) – Somebody else made this film once and it was called “In the Heat of the Night” with Sidney Poitier. The filmmakers apparently didn’t see that and cast Jim Brown (do you see a theme here) as a black sheriff in a white, intolerant town, doing a dangerous job. We get a villainy appearance by George Kennedy (post egg counting in Cool Hand Luke but pre sidekick to Leslie Nielson) and more bad acting than you can shake an emotionally uncharged stick at.

Savage (1973) – This is a pretty pedestrian addition to the 1970s black film movement (although a topless Carol Speed goes a long way to making it a 5 star masterpiece in my lonely little book). The best part of this film is the taglines. These are pure genius: “Men Call Him Savage… Women Call Him All the Time!” or “On the Streets or On the Sheets He’s a SAVAGE!” Now that is marketing, baby!

Take a Hard Ride (1975) – This is pure gold. Jim Brown (you knew I was going to do that, didn’t you) in the Old West. A fight with Fred Williamson. Lee Van Cleef (yes, the Master himself… sadly there is no Van Patton brat here). Jim Kelly doing karate. Legendary film cowboy Harry Carey Jr. (not the perennially drunk Chicago Cubs announcer, the good Harry Carey). If this film wasn’t so poorly made and acted, I think it might have gone down in history as one great western.

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