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Blaxploitation Movies

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Quick Reviews:

"Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes" (1974)
"The Black Godfather" (1974)
"Dolemite" (1975)
"The Human Tornado" [Dolemite II] (1976)
"TNT Jackson" (1975)

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes (1974)-  Out of all the titles given to this movie, the best is "Jive Turkey", a reissue title in the U.S.  This is a cool gangster story where the black gangsters are actually the good guys.  Although not without its flaws, this movie is still watchable.  It's cheap "blaxploitation", but if retweaked into an A-picture this could really make it.  For instance, the story is set in 1956.  The only thing that looks like 1956 is the cars.  The fashions, hairstyles, music...all of that smacks of the 1970s.  Gotta love that funky soundtrack, though!

    Pasha (Paul Harris) runs the numbers game in Harlem, New York City.  A turf war is brewing between the black gangsters (Pasha) and the white Italian gangsters (Big Tony).  Even worse, Big Tony is calling in help from his Chicago cronies.  Pasha and his gang really aren't bad guys.  Their game is illegal gambling, but they don't set out to hurt anyone.  Pasha dabbles a bit in the prostitution racket, but his major angle is numbers.  It's still an odd concept for a lot of non-black audiences to grasp, but guys like Pasha were thought of as pillars of the community.  Pasha did a lot of good for his neighborhood, despite the fact that he was doing bad things to make money.

    Big Tony, however, was a gangster with a much more evil scope.  Tony's gang was into EVERYTHING: drugs, numbers, prostitution...you name it.  Tony has held an extreme hatred for Pasha since they came up together as kids.  Frank DeKova, best known for his role as Chief Wild Eagle on TV's Western spoof series, "F-Troop" (1965-1967) gives an incredible performance as the nasty, racist gangster Big Tony.  If nothing else, this movie is worth watching for his role.

    I also really liked Paul Harris as the anti-hero Pasha.  Everyone was pretty good in this movie or at least passable, but a lot of the cast didn't do much else in acting.


Paul Harris as Pasha
Frank DeKova as Big Tony
Larry Greene as Jimmy Rush
Frances E. Williams as Moma Lottie
Reginald Farmer as Sweetman
Don Edmondson as Serene [fake credit as Tawny Tan]
Curtis Price as Nathan Jones
Terry Ransom as Little Billy Jones
Ernie Lee Banks as DuDirty

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The Black Godfather (1974)- This is unusual for blaxploitation movies.  It's actually a "good" movie and completely watchable.  Even the actors are good...imagine that.  The title sounds corny.  It would make one think that this is an all-black version of the classic "The Godfather" film with an all-black cast.  This is anything but.  The movie's title was a gimmick, however, and it seemed to work in getting people to watch this film and make it one of the archetypical blaxploitation movies of its time.

    Unlike "The Godfather", this movie is not a drama, but a straight-out actioner.  It moves fast and there's never a dull moment.  You'll get your fill of funky 70s fashion and music, along with all the stereotypical "jive" talk, sex and violence.

    Nate Williams, a numbers king and respected man in a black neighborhood.  He trains pimp JJ into becoming his successor, and the next "Godfather", although that word is never used.  JJ is the main character of the movie.  He's mostly taken over for Nate.  Besides running a prostitution ring, JJ seems to be a standup guy and good to his community.  He is very much against drugs.  So much, in fact, that he declares war against the white drug-pusher that is ruining his neighborhood.

    Tony Burton is a wealthy, white drug-pusher who makes a comfortable living selling junk to the black people in JJ's neighborhood.  He's determined to keep doing business in JJ's neighborhood; JJ wants him out.  By this time, JJ has already acquired the assistance of a group of black militants led by Diablo.  JJ and Diablo plot to get Tony Burton and his gang out of their neighborhood in a forceful, yet nonviolent way.  Burton, however, fuels the battle into an explosion of violence.

    The war climaxes when Burton kills Nate Williams and kidnaps his daughter Yvonne, with whom JJ is very intimate.  JJ, Diablo and the boys track down Burton and his gang, wiping them out and rescuing Yvonne.  Burton himself meets a grisly end, which I won't spoil for you if you haven't already seen the movie.  Needless to say, it was well-deserved.  YEAH!


Rod Perry as JJ
Damu King as Diablo
Jimmy Witherspoon as Nate Williams
Diane Sommerfield as Yvonne Williams (Nate's daughter)
Tony Burton as Sonny "Spider" Brown (former middleweight boxer and Nate's bodyguard)
Don Chastain as Tony Burton (white druglord)
Duncan McLeod as Lt. Joe Sterling (crooked white cop who works for all sides)

  In my opinion, it's always good to go with movies in sets.  This is a two-movie set featuring "TNT Jackson" and "Black Godfather".

Dolemite (1975)- Rudy Ray Moore stars as his Dolemite character in the first of two specifically "Dolemite" films.  His movies were cheaply-made productions meant to help sell his comedy records.  Moore was, after all, the "king of the party records".

Although not a real "good" movie, the Dolemite character is cool.  He's a lot meaner in this first movie, and not meant to be as funny.  He does have great, comedic lines, however, that he says when he demeans his enemies.  For instance, "That's what'ya git for f***in' with me!"

Pimp Dolemite, wrongfully arrested for a drug crime he did not commit, is released from prison to help the police take down Willie Green, the druglord who set him up.

Rudy Ray Moore as Dolemite
D'Urville Martin as Willie Green
Jerry Jones as Blakely
Lady Reed as Queen Bee

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If you're going to see anything "Dolemite", you're better off just buying this complete, definitive collection of his movies.

The Human Tornado (1976)- The second of Rudy Ray Moore's two movies as his Dolemite character.  This could be referred to as "Dolemite II", but the movie is so loosely based on the first that there is really no continuity.  Lady Reed, however, does reprise her role as Queen Bee, the overseer of Dolemite's hookers.

This movie is probably a bit better than the original "Dolemite", as it's purposely made to be a bit funnier.  It's still not a "good" movie, but it is amusing and entertaining.  Ernie Hudson, a really great actor that I've always admired, is credited here as Louis Hudson and plays Bo, one of Dolemite's "men".

Dolemite (again) is a pimp, who comes to the rescue of Lady Reed.  Her primarily black nightclub is being taken over by white Mafia-types, led by someone simply called Gang Leader (played by Herb Graham).  Meanwhile, while this is going on, redneck Sheriff Beatty has followed Dolemite all the way to the big city on a personal vendetta.  Beatty is WAY over the top...annoying, but funny.

Jerry Jones, again, stars in this Dolemite movie, but as Detective Pistol Pete Blakely.  He also wrote the movie, by the way.  This Blakely, however, seems to have little, if any, relevance to the Blakely he played in the first movie.  Jack Kelly, of TVs "Maverick" fame, stars as Captain Ryan, Blakely's boss.

The opening sequence of this movie is the absolute best part.  It's the scene where Sheriff Beatty crashes the black party held by Dolemite, and catches him with his wife.  Here we have one of the all-time greatest blaxploitation lines, said by Dolemite: "B****! Are you for real?!"  A chase scene pursues, where Dolemite gets away.  Then it cuts to the credits, with the theme song.  I like the theme song.  It's good and funky.


Rudy Ray Moore as Dolemite
Lady Reed as Queen Bee
Gloria Delaney as Hurricane Annie (Dolemite's "woman", credited as Glorya De Lani)
J.B. Baron as Sheriff Beatty (crazy redneck Sheriff)
Jerry Jones as Detective Pistol Pete Blakely (black cop)
Jack Ryan as Captain Ryan (Blakely's white boss)
Ernie Hudson as Bo (one of Dolemite's "men", credited as Louis Hudson)
Herb Graham as Gang Leader (crazy white Italian crime boss)
Jimmy Lynch as Mr. Motion

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If you're going to see anything "Dolemite", you're better off just buying this complete, definitive collection of his movies.

TNT Jackson (1975)- It's a cool vehicle for Jean Bell, also known as Jeannie Bell and credited here as Jeanne Bell.  Bell was a Playboy Playmate, and she had a great stint on "The Beverly Hillbillies" TV show.  Here she plays Diana "TNT" Jackson, a hip black woman in Hong Kong set to avenge the death of her brother.

There are cool things about this movie.  The movie as a whole was not done well.  The editing and quality of filming was pretty choppy.  But the idea of a blaxploitation movie set in Hong Kong is interesting.

The fight scenes are nowhere near believable.  But "black kung fu" was a hip thing in these movies.  It would've been better if they just brawled.  Stan Shaw is believable in his fighting, because he actually had some experience with it in real life prior to this film.  But for the most part, the fighting just looks so fakey.

Stan Shaw has always been a dependable actor and he proves it again here.  He's the major villain Charlie, a black martial arts expert who is a force to be reckoned with.  Although he's allegedly working for Sid, the official leader of the gang, Charlie is the real power and conspires to take over full control.  He succeeds.  He is also the man who murdered TNT's brother.

Pat Anderson plays Elaine, the undercover cop who is posing as the girlfriend of Sid.  She looks good and acts good, so I thought she was worth special mention.

I also like Chiquito, who plays Joe, TNT's eventual sidekick in Hong Kong.  He is actually a Filipino, but here he plays Chinese.  He's just a likable actor and had a good part.

What the movie suffers in tackiness is made up in bits and pieces of charm.  Still worth a watching and definitely a great opportunity for Jean Bell as a leading lady heroine.


Jean Bell as Diana "TNT" Jackson
Stan Shaw as Charlie
Chiquito as Joe
Pat Anderson as Elaine
Ken Metcalfe as Sid

In my opinion, it's always good to go with movies in sets.  This is a two-movie set featuring "TNT Jackson" and "Black Godfather".