Monday, May 30, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Something amazing is on my desktop

And it isn't the MechaGodzilla in the background!  Though he is most impressive too (And well he should be, as he came here all the way from Japan via a curio gift shop in Nantes).  No, I'm speaking of the new full DVD boxed set of 1974's Ellery Queen TV series.  It's been unavailable up till now, and indeed I'd assumed I would never see it again till we were lucky enough to catch it running on BBC TV during our years in France.  As of this year, it's out on DVD and can be had from sources like Amazon for as little as $30.  And where it has an average of 5 Stars from 136 reviews, I might add, with nothing below a 4 star comment.

Ellery Queen is one of my favorite TV series of all time.  Why, you ask?  What appeal could there possibly be in a show set in the 40's but made in the 70's, full of 40's characters inexplicably sporting wide collars and bellbottom pants?  It's not in the stories or the acting or any of that, though all elements mesh very well, but is instead in the fact that Ellery Queen was the first (To my knowledge) interactive TV.  That is to say, you have to work your brain while watching it, and the best enjoyment doesn't come from sitting slack-jawed and passive while the show washes over you, but rather from watching it with a like-minded friend or spouse and working the mysteries yourselves.

You see, the hook is this - Unlike most other mystery shows where you're shown the killer, or the hero solves the problem using deux ex machina, Ellery Queen puts everything in front of you except the identity of the culprit.  Ellery investigates, and you get the clues as Ellery encounters them.  You're on an even footing with the TV detective until that magic point sometime around the 35-40 minute mark when Ellery breaks the fourth wall and turns to you, the audience, with his classic, "And suddenly I knew it - I knew who the killer was!  The clues were right there all along.  Did you get it?  Did you think it was the gardener too?  Or was that too obvious?  Let's see how you did."...  and then we're off to the suspect roundup and finish, when Ellery lays out the evidence and fingers the bad guy.

This works fantastically well on DVD, far better than it ever did on network TV thanks to the wonder of the pause button.  Watch this with a good friend and you're in for an hour of fun debate.  Watch.  Pause.  "Where did that guy just go?  How did he have a key to that door?"  Watch.  Pause.  "And look, he just walked past that door a few minutes later and it's standing open."  It goes like that.  You watch every interaction and every conversation, always on the lookout for those crucial slips that will point you to the murderer.  Emily and I have a grand time of this, going back and forth with a hundred crazy theories per episode.  And while the shows themselves are mellow and leisurely in pace, the tension mounts like mad in the living room as you're all watching the clock tick down towards that inevitable moment when Ellery will do his "Talk to the audience" schtick and you'll know there are no more clues forthcoming.  That's the worst of it, when you're back and forth on evidence and have NO idea who the killer was and seem to have missed everything, and you're literally two minutes away from Ellery's big speech.

So, as interactive TV goes, it's a big win.  Far ahead of its time.  It's the perfect evening's entertainment for any mystery-loving family or group of friends.  While the stories themselves may be standard mystery fare, it's the gimmick that (for once) is more than just a gimmick - It really is the raison d'être of the show.  And the coup de grâce lies in the show's stellar cast of guest stars - Every episode we are treated to walk-on parts from the likes of Vincent Price, Don Ameche, Dana Andrews, George Burns, Joan Collins, Eva Gabor, Roddy McDowall, Cesar Romero, and more.  And Jim Hutton's performance as the affable Ellery stands up to all these folks - It's a tragedy that he died so young, but we could all hope to leave behind such a memorial.
10/10 from me.


Oh, and by the way...  Did I even mention the excellent theme by none other than Elmer Bernstein?  Here's a typical intro, opening with the mystery layout and flowing into the marvelous opening music:


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Moon

NetFlix
IMDB
My Rating: 7/10

An astronaut living alone on a lunar base is coming to the end of his three year work contract.  His years of isolation have left him craving human interaction, but as his final day approaches, he starts to discover disturbing things about his base and himself.

Here is a 2009 indie film that I think nearly all our KFP visitors would love.   It's the director's first feature, made on a measly budget of $5 million by a devoted fan of serious SF of the pre-Star Wars years.   I'm speaking of that non-flashy school of SF films that at least made some pretense of trying to be science fiction, from 2001 to Silent Running to Blade Runner to Outland.  That sort of SF seems to have pretty much died out in cinemas, despite brief exceptions like Gattaca.  It's the stuff that Heinlein/Asimov/Clarke grognards would call "real science fiction" instead of "space opera", dominated by ruminating on the possible impact of scientific advancement on our lives.

Moon, like Triangle, is really hard to write a review about because I don't want to give away anything about the story. I would also REALLY avoid reading the IMDB page for this one if you might want to see it, because it is spoiler central with no regard whatsoever for the dramatic impact of the film's central thesis. Here's what is safe to say - The movie is about one astronaut responsible for solo operation of a lunar mineral harvesting station, who is coming to the end of his three year tour of duty and suffering from prolonged isolation. His only companion is the station's AI and helper robot, GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey. I will say nothing about the plot other than that it is good, gripping, and if you liked the general themes and ambiance of movies like "Silent Running" and "Outland", you will like this.   Lots of good ideas here about future tech, and not a laser pistol battle or space dogfight in sight.  Not that these things are bad, mind, it's just that a little brain protein in the diet helps make Johnny healthier than just consuming Twinkies all day.

In lieu of talking about the plot, I should mention some cool sidebar bits about the film. It is the first SF film made since forever that uses all miniature SPFX instead of CGI. The director has said there is CGI in the film but it's only in places where you can't notice it, instead of being the main show. The funny part is that the director had to find all these 70 year old dinosaur SPFX guys and haul them out of retirement to help with this, because all the effects houses currently running were too expensive and didn't know a thing about building models and using camera tracking and such. So, it gives the movie a unique look in this day and age, and it really looks quite good. It's the opposite of CGI in a way, because my eye would look at a rover and think, "That's a model", instead of looking at an entire scene and thinking, "None of this exists at all". For example:


Personally, I thought the effects work was terrific, though it is not an effects-dominated movie by any means. They also went to a lot of trouble to give everything a look of realistic tech, and "very used tech". 70's kids will be instantly comfortable with the design motif:



They really did a terrific job on a drink-cart budget.

I also have to give major kudos to GERTY, for general design and personality. GERTY is something like the station's housekeeper, responsible for keeping our hero alive and functional, and looking after the mining operations. GERTY is a great robot, one of the better ones, and combines the eerie AI of HAL with the sort of clumsy charm of the Silent Running droids. He also looks like a real robot, which gets extra points from me, in the sense that he looks absolutely nothing like anything but an extremely dexterous arm hanging from the ceiling and a box with a smiley screen on it. All the corridors have tracks in the ceiling so GERTY is constantly wired directly to the station and just glides around the halls like some giant robotic bat. His video screen, intended to facilitate emotional relations with humans, is both touching and creepy in equal parts, given that his emotional expression is done via smileys:



Going off on a tangent here... Just recently I saw a news article on the shiny new "home robots" from RoboDynamics (Article here).  They are beautiful things, lovely to be sure:


Yet despite all the press hoopla and "synergistic monetizing of cloud-based open sourcing" corporate-speak of the news stories, I find myself looking at this iRobot thing and wondering what the heck it can do.  It has no useful arms, it can't manipulate anything, it's too tall to work as an under-chair vacuum cleaner like the excellent Roomba...  I dunno.  GERTY, to my mind, is perhaps the best example of a useful household robot that I've yet seen in films, or at least the most realistic.  I've always tended to favor the practical robot designs, though - The droids in Silent Running and R2D2 both exemplified the look of a robot designed for a purpose, rather than to look pretty.  One of these days I will satisfy my deep robot craving and get myself a Roomba, if only for the fun of watching it chase the cats.

Back to the movie!  And yet... that's about all I can say about the film without going spoilerish. Neat old-style SPFX and a great robot. The movie was supposedly shown in advance screenings to NASA employees for their seal of approval, which isn't something you'd hear about the latest Star Wars prequel. Moon is out on DVD now. Here is the trailer from YouTube, which gives an excellent idea of what the film is like, but be warned that it is a *bit* spoilerific - It doesn't give away any major scenes or storyline, but it does show a couple of things that become the focus of the story, though you may not recognize them as they pass. Watch at your own risk, depending on how much of the premise you want to know before renting/buying:



I highly approve of this movie!


Suggested Accompaniment:  Ecigs.  Seriously, what else could you smoke during a near-future SF film but a near-future alternative to tobacco?

 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Triangle

NetFlix
IMDB
My Rating: 8/10

A young woman goes on an ocean cruise with friends, only to have their boat wrecked by a mysterious storm.  They believe they are saved when a cruise ship passes by, but investigating the ship proves it to be abandoned... Mostly.
I'll come right out and say this was one of the best movies I saw last year.  It isn't for everyone, though - It requires patience and a lot of mental machinations.  But you won't think that at the start because the plot sounds like half a dozen other "Ghost Ship" movies and when the action kicks in and the group find themselves stalked by a masked killer, it looks like you've simply stumbled into a generic slasher... Sort of a Friday the 13th on the Ghost Titanic.

This is not at all the case, however.

The problem with reviewing it is that I can't say ANYTHING about it - This is a movie review that is not a movie review, beyond saying, "Watch this". Do NOT look it up on IMDB or it will be totally spoilered for you. Also, don't even look up poster images for it. I like the poster above because it is extremely generic yet unsettling, and that's all the advance warning that anyone should have going into this.. Unfortunately, several of the movie's posters that turn up in Google searches totally spoiler the film....duh? Too many clearly show the central dichotomy that drives the concept, leaving no room for surprise.

And alas, that is literally the most that I can describe about this film, beyond saying that it is a marvelous exercise for the brain and that it will leave you wondering and talking about it long afterward as you debate with your friends the various meanings and symbols and interconnections within the story.

I can say this:


It is NOT "Ghost Ship" or any of the other "big empty haunted ship" movies.


If you liked Lost, you will like this.


If you liked Timecrimes, you will LOVE this, but it is NOT the same story. 


If you like movies that make you think, you will like this.


It is not a horror film. It is a mystery/thriller with horror elements. It is also a Chinese puzzle box of a movie. 


There are moments that will provoke an audible, "Oh, shit!" from you.  (One scene in particular created one of the strongest reactions of horror that I've had in a long time, probably since seeing [REC])


**  One addendum - I really found myself quite happy that this movie has no "twist", as shouted in some of the posters and promos. Ever since Shymalyalyan appeared, it's seemed as if Hollywood thinks all horror movies need a twist ending, where you find out the killer is really her brother or whatever. I've gotten very bored with that because twists have become formulaic, which blows the whole idea of the twist in the first place if you're sitting there waiting for the twist. Triangle is just one simple, powerful idea.

And finally, once you've viewed the movie, try this challenge.  Sit down and see if you can create a flowchart of events to explain how her keys got onto the Aeolus...


  Suggested Accompaniment: This is not a drinking movie because you'll need all your wits about you by the time you're at the 3/4 mark.  Pipes are encouraged, however, because we all know that smoking a pipe makes you smarter and thus better equipped to tackle some of the brain-stretching themes encapsulated in this story.

 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Catman of Paris (1946)

NetFlix (3/5)
IMDB (5.4/10)
My Rating: 5/10

A troubled author suffers memory lapses and suspects he may be transforming into a killer were-cat and stalking the streets of Paris.  As the bodies pile up, who can he trust?

Sometime back in the misty depths of the middle 1970's, there's a young Me collecting Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines and poring over all the black & white photos from exotic monster movies that are well nigh unattainable, unless he's really, really lucky with the Late Show.  One of those photos grabs his attention - A ferocious looking wolfman-like creature, incongruously wearing a top hat and cape, menaces a woman in a fancy gown who tries to hold it at bay with a pistol.  He thinks this flick looks as cool as another fave, Werewolf of London, because seeing monsters dressed up in 19th century garb is somehow so bizarre that it's fascinating.  Why would a wolfman wear a scarf?  Why does this catman put on a top hat?  Is there some upper crust echelon of movie monsters that won't leave home without a proper dinner jacket?  In any case, young Me remembers the photo and always keeps an eye out for Catman of Paris in every new TV Guide's movie listings, but no such luck...  It may as well not exist.  Today, however, thanks to the wonders of Netflix and their crazily-populated streaming libraries, young Me finally got his wish.



So what the heck is this, anyway?  Well, the best definition is that it's a Val Lewton wannabe, a sort of weird fusion of 40's film noir and classic horror that really wants to be a Wolfman but just doesn't quite make it due to uneven pacing, a hard-to-buy storyline, and the ultimate sin of Not Enough Monster.  This movie needs MORE MONSTER.  It flails around in the middle ground between beastie features like Dracula and "Is it real?" mystery-thrillers like Cat People, never really sure if it wants to come right out and be a crazy lycanthrope movie or go full Scooby Doo and yank the curtains back to reveal that it's just Old Man Farmer in a mask.  Surreal touches don't help - After the first murder, the Paris chief inspector has built, in his office and overnight, a miniature diorama of the murder scene, complete with tiny plastic trees and modelled cobblestone streets... but WHY?  And how?  (I lived in France.  You can't get a letter mailed to your next door neighbor overnight.)  This mini-Paris is shown for a scene or two and then totally forgotten, leaving you to wonder about this copper who spends his office time playing with tiny toy murder victims.

Reviewers on IMDB complain about the pacing - I didn't have a problem with it.  In fact, I thought it moved pretty briskly if you're accustomed to appreciating the nature of film noir, where dialog and character interaction take the place of the car chases and backflipping karate battles of modern films.  It's only 65 minutes long, and in that tight frame we have several murders, a crazy cat man, a government conspiracy, a publishing empire on the verge of ruin, a bitchy fiance determined to force her man into marriage, an expert in ancient cat people legends, a three way love triangle, a fight scene right out of Wild Wild West, and even a horse-drawn carriage chase scene - Who could get bored?  Also, and I give them great props here, when he does appear, the Catman is a fearsome thing.  He maxes out the creep factor very nicely using just minimal makeup, again much like my favorite wolfie, Werewolf of London.

Our hero Charles Regnier moves the story along as he pursues such quintessentially French activities as going out to dinner repeatedly, going out for coffee, and juggling a fiance and a mistress.  Is he a were-cat?  Seems in his past, he traveled the world and was exposed to bizarre tropical fevers which left him comatose for a long time.  Periodically, he's afflicted by a condition we'll call Obvious Plot Device, where he has a headache that forces him to leave his companions and venture out alone into the streets, where he promptly blacks out and awakens a day later, after another gruesome kitty murder.

The cat theme doesn't help the story.  Cats are not wolves.  This seems obvious, but Cat People got around this by intimating that Irena might be transforming into a decidedly panther-sized animal.  Here, our hero sees visions of arctic wastes (?) and black housecats, and when the Catman attacks we're treated to a lot of howling catfight noises that will freak out your own felines, but mostly make grown humans chuckle.  He looks scarier than he sounds.  Fortunately, he's aided by some great shadow play that amps up his first big kill and announces very loudly that the director has seen Nosferatu.

We're presented with a very visual Catman, yet the story remains stuck firmly in film noir territory - Is our hero the Catman?  Is it all just a fake?  What does it have to do with this government cover-up happening in the background?  While the amazingly credulous police jump right onto the were-cat angle (The senior fellow doesn't bat an eye as he pops out with, "It's obvious that what we have here is a human who is transforming into a catlike beast!" - Is this a common thing in Paris?), our main characters are more skeptical and the movie becomes a whodunnit as Charles stays one step ahead of the police.  Sadly, this involves a very long, Catman-free middle act that will try the patience of horror movie buffs.  If you want noir, you get noir, but viewers wanting more wolf-out antics will start dropping out around the 30 minute mark.  Van Helsing fans, however, will enjoy the late entry Basil Exposition character, who just happens to be a walking storehouse of Catman lore and myth all crammed into one crazy-haired package... Unfortunately again, he's a character that gets too little screen time.

It redeems itself at the end, however, with a cracking climax that sets up an ideal peril situation before you even know it's happening, and when we reach our Scooby Doo moment it turns out to be many things at once - A villain unmasking, a WTF, an, "Aha!  So, Watson, you see...", and a Darth Vader death scene all rolled into one bizarro mixture that really doesn't make a lot of sense at all.  And then BAM, we're End Credits so fast you can practically hear the director barking about the price of an extra five minutes of film stock.

Bottom line - It's an obscure oddity, not great, not bad, but certainly worth viewing for any fans of noir, classic Universal horror, or Val Lewton.  Don't expect it to be on the level of any of the above, and you'll probably get some enjoyment from it.  Like Werewolf of London, it has that lesser-sibling appeal - Everyone knows its more famous, bigger budgeted brother, but if you're willing to show it some attention, it isn't without charms of its own.  Extra credit goes to the wildly varying French accents of the actors, some of whom do a great job portraying the locals while others speak in Clouseau voice or just don't give a damn - The "French" chief inspector looks American, talks American, and gives his French character all the localized characteristics of Sean Connery's, "Och, less nae hie back tae thae Kremlin noo, laddies" Russian sub commander in Hunt for Red October.

Suggested Accompaniment:  You have at least one French pipe, yes?  A Butz Choquin, an Enrique, or even one of our own Ligne Bretagnes?  Dig it out and find a good coffee-flavored blend, something with some added flavoring that brings to mind the smell of the Cafe du Bois (I'd suggest a French tobacco, except that there are no good French pipe tobaccos, so you'll have to approximate as best you're able).  Mix in something offbeat to drink - A wheat beer, maybe, or one of those microbrew limited runs that they claim they're only making 9 bottles of, each one stored in oak casks that were salvaged from a 17th century derelict three master.  It's a rare movie that not many people have seen and probably even fewer care much about, so pick some unusual libations to go along with it, and enjoy!


    

Saturday, May 7, 2011

There's nothing out there

NetFlix (Not Available) 3/5
Amazon 2 Disc Anniversary DVD (4/5)
IMDB (6/10)
My Rating: 5/10

Various teens played by 30-somethings go into the woods to party and get eaten by a squishy green horseshoe crab in the first self-aware horror film.
I mentioned this in my previous review for Madhouse.  While Scream gets all the attention as being the movie that introduced self-parody to horror, in reality it was this little known flick from a few years earlier.  Sadly, Scream went on to become a major franchise under which we are still suffering, while TNOT's micro-budgeted makeup consigned it to the videostore horror box shelf and thence to the VHS $1 sellout.  And speaking of video stores, damn, but the opening scene of this movie will bring back memories!  A generic killer chases Young Blond Thing through the classic 1989 neighborhood video store, and we're treated to a great visual flashback of covers and titles amid the sound of clattering VHS clamshell boxes.

One has to get past the low rent look.  It's the equivalent of today's digicam projects, with homemade props and friends for actors, but there's a goodly amount of heart and wit in this thing that makes it worth seeing for any monster movie geek with an interest in the obscure.  Because the hook is that it's aware of what it is - In the film, we get two bouncy young couples and their understandably dateless friend Mike, and Mike knows what kind of movie he's in.  You see, Mike is a horror nut - Works in a video store, reads the film mags, and has seen everything ever made that involved bumpy things in the night.  Mike knows the signs.  When our group passes a mysteriously crashed car (with missing driver) on the way to their getaway cabin, Mike recognizes it immediately as The Warning.  The rest of the group laugh this off and the movie progresses, with Mike growing increasingly paranoid and frantic as he spots sign after sign that his Scooby gang has driven right into a horror movie.  While the rest of the group launches into drinking and illicit sex in the woods, Mike knows what to do:


For the first part of the film, Mike grates on the nerves - He's overdoing it and you just want him to hush, but as it progresses (and particularly after the first real LOL fight scene moment), you'll come to cheer for the guy as he rises to the occasion to become the hero.  Unlike that annoying "Rules" guy in Scream, Mike is never condescending of the genre - Scream's Rule Boy radiated smug "I'm cooler than this" snark in his movie-awareness scenes, but Mike is a fountain of both love-of-genre and understandable terror-of-genre.  He doesn't smirk while his friends are getting killed, he makes sure everyone stays together and doesn't walk backwards... and that the lights STAY ON.  In the process, he gets in a number of funny/exasperated comments about the cliches of horror movies:

video

In fact, the script is full of all sorts of quotable dialog, with most of the zingers going to Mike:

Doreen: You really think there's something out there trying to kill us?
[Something inside the house breaks]
Mike: No, now it may be inside. 



[Stacy is vulnerable to an attack from the creature]
Mike: Is someone paying you to stand by an open window? There are some razor blades in the corner you can play with if you like. 



Doreen: Where's Jim?
Mike: He's melting in the other room. 


The monster itself is a hilarious thing, a sort of stuffed green trash bag with tentacles and teeth, that scuttles around the ground like some carnivorous Roomba using its laser eyes to control victims' minds, its lethal saliva to dissolve them into Slurpies, and its apparent love of catfights to kick off one of the campiest cheesetastic moments as mind-controlled girl and bikini girl battle for the fate of the household. It's a $5 beastie straight out of a 50's Corman opus that's worth a whole popcorn bag to behold, because it has a ton of personality and its wrestling interactions with our characters keep us entertained through the whole second half of the film.  Captain Midnight would approve.


The movie careens through the second half right to one of the greatest endings in the history of horror films, a final moment that will make you laugh and cheer all at once as our survivors demonstrate that they're no longer those vapid slasher-movie characters you've shouted at over the years, splitting up in the woods, dropping their flashlights, and going down to check on that cellar noise alone.

My mid-level review is purely on the basis of things clearly not in the control of the filmmakers - The film quality, the wildly varying acting, and an amateurish unevenness dog down the movie even as its spirit, charm and wit buoy it up.  If you've ever enjoyed an 80's "Cabin in the woods" film or a 50's "Crawling brain on the loose" film, you'll probably find this pastiche of both to be an enjoyable evening's hoot.

Suggested Accompaniment:  I'm tempted to say cigars on this one, since it doesn't seem to be much of a pipe movie, but with one exception - It works as a straight billiard film, if you want to revel in the whole uber-serious drive-in Roger Corman scientist vibe.  You're going to sit there looking just like this:


BUT, if you're like me and have no worries about looking silly, go for it.  I'm also going to call this a cheap wine movie instead of a cheap beer movie - There's just something about it that makes it a good fit for wine-in-a-box, and the lubricating qualities of the alcohol will help ease you through the occasional dull spots and patchy dialog.


   

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Black Dynamite

NetFlix
IMDB
My Rating: 7/10

This is the story of 1970s African-American action legend Black Dynamite. The Man killed his brother, pumped heroin into local orphanages, and flooded the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor. Black Dynamite was the one hero willing to fight The Man all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House..

I wasn't sure what to expect, going into this, since I'd already seen "I'm gonna git you, sucka" many years ago and assumed another blaxploitation parody would have to be pretty much the same thing. Fortunately, Black Dynamite is hilarious in a whole different way.  Black Dynamite is more along the lines of something like OSS-117 - A very careful, very faithful recreation of the movies of its genre, right down to the film stock, lighting, sets, styles of acting and fights, and everything else. The humor is in the material itself, and the fact that the characters take it all completely seriously.  There are no outright gags - Instead, they go the Galaxy Quest route and lovingly recreate the object of their parody in a version that encapsulates all the endearing flaws of the original product, and puts them on display for grins.

A lot of the gags in the film are actually subtle and sneaky, despite the OTT subject matter, like in this fight scene. Keep your eyes on the nunchuks. [image]  Also, enjoy the awesome theme music, which kicks ass (and I already have the soundtrack).



It starts off fairly slow and I was wondering if I'd get any laughs out of it at all, then I was pulled into it and got in the groove with its style of humor, and once it bites, it just gets funnier and funnier as it goes.

The plot is pretty basic. Drug dealers kill Black Dynamite's younger brother and Black Dynamite sets out to clean up the streets, with help from his buddies, a pack of karate women, the local pimps' organization, a band of Black Panthers, and so on. Black Dynamite uncovers a chain of corruption that starts with Anaconda Malt Liquor ("When the cap pops, the panties drop!") and carries his fight to mob bosses, pimps, and all the way to Kung Fu Island and beyond.

It's also full of great lines:

Black Dynamite: Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!

Black Dynamite: Fiendish Doctor Wu, you done fucked up now!

Afroditey: I get off in fifteen minutes.
Black Dynamite: You right about that, sugar. You right about that.

The names in this flick are priceless. Mahogany Black, Chocolate Giddy-Up, Mo Bitches. I'm sure that somewhere out there is a very politically correct, racially sensitive person who was absolutely horrified by this film, but I mostly just feel sorry for them.  I once read an interesting conversation with blaxploitation goddess Pam Grier on the 70's wave, and she had a lot of things to say on the subject of racism in movies.  Towards the end of the 70's, the NAACP essentially shut down the blaxploitation craze, claiming it was disrespectful to black people, portrayed them in stereotypical ways, and glorified violence.  Pam's rebuttal was that it was a 10 year long output of films about black people, with all-black casts, black stars as the heroes, not secondary roles, and that every film was built on a rejection of drugs and poverty.  When the blaxploitation craze died, we went back to another 15 years of Hollywood films in which the only black character was Clint Eastwood's doomed sidekick, or the first guy to get murdered by Jason.  I think it's safe to say that this was not an improvement.  So toast one for the glory days of cleanin' up the streets, Black Dynamite-style.  Definitely worth seeing!





**Note - While I say worth seeing, a second thought suggests that this is going to be most effective for those who have seen a few blaxploitation flicks. If you haven't seen Shaft, Coffy, or especially Dolemite, it's possible some of the humor would be lost on you.... Like a non-Trek fan watching Galaxy Quest, or a non-60's Bond fan watching OSS-117. FWIW, though, I thought it was probably the best 70's exploitation parody I've seen since Kentucky Fried Movie.  If you're too young to have ever been to a drive-in, then this probably isn't the movie for you.  But why are you reading this blog anyway?


Suggested Accompaniment: Anaconda Malt Liquor, of course.  Also, big cigars are OK if you're feeling in the mood to be villainous Whitey.  

   
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