Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: Disco Godfather (1979)

By 1979, blaxploitation was dead. Cool flicks about soul brothers fighting the Man had been replaced with sanitized TV shows like “What's Happening!!” and “The Jeffersons.” Other fad films had appeared to fill the grindhouses and drive-ins of America. Such as the disco movie. Ruby Ray Moore obviously still wanted to make his weird-ass movies. The once and future Dolemite pursued the disco fad as an excuse to gift the world with maybe his most gonzo production yet. “Disco Godfather” is one of Moore's most celebrated motion pictures. Not because it's actually, you know, good. People still talk about this one because it's completely fucking insane.

Tucker Williams runs a wildly popular disco club, a pillar of his community. His reputation is such that he's known far and wide as the Disco Godfather. One fateful night, his beloved nephew Bucky gets dosed up with some PCP. The boy freaks out, falling into a dissociative state that lasts for weeks. Tucker is so incensed by this tragedy that he's determined to get to the bottom of the local angel dust business. Williams uncovers a drug dealing ring controlled by Stinger Ray, a sports celebrity. As the Disco Godfather draws closer and closer to Stinger's operation, his friends and loved ones are put in even more danger.

“Disco Godfather” is hilarious. Much of that hilarity comes from the utmost sincerity with which Ruby Ray Moore expresses his hatred of drugs and drug dealers. The terms “angel dust” and “whack” are spoken so much, the audience can't help but laugh. (One of the actresses clearly cracks up while giving a speech about the dangers of “whack.”) After Bucky freaks out, Moore's shouts of “What has he HAY-AD?” are hysterical. A lengthy sequence is set in a clinic of kids broken from angel dust. Such as a babysitter who cooked the baby or a kid who thinks he's a caterpillar. Moore even seems to have soften his trademark ribald content, seemingly in hopes of reaching a younger audience. Granted, there's still a moment sweet love makin' and some profanity. Yet the violence, swearing, and sex jokes have been ratcheted way back. Moore really wants the audience to know that drugs are bad. And angel dust is the worst.

Truthfully, the anti-drug message is clearly the main purpose of “Disco Godfather.” Despite the title, the disco elements are secondary to the film's point. Don't be confused though. This movie still has a shit ton of disco in it. The first half is full of long sequence of people dancing inside Tucker's club. There's even a dance number on roller skates. Ruby Ray Moore overlooks the crowded dance floor, wearing a number of totally ridiculous disco suits. For some reason, Moore was convinced that “Put your weight on it!” was a common phrase uttered in dance clubs. He must have believed this, because he says the line roughly ten thousand times. Even when characters aren't dancing, a funky, disco soundtrack echoes out of your speakers.

All of this stuff is varying degrees of amusing but that's not why “Disco Godfather” is so adored. Instead, the movie's insane PCP freak outs are its biggest source of unintentional comedy. The film takes us inside the heads of people tripping on angel dust. And what do they see? A hag in a fright wig swinging a machete, highlighted by purple lighting. The sound design goes nut.  Sometimes, the drug users imagine their limbs being chopped off or a basketball players shooting at them. As “Disco Godfather” goes on, the freak-outs become more high strung. Skeletons, people in monster masks, and glowing eyes appear on-screen. When this isn't happening, the actors just scream furiously at the camera, mugging like crazy. Ruby Ray Moore does this too, his tortured screams leading to some of the film's biggest laughs. There's also an exorcism thrown in for some reason.

An alternate title for “Disco Godfather” is “Avenging Disco Godfather.” Indeed, the disco godfather does do some avenging. Once again, Ruby Ray Moore attempts to perform kung-fu. Once again, he fails. His kicks, flips, and chops are as slow and awkward as they always were. Moore skips the sped-up footage, drawing more attention to his stiff movements. The most memorable action involves Moore stomping on the neck of a weirdo enemy who gets off on whipping his enemy. Near the end, a dosed-up Tucker squeezes a burly henchman's neck between his ankles. Amazingly, Moore actually scrounged up some actually talent martial artists for the supporting parts, leading to some competent fight scenes. Don't be too impressed, as these fights are shot in a shaky, incoherent fashion.

Moore's last three movies were funny on purpose, at least some of the time. With “Disco Godfather,” he was attempting to make a more serious motion picture. Luckily for the audience, Moore was insane and couldn't resist making a totally bug-nuts movie. The film is utterly mad up until the final scene, where we cut roughly from a serious moment to the jovial end credits. The disco stuff is a bit dry and the overall film just isn't as charming as his earlier output. Yet “Disco Godfather” must still be seen to be believed. The whole thing is worth it for those delightfully crazy drug trips. It's a film that will certainly make you put your weight on it. [7/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[X] Brothels or Pimps
[X] Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
[] Homophobic Caricatures
[X] Inner-City Setting
[X] Night Club Act
[X] Plot Involving Drugs or Organized Crime
[] Racist Authority Figures
[X] Sticking It to the Man
[X] Sweet Love Makin'
[X] Use of Street Slang

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