Monday, March 20, 2017
BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: Dolemite (1975)
Ruby Ray Moore. A stand-up comic by trade, Moore would release a successful series of party albums in the sixties and seventies. His ribald, rhyming, free form monologues are considered by many to be a precursor to rap music. These same albums introduced the character of Dolemite, a folk hero alter ego of Moore's. When Ruby decided to take “Dolemite” to the big screen, he did so with even less money than most other blaxploitation filmmakers. Moore didn't let a lack of competence or resources keep him from creating a cult classic and launching a defiantly unique film career.
Dolemite is the greatest pimp of all time. As his story begins, he's locked up in jail. After hearing that his cousin has been murdered, Dolemite is released and given a chance to prove his innocence. He comes back to his neighborhood and finds that a rival pimp, Willie Green, has taken over his night club and pushed out most of his girls. Luckily, Dolemite's brothel mother Queen Bee has taught his remaining hookers the art of kung-fu. Armed with a unique sense of rhythm and an army of deadly prostitute, Dolemite is primed to take back the territory that is his.
the Titanic and the other about the Signifying Monkey, you can see his appeal. Moore has a way with profanity, creating bizarre turns of phrase - “rat soup eatin' honky!,” “born insecure motherfucker!” – and punctuating them with an unusual delivery. After being sprung from prison, Dolemite discards his prison uniform while berating those around him about cotton draws. He laughs maniacally while firing a machine gun. Spending most of the movie dressed in elaborate pimp garb, Ruby Ray Moore projects an off-center but certainly entertaining style.
It must be stressed that “Dolemite” is not a professional, Hollywood film. It's home-made production values are evident throughout. The camera often moves spasmodically during many scenes. The editing is sudden and rough. Such as the final scene, which ends on the most jarring freeze frame I've ever seen. The acting is deeply unpolished. Most performers rigidly recite their dialogue. Aside from Dolemite's colorful expressions, most of the screenplay is utter nonsense. The story jerks about, essentially wasting time until Dolemite can confront Willie Green and the dirty cops that killed his cousin. Most prominently, the boom mic appears on screen so often that it deserves a Screen Actors Guild card. The microphone doesn't merely bop into frame occasionally. It floats above the actor's heads for entire sequences.
the Hamburger Pimp. The actor playing the character is either an excellent performer or a genuine drug addict, as his strange walk and slurred delivery is extremely convincing. Memorably, he declares that he's so tough he “kicks his own ass twice a day.” Later, an actor playing a corrupt politician is so sleazy and unpleasant, the sweat practically oozes off the screen. It's a matter of opinion if the people making “Dolemite” created a real movie but you can't deny how much fun they had.
The lack of resources available to Moore and his team is most apparent during the action sequences. After leaving prison, Dolemite murders some bad dudes on a country road. The timing between the fired blanks and the spurting squibs is horribly off. When Dolemite has to beat up his opponents, Moore's limitations as a performer become especially clear. The dude can't make a kick connect to save his life. His kung-fu is painfully slow. The actresses playing Dolemite's army of martial artist hookers are no more competent, flaying about in an incredibly disorganized emulation of actual fighting. A late film brawl in a night club is awkwardly choreographed, to say the least, concluding with Dolemite disemboweling Willie Green with his bare hands. Or, at least, that's what I think happens.
[THE BLAXPLOITATION CHECKLIST: 11 outta 12]
[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
[X] Racist Authority Figures
[X] Sticking It to the Man
[X] Sweet Love Makin'
[X] Use of Street Slang