Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: The Human Tornado (1976)

“Dolemite” concluded with Ruby Ray Moore assuring the audience that his superheroic, pimping alter ego would return. He wasn't lying. The very next year, “The Human Tornado” would roll onto theater screen. The film would have slightly higher production values then its predecessor, taking Dolemite across the country and giving viewers a considerably more competent final product. The boom mic puts in fewer appearances but Ruby Ray Moore's excessively wacky sense of humor is no less restrained. In fact, “The Human Tornado” gives us even more of a peek into its eccentric creator's mind. The sequel tops the original by being completely fucking nuts.

Since banishing his pimping rival in New York City, Dolemite has set out on a country wide stand-up comedy tour. A celebratory party in Alabama is interrupted when the incredibly racist local police storm in. He discovers Dolemite sleeping with his wife, a white woman that can't resist Dolemite's sexual charisma. The scene explodes into violence, forcing Dolemite and his friends to flee to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Queen Bee's L.A night club is threatened with violence by a mafia-backed rival club. The mobsters kidnap two of Dolemite's girls, forcing the Human Tornado to put his feet up some honky asses.

“The Human Tornado” blurs the line between Ruby Ray Moore and his cinematic persona. As far as the previous film was concerned, Dolemite was not a stand-up comedian. Yet “The Human Tornado” opens with Dolemite successfully performing a comedy club, telling a series of ribald jokes and playfully insulting people in the crowd. The film also downplays Dolemite's pimping past, making it seem more and more like Moore is mostly just playing himself. To further confirm this, Moore rhymes his dialogue in practically every scene. As expected, the script is peppered with colorfully profane language. Yes, somebody is called a “rat soup eatin' motherfucker” and accused of being born insecure, among other epitaphs that probably only made sense to Moore. If your on Moore's nonsensically vulgar wavelength, it's likely you'll laugh a whole lot.

In my previous two reviews, I mentioned how blaxploitation movies made later in the seventies seem to downplay the revolutionary aspects of the genre. The later a film is made, the less likely you are to see a black hero battling racist, white villains. But Ruby Ray Moore does his own thing. “The Human Tornado” maybe the most directly confrontational blaxploitation film since “Sweetback.” After a pair of hicks spot Dolemite's party in an early scene, they immediately start tossing around N-bombs. The Alabama police are virulently racist. So are the mobsters. Even minor characters, like the L.A police chief investigating Dolemite's case, are full of hate. Dolemite directly disposes of most of the villains himself, when he isn't making love to white women overwhelmed by his masculine charms. “The Human Tornado” is a refreshingly retaliatory fantasy, about a black hero dismantling a racist system single-handedly.

This might've come off as heavy handed if “The Human Tornado” wasn't hilarious. Luckily, it is an amazingly bonkers comedy. The humor often veers towards the absurd or the surreal. After making a nude leap down a hillside, Moore pauses and rewinds the film to assure the audience he performed the fall himself. Moore's voice-over often plays in a loose manner, giving us odd peaks into the mind of the film's creator. In an especially goofy turn, the villains torture Dolemite's girls in a hokey, monster movie style dungeon. Dolemite's approach to sex often pushes the movie towards its strangest digressions. He visits an old lady friend and takes her to bed... Where they perform literal exercises. In my favorite scene, Dolemtie hypnotizes the wife of a gangster with a painting of interracial loving. This leads to an elaborate sex scene, where the movie imagines herself on giant children's blocks, ravaged by black bodybuilders who emerge from a toy box. It's a bizarre sequence mostly disconnected from the rest of the movie but I'm so glad it's in there.

In its last act, “The Human Tornado” shifts towards utter insanity. While Queen Bee's ladies distracts the villain, Dolemite sneaks into his mansion to save the girls. Last time, I noted Ruby Ray Moore's obvious lack of martial arts skills. He hasn't gotten any better. In hopes of covering this up, “The Human Tornado” plays the fight scenes in fast motion. What follows are a bunch of scenes of Dolemite clobbering his opponents in an exaggerated, ridiculous manner. This turns the movie into even more of a live action cartoon. Before too long, Dolemite's army of kung-fu girls enter the fray, the film exploding into a series of goofily choreographed, intentionally silly fight scenes. It certainly takes the film out on a memorably wacky note.

Cliff Roquemore and Jerry Jones, frequent collaborators of Moore, are credited with directing and writing “The Human Tornado.” Despite this, it is once again very apparent that this film mostly emerged from the mind of Ruby Ray Moore. He even sings the theme song, where he somehow manages to rhyme “later” and “tornado.” The script is no more coherent then the first “Dolemite” movie but that's not the reason we watch stuff like this. Films like “The Human Tornado” provide us with bizarre, absurd, goofy, and deeply personal visions that mainstream motion pictures are far too sane to attempt. The sequel isn't quite as charmingly rough as the original but it is still an amazingly entertaining, totally nuts motion picture. Watch it immediately! [7/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[X] Brothels or Pimps
[] Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
[X] 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

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