Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Sunday, March 5, 2017


With the success of the “Shaft” movies, the doors were thrown open for dozens of blaxploitation action/thrillers about bad-ass heroes with catchy last names, usually fighting against the mob. The most successful of these imitators was “Slaughter,” which grossed 10 million dollars at the box office. The film was a vehicle for NFL MVP turned actor Jim Brown. Brown was already well known for his roles in “The Dirty Dozen” and “Ice Station Zebra” but the surprise success of “Slaughter” would cause some to label him the first black action hero. That status would make Brown a regular presence in future blaxploitation flicks and one of the superstars of the genre. Was this success a fluke or does “Slaughter” hold up?

When his father is killed by a car bomb, former Green Beret and Vietnam vet Slaughter declares war on the mafia. After killing one of the mobsters responsible, a government agency offers to help Slaughter get his vengeance on the crime syndicate responsible for his dad's death. He is paired with a white agent and sent to South America, where the Mafia is using a high-tech computer to help run their criminal empire. As Slaughter and his partner repeatedly attack the mob's casino front, it becomes apparent that they've pissed off the wrong man.

After watching “Slaughter,” one thing is for certain. Jim Brown is a stone cold bad ass. Brown's acting skills are maybe not as polished as Richard Roundtree or Ron O'Neil. Occasionally, he reads a line in a flat manner or seems slightly stiff when interacting with other actors. Brown, however, has something that not even excellent acting training can give you: Presence and charisma. He commands the screen, with a powerful sense of physicality that draws the viewer. When getting into gun fights or participating in bare-chested fist fights, Brown is clearly in his element. Brown exudes a sense of toughness and determination. He's great with a laugh or tough one-liner too. In other words, he's perfect for the action genre. And “Slaughter,” a film built around the main character's ass-kicking abilities, is the perfect vehicle for him.

If “Slaughter” was just ninety minutes of Jim Brown kicking everyone's asses, it would probably still be a really entertaining movie. Yet “Slaughter” is also an early precursor to the buddy cop movie. After arriving in South America, Slaughter is paired with Don Gordon's Harry. Harry is, in many ways, the opposite of Slaughter. He's white, short, and strikes out with the ladies. Where Slaughter always proceeds with a clear head, Harry often overthinks the situation. When the shit hits the fan, Harry is still handy with a machine gun. Gordon has some nice comedic timing and is fully willing to play up his geeky qualities, making him an ideal foil to Slaughter's hyper-masculine ways. While not focused enough on the relationship between the cops to fully classify as a buddy cop flick, “Slaughter” would still share some of its DNA with “Lethal Weapon” and “48 Hrs.

It frequently improves the quality of an action film when your awesome hero is confronted with an effectively despicable bad guy. “Slaughter,” luckily, has that too. I'm not talking about Norman Alfe's drug lord Mario Felice. Alfe wears ridiculous brown face and sports a wholly unconvincing Italian accent. The film's real villain is Felice's top enforcer, Dominic Hoffo, played by the one-and-only Rip Torn. Torn absolutely decimates the scenery. He spits racial slurs with venom and hatred. He's rude to his girlfriend, the gloriously naked Stella Stevens, and later beats her up. He betrays his boss, gunning him down in cold blood. In other words, he's as an absolutely vile villain, worthy of your scorn. You can not wait to see Slaughter give this guy what's coming to him.

“Slaughter” was directed by Jack Starrett, a veteran of low budget action flicks like “'Nam's Angels” and “Run, Angel, Run!” So the filmmaker had a knack for getting big thrills out of a small budget. The action in “Slaughter” is often fantastically over the top. The aforementioned bare chested fist fight ends with Slaughter tossing his opponents off a roof. One scene has a car colliding with a grounded airplane, the propeller spinning in circles. The film's proper climax is a huge shoot-out in the bad guy's lair, featuring numerous bloody squips. Before the credits roll, Slaughter and Roffo face off in an extended car chase that goes on and on, reaching glorious heights. Just to add an extra layer of cheesy appeal, Starrett also throws in a few slow motion sequences, shot in an amusingly sick-sea fashion.

So “Slaughter” delivers the good. It features a bad ass hero, a perfectly evil villain, plenty of huge action set pieces, and generous amounts of female nudity. And did I mention Billy Preston's fucking awesome theme song, which starts the movie off with a roaring guitar riff and pumping electric organ? (A song so awesome, Tarantino couldn't help but pilfer it for “Inglourious Basterds?”) It's far from high art and its low budget is evident many times but this movie is incredibly entertaining. No wonder Jim Brown would become a star. [8/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[] Brothels or Pimps
[X] Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
[] Homophobic Caricatures
[] Inner-City Setting
[] 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

No comments: