Sunday, March 5, 2017
BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: Slaughter (1972)
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.
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.”
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.
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]
[THE BLAXPLOITATION CHECKLIST: 8 outta 12]
[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