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Monday, March 13, 2017

BLAXPLOITATION MONTH: Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (1973)

Since “Slaughter” rather blatantly emulated “Shaft”  – at least as far as “the singularly named black hero taking on the mob” premise goes – it seems fitting that the movie would produce a sequel of its own. Almost exactly a year to the day after the first one's release, “Slaughter's Big Rip-Off” roared into theaters. The sequel would not be as a successful as Jim Brown's first go around as his big, black, bold man of action. I imagine the film fell to the same problem the “Shaft” sequels did, in that the market was flooded with similarly themed movies. Still, “Slaughter's Big Rip-Off”  would continue Jim Brown's reputation as one of the genre's iconic action heroes.

Slaughter just can't catch a break. After avenging his father's murder by the mob, he has moved to Los Angeles, in hopes of starting again. The Mafia has other ideas. While enjoying an outdoor party with some of his closest friends, a biplane flies overhead and guns down nearly everyone present. Slaughter has to go on the war path again. This time, the police talk Slaughter into stealing a list of confidential mob info, in order to help facilitate his vengeance. He successfully pulls off the heist but this just incenses the mob further. Soon, both forces are waging war against each other.

The first “Slaughter” distinguished itself from other blaxploitation movies by setting its story in a sunny, Mexican village. The sequel, meanwhile, embraces many of the genre trappings the first one avoided. “Slaughter's Big Rip-Off” is set in the L.A. ghetto, utilizing the same inner city atmosphere many blaxploitation movies run on. One of Slaughter's sidekicks throughout the film is a pimp. Joe Creole is such a stereotypical pimp that he even dresses in a purple hat and coat, wielding a matching pimp stick. Drugs feature into the movie's plot, something that was only hinted in the last one. Slaughter visits a funky night club in a few scenes. For extra points, the movie even finds a one scene role for Scatman Crothers. Aside from many other movies, “Slaughter's Big Rip-Off” blatantly emulates the original, as both movies have Slaughter avenging the death of a loved one. It's a good thing there were no further sequels. I'm not sure the guy had any more family members to sacrifice. It would've hit Paul Kersey territory pretty quickly.

Despite a more typical script and setting, the second “Slaughter” movie has an important factor in its favor. Jim Brown is still the man. Just as he did last time, Brown brings an easy sense of coolness to the part. Slaughter is still highly intimidating, a man of action that doesn't waste much time talking. Brown is almost entirely silent throughout the violent conclusion. Brown's charisma is such, that even rather ordinary lines of dialogue become crowd-pleasing one-liners. Such as a simple threat to return or accepting a meal a friend has cooked. This is best displayed during a fairly minor scene where Slaughter beats up a bunch of rednecks at an air field. Attempting to push a guy's head into a spinning propeller probably wouldn't be cool normally. But when Jim Brown does it, with a certain degree of stoic toughness and finesse? Yeah, it's pretty damn bad ass.

In some ways, “Slaughter's Big Rip-Off” is not as action packed as the first one. For one example, it features zero car chases but does begin with a horseback chase. The sequel is a bit more leisurely paced, focusing more on the friends and allies Slaughter makes on this adventure. (Among these are at least two new women he sleeps with.) Once the action really kicks into gear, the sequel picks up considerably. After stealing the list, Slaughter starts tossing guys off balconies and shooting fools. An especially memorable fight scene occurs after Slaughter is ambushed in a girlfriend's house. What makes that scene amusing is the exaggerated karate noises the Asian hit man makes while attacking him. The finale really ramps up the carnage, when Slaughter goes on a machine gun rampage against the mob's base of operation. That's a brutal, impressive conclusion.

One of the things I enjoyed so much about the first “Slaughter” was the delightfully over-the-top villains. The sequel doesn't have a bad guy as memorable as Rip Torn's super racist adversary. Instead, Ed McMahon, of all people, is cast as the main gangster named Duncan. Perhaps because McMahon is naturally too nice seeming to play a full blown villain, Duncan employs a hit man by the name of Kirk. As played by Don Stroud, Kirk emerges as Slaughter's archenemy here. In order to establish Stroud's homicidal personality, he's introduced by strangling a guy with an inflatable pool toy. Though Stroud can't help by pale in comparison to part one's Torn, he still plays the bad guy as an intensely racist scumbag, willing to murder women to get his way. Stroud earns the brutal beating Jim Brown gives him near the end.

The original theatrical release included a soundtrack from James Brown. Presumably because of rights issue, the DVD replaces this score with generic funk tunes, including a rather obvious instrumental version of the “Coffy” theme. Luckily, Brown's songs are available separately. They aren't as good as Billy Preston's theme song for the original “Slaughter” or Brown's music for “Black Caesar.” However, Brown's music is still pretty great, especially the title song and the verbosely entitled “People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul.” As for “Slaughter's Big Rip-Off,” it's not quite as effortlessly entertaining as Jim Brown's previous outing as the hero. The sequel is still full of awesome action scenes and still exploits Brown's considerable screen presence to great effect. [7/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[X] Brothels or Pimps
[] 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

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