Movie: Dolemite (1975)
Why Did I watch this?
Oh, so many reasons. Dolemite is a huge cultural force in a lot of stuff I watch, apparently. Black Dynamite (2009), MadTV, Dolemite is My Name (2019). It's the epitome of Blaxspoitation films of the 70s and you see it everywhere from Chappelle Show to The Boondocks. The realy question is probably why I didn't see this earlier.
What Did I know ahead of time?
Thanks to the relatively recent Dolemite is My Name, I knew a good deal. I knew Rudy Ray Moore and the general plot of Kung Fu black action. Between that and Black Dynamite I pretty much knew the whole deal, actually. That's rare for this series. This was way more of a checkmark movie than getting into something brand new.
How Was It?
Man....I mean, it's Dolemite. You kind of know what the deal is, right? This is by no means what anyone would call a GOOD movie, but it it for sure has its own charm and to be honest, it's more tightly plotted than one might think.
It's really a Rudy Ray Moore showcase. I didn't realize the entire Signifying Monkey speech would be in this thing, and that wasn't even the only longform comedy poetry (or whatever you'd call whatever he does. This is very much a vehicle for him to just do whatever he wants. He takes it more seriously than Eddie Murphy did playing him, which makes the movie work more.
He's still just as out of shape as late stage Eddie Murphy though. Like, very out of shape. But a potent sex symbol! He bangs many, many women in this. I really couldn't keep track of them. They totally have a Dora Milaje vibe to them, though, and despite being this obviously a pimp-centric movie it seems to be pretty pro-women. They have major roles and make a difference! But there are far too many characters of every gender in this film. Why are there so many people in this, it's maddening.
The basic plot is that Dolemite is let out of prison to try to nab this bad gang leader (played by the film's director), and then a lot of sex, Kung Fu, and jive talking ensure. There is so much wit to this movie, it's something to be missed these days.
Everything else is pretty bad. It is fantastically cheap, the editing is really shoddy, and the camera is not interesting or dynamic at all. It's hard to criticize, because that's like, part of the whole deal. That's what you know you're getting into when you press play on this movie. Its an entertaining romp but you aren't signing up for high cinema.
Ultimately I don't know, I was pumped up but I didn't really see anything I didn't already know or infer from its wide influence. I suppose that's a good thing? It's amazing that this cheap little trash film has carved for itself such a significant cultural niche that's well known and celebrated. I am all about more Black Kung Fu movies. It's a lost genre for sure.