Back in the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s there were albums that youngsters weren’t supposed to listen to known as “Party Records“. Recorded by artists like Redd Foxx, Lady Queen Bee, the legendary Blowfly and the one & only Rudy Ray Moore. Featuring covers that usually had nude women in provocative poses front & center, these albums were full of raunchy X rated skits and songs that were played at late night parties throughout the south and cities on both the East and West coast. Personally, I remember seeing a few Blowfly albums sold in my local record store, but by and large these albums were traded from one family member to another. They’re popularity continued until the early 80’s, but eventually they fell out of vogue as rap began to become popular. As I mentioned before, one of the more popular performers of the Party Record scene was Rudy Ray Moore. As the story goes, in the late 60’s Moore was a stand up comedian who chanced upon a homeless man who gave a toast to a mythical urban hero known as Dolemite. Moore liked it so much, he decided to adopt the name and use it as his alter ego. He first used the Dolemite name in 1970 on his “Eat Out More Often” album, which actually made the top 25 on the Billboard album chart. He continued to use the name afterwards, and in 1975 he decided to try and parlay his burgeoning popularity into a film career. The end result was one of the most amazingly inept (but entertaining) blaxploitation films of all time, Dolemite.
“Dolemite is my name, and fucking up muthafuckas is my game.”
That one sentence pretty much sums up what the film adds up to. As the film opens, we find Dolemite rotting away in prison, but he’s soon given a reprieve from the warden (Thanks to Queen Bee). But there’s a catch: Dolemite has to find and stop Mean Willie Green (Director D’Urville Martin) who’s been flooding the streets with guns and drugs. Green not only got Dolemite imprisoned on false charges, but he also shot and killed Dolemite’s nephew. So Dolemite has some incentive to take care of the task given him. The next day, as he walks out of the prison a free man, he’s greeted at the front gate by a limo filled with sexy women, who have a brand new set of clothes to dress him in. He actually undresses in front of the gate, so all of the guards and prisoners can see how cool he is. Making things even better, once he’s dressed in his best pimp suit, he promptly takes it off once he’s inside the car and has sex with his ladies. So after about 10 minutes, it’s pretty obvious that Dolemite is already the coolest man in the land. But all is not well in Dolemite’s world, because there’s a car full of dirty cops just waiting to pull his car over and kill him. But of course, Dolemite gets the jump on them and machine guns them down, keeping one of them alive for information. But once he spills his guts, one of Dolemite’s ladies slices off his pecker with a straight razor! So you see, Dolemite keeps beautiful, but deadly company.
“Man, move over and let me pass before they have to be pullin’
these hush puppies out your muthafuckin’ ass!”
Say what you will about the man, but Dolemite has a way with a threat (they all rhyme to boot!). After that slam bang opening, Dolemite continues to have sex with women (I lost count at four), and track down Willie Green, beating up corrupt cops and Green’s henchmen every 5 minutes or so. Dolemite is also a master of karate, so he chop socky’s everybody who dares defy him (actually everyone seems to know how to pretend they know kung fu here). Now if you look really close (actually you don’t have to look closely at all), you can see that it’s definitely not Moore beating people up, but the stuntman doing it is a pretty close match to him (nearly all of Dolemite’s fight scenes are filmed from behind him so you don’t see his face). But in the end, what does that really matter? Dolemite is the baddest of the bad, the coolest of the cool and the streets belong to him. In the end, Dolemite kills Green (despite getting shot point blank in the chest), and makes things righter than right. Everything that happens in between is really something of a blur because it’s so damned crazy. There are times where the boom mike is visible in a scene like low hanging fruit, so much so that the new bluray release from Vinegar Syndrome has two versions of the film to watch. The proper 1.85:1 widescreen version and the alternate full frame “Boom Mic” version. I’m almost certain that Moore is reading some of his lines from cue cards at times, and the quality of the acting here isn’t what I’d call “decent”. But you see, none of this really matters because the character of Dolemite is so over the top and endearing in a weird, near creepy way that you just don’t care what the hell is going on. And for the record, the music is pretty terrific here as well.
“Since you wanted my love, I’m gonna give you a fuckin’ you’ll never forget!”
Now there were bigger blaxploitation films at the time, films with characters that were more popular. But did Super Fly have a bevy of female Kung Fu warriors backing him up? Did Shaft threaten to beat people up in rhyme before he actually did it? Did Blacula have a side job doing stand up in a club that he owned? The answer is no on all counts. Only Dolemite had all three of those attributes, and he wasn’t afraid to tell the world about how great he was either. That’s the beauty of Dolemite, essentially it’s just Moore living out his ultimate fantasies on the big screen, and he revels in it. Sure Dolemite is technically inept, sure the acting sucks, sure the clothes are so ridiculous that you wonder who thought they ever looked good wearing them, and Moore himself isn’t exactly what I’d call a physically threatening individual (he’s actually a bit on the paunchy side with man boobs). But HE DOESN’T CARE WHAT HE LOOKS LIKE! Because he’s Dolemite muthafuckas! And if any of you rat soup eating muthas have a problem with it, he’d be more than glad to stick his foot up your ass. There’s no real way to impart upon the non believers how freaking awesome this movie is, you have to see it to believe it. Film snobs will lift up their collective noses and just step over a film like Dolemite, but take my word for it, this film is terrific entertainment and once seen, Dolemite is never forgotten. It’s a stone cold gas people, and a true must see for fans of 70’s blaxploitation.
Dolemite (5 / 5)
Vinegar Syndrome releases Dolemite on double disc bluray/dvd on April 26th. The special features include:
A scanned and restored 2K version of the film taken from a newly discovered 35mm negative.
Two framing options: The intended 1.85:1 widescreen version and the alternate full frame “Boom Mic” version.
“I Dolemite” making of documentary.
“Lady Reed Uncut” featurette.
“Locations: Then & Now” featurette.
Historical commentary track by Rudy Ray Moore’s biographer, Mark Jason Murray.
And lots more!