Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Slams (1973)

          Ostensibly a blaxploitation picture because it stars Jim Brown, the imposing football player-turned-actor, The Slams is actually a straightforward prison-break flick with a sprinkling of urban style. Curtis Hook (Brown) helps steal a briefcase full of a dope, as well as a half-million dollars in cash, from organized-crime types. However, Hook’s accomplices turn on him, so he kills them and gets a nasty gunshot wound for his trouble. After destroying the drugs and hiding the cash, Hook tries to drive to a hospital but runs off the road in view of a cop, leading to his incarceration. Once he’s in prison, Hook becomes a target for convicts after his stolen loot, and he gets into hassles with a corrupt guard and a mobster. Hoping to wait out his jail term, Hook discovers that the building where he stashed the stolen cash is scheduled for demolition, so he enlists his girlfriend and a pal for assistance in busting out of the joint.
          The Slams has some gruesome murders, and Hooks’ climactic escape attempt is fairly suspenseful, so the movie is pleasantly diverting even though it’s not memorable. Brown does his usual super-cool thing, working badass mojo during action scenes and likeable swagger while making time with his lady; in other words, he’s on macho autopilot, but his reserved quality works for a story about a dude keeping secrets from everyone around him. None of the supporting players has much impact, though leading lady Judy Pace is sexy and it’s a hoot to see Ted Cassidy playing Hooks’ main prison-yard antagonist. The six-foot-nine character player best known as “Lurch” from the ’60s TV series The Addams Family, Cassidy naturally looked like a cartoon character (and sounded like one, thanks to his impossibly deep voice), so he cuts an appropriately outsized figure.
          The Slams was directed by Jonathan Kaplan while he was making his way up from the B-movie slum of sexploitation movies to the legitimate terrain of studio pictures like The Accused (1988). Kaplan keeps the movie fast and violent, though he didn’t fully commit to the kitschy joys of blaxploitation until his next movie, the luridly entertaining Truck Turner (1974). (Available at

The Slams: FUNKY

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