Thursday, January 2, 2014

Velvet Smooth (1976)



The blaxploitation genre had crested by 1976, so the glory days of Pam Grier and Fred Williamson quickly gave way to an era of schlocky movies with grade-Z stars and substandard production values. For instance, the embarrassingly bad Velvet Smooth features an attractive but forgettable actress named Johnnie Hill as the title character, a karate-choppin’ lady detective who becomes involved in a trite saga of underworld intrigue. When thugs start attacking businesses controlled by gangster King Lathrop (Owen Watson), King hires Velvet and her trio of lady-detective colleagues to find out who’s muscling into King’s territory; utterly uninteresting complications related to traitorous henchmen and unethical policemen ensue. Directed by Michael Fink, who (thankfully) only made one other feature, Velvet Smooth is defined by a shocking level of incompetence behind and in front of the camera. Shots don’t edit together properly, sequences tumble into each other without logical transitions, and the performances are so stilted that one gets a sense actors were filmed as they spoke their lines for the first time ever. Plus, we haven’t even gotten to the sad subject of the movie’s myriad martial-arts scenes. During these goofy interludes, camera positions reveal the distance between fists and intended targets, an amateur-hour mistake that even most beginning film students quickly figure out how to avoid. Furthermore, the staging of the combat scenes is just as atrocious as the filming of them. Typical of Velvet Smooth is a sequence in which the heroine, who is bone-thin, somehow manages to fight off a quartet of beefy guys while wearing an evening gown. She accomplishes this not because of impressive skills, but because each time she engages with one assailant, the others wait nearby instead of teaming up to get the job done. Seeing as how Velvet Smooth is primarily a martial-arts flick, one fears that the fight scenes were the element upon which the filmmakers lavished the most attention. Maybe that explains why so many shots are out of focus and why the sound is frequently indecipherable. Aside from the unintentional laughs provided by the inept fight scenes, Velvet Smooth offers viewers nothing remotely akin to enjoyment.

Velvet Smooth: SQUARE

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