Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dolemite (1975) & The Human Tornado (1976)



          Scabrous comedian Rudy Ray Moore made his big-screen debut as the producer, star, and cowriter of the hellaciously bad blaxploitation romp Dolemite. The title character is a pimp/entertainer/vigilante who leads a squad of martial arts-trained prostitutes on a righteous crusade against an underworld opponent. The movie is exactly as insipid as its premise, with the tawdry nature of the project exacerbated by disjointed storytelling and terrible acting. Further, Dolemite awkwardly ricochets between action, comedy, sex, and violence. Despite having the right ingredients for a proper blaxploitation joint, Moore and his collaborators—including director/costar D’Urville Martin—contribute such amateurish work that watching Dolemite is a painful chore. For instance, the movie begins with Dolemite (Moore) getting released from prison in order to function as an undercover operative for law-enforcement authorities. Yet he’s met at the prison gate by a carload of hookers, and moments later, Dolemite grabs a machine gun from his car and cheerfully murders several would-be assailants. Huh?
          To be fair, low-rent blaxploitation pictures were never big on logic, since the fun of such movies stems from kitschy style and lurid thrills. Nonetheless, Dolemite is so stunningly stupid that it’s hard to go along for the ride. Consider these inane lines of dialogue: “Dolemite is my name, and fuckin’ up motherfuckers is my game”; “Man, move over and let me pass ’fore they have to be pullin’ these Hush Puppies out your motherfuckin’ ass!” There’s a certain traffic-accident fascination to be had in watching the crude and unfunny Moore, who seems as if he was suffering from a concussion during filming. Still, determining exactly what audiences found charming about the man and his ridiculous onscreen alter ego is challenging.
          When Dolemite returned a year later in The Human Tornado, Moore truly let his freak flag fly. Disjointed, perverse, and surreal, The Human Tornado is a blaxploitation movie on acid. Worse, it seems as if Moore intended for the movie to be a comedy. The plot has something to do with Dolemite fleeing the south after getting caught in bed with a white woman who paid him for sex, because her husband is a crazed redneck sheriff. Dolemite decamps to Los Angeles, where he helps a friend who’s being shaken down by the mob. (Never mind that the friend runs a prostitution ring.)
          In addition to profane dialogue and tragic ’70s fashions (all those jumpsuits!), The Human Tornado features several genuinely bizarre scenes. Half-naked hookers are tortured by a woman wearing grotesque wicked-witch makeup straight out of H.R. Pufnstuf. Dolemite services a woman with such intensity that he literally causes the house around them to disintegrate. (He’s a human tornado, get it?) In another bedroom scene, (offscreen) cunnilingus is intercut with Dolemite eating chicken. Oh, and after Dolemite jumps off a steep cliff, the movie freezes, the text “instant replay” appears on screen, and Moore’s voice intones: “Some of y’all don’t believe I jumped, so watch this good shit!” Then the jump replays. Oy. Need we mention the dream sequence in which naked studs emerge from toy boxes and then ride a slide into a sex-crazed woman’s embrace?
          And since cataloguing the oddities of a Rudy Ray Moore joint wouldn’t be complete without citing at least one choice line of dialogue, consider this sweet remark Dolemite makes to a lover: “All right, let’s get this shit over—I ain’t got all day.” Romance, thy name is Dolemite. In addition to making other projects, Moore periodically returned to the Dolemite character, starring in Shaolin Dolemite (1999) and The Return of Dolemite (2002), before passing away in 2008.

Dolemite: LAME
The Human Tornado: FREAKY

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