Something of a blaxploitation sampler platter, the overlong, over-plotted, and overwrought Melinda combines conspiracies, crime, martial arts, romance, revenge, and a whole lot of jive-talkin’, the latter element mostly issuing from the mouth of protagonist Frankie J. Parker, an arrogant Los Angeles DJ. The picture is fairly entertaining on a scene-to-scene basis, and it contains some respectable acting by costars Rosalind Cash and Paul Stevens, among others. Moreover, the sheer excess of the movie is beguiling, simply because Melinda wends through so many different genres during its 109 eventful (and frequently violent) minutes. The film doesn’t hang together, of course, and very little of what happens feels credible from either an emotional or a logical perspective. Nonetheless, copping the right attitude often helps put even the slightest blaxploitation flick over, and every so often Melinda hits a pleasing stance. Even when it doesn’t, the disconnect between leading man Calvin Lockhart’s uptight screen person and the movie’s down-and-dirty milieu is weirdly fascinating.
When the story begins, Frankie (Lockhart) seems like a man in full. In addition to his successful career as a DJ, he struts around town wooding ladies and spends his free time perfecting his martial-arts skills under the tutelage of an instructor named Charles (played by future chop-socky-cinema star Jim Kelly in his big-screen debut). Frankie meets his match in Melinda (Vonetta McGee), a beautiful woman who’s just as self-assured as Frankie. They become lovers, much to the consternation of Frankie’s ex, the mob-connected Terry (Cash). Then things get complicated (to say nothing of contrived and convoluted). It seems Melinda knows the whereabouts of an audio recording that incriminates big-time gangster Mitch (Stevens), so she and Frankie become embroiled in a bloody adventure.
Melinda hits some strange notes along the way. During the lengthy scene of Frankie and Melinda having sex for the first time, director Hugh A. Robertson repeatedly cuts to a thug standing in the hall outside Frankie’s apartment, masturbating while he listens to the couple’s carnal bliss. In a nasty flashback scene, Mitch sits and laughs while his underlings gang-bang his girlfriend. And in the very first scene, Frankie lays down goofy trash talk while coaxing Charles into a sparring session: “I’m ever-ready for some lightweight shit, but you better come with somethin’ heavy—I’m packed with dynamite!” Whatever you say, man.