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Blaxploitation Masterpiece ‘Truck Turner,’ Starring Isaac Hayes, Coming to Blu-ray in July

Blaxploitation Masterpiece ‘Truck Turner,’ Starring Isaac Hayes, Coming to Blu-ray in July

2015 is
increasingly looking like a really great year for Blu-ray DVD releases. First
there was the news I reported a few weeks ago (HERE) that the classic film “Coffy,” with Pam Grier, was coming out, for the first time on Blu-ray DVD. And now comes
news that another classic will be coming out this summer on Blu-ray as well.

Anyone who
has followed this site knows that I deeply love me some Blaxploitation films. I was raised on
Blaxploitation movies. They are the films that made me – for better and (mainly) for worse. These were the films that made me want to make movies.

So when Kino
Studio Classics announced today that they would be releasing Jonathan Kaplan’s
1974 film “Truck Turner,” starring Isaac Hayes in the lead role, I nearly jumped
out of my seat. It’s been a long time coming!

Now, no one would
call the late great Isaac Hayes a great actor, but he had a totally convincing,
 almost overpowering, masculine presence on
the big screen, and “Truck Turner” is no doubt his best film. Why he didn’t star
in more leading roles is a mystery.

The film is
straight up gutter cinema. It’s all squalor and sleaze, with heavy doses of
violence, outrageous and profane dialogue and humor. It is also has a rather
ramshackle plot in which the first 20 minutes has practically no
plot to speak of. It’s simply episodes in the hard scrabble life of a skip
tracer, for a bail bondsman and his turbulent relationship with his long
suffering girlfriend, who has just been released from prison on theft charges
(Annazette Chase).

Things
finally kick into gear when Turner and his partner kill Gator, a pimp who they’ve
been tracking down, after a wild chase. Furious and out for revenge, Gator’s
main woman Dorinda (in an unbelievable, scene chewing, knockout performance by Nichelle
Nichols, a long long way from Lt. Uhura) makes an offer to other pimps in town – whoever
kills Turner can take control of Gator’s stable of hookers.

However, one
new recent transplant to town, with big ambitions, Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto), bides
his time, knowing that these knuckleheads are going to get killed tangling with
Turner – which they do. It’s all part of
Blue’s plan to get rid of his competition and also to eliminate
Turner once and for all.

The film
eventually ends up with an insane shootout, through hospital corridors and even in operating rooms, which
was inspired by a wild shootout in director Sam Fuller’s little seen 1973 detective
film, “Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street,” which had a shootout in a hospital maternity
ward. Later John Woo ramped up the idea to an extreme degree, in his brilliant 1992
action film, “Hard Boiled,” in which literally the last hour is an exhausting
and insane shootout/hostage situation in a Hong Kong hospital, between gangsters
and the police.

But Truck
Turner is fast paced, crazy and a rocking good time. It’s pure 70’s action
cinema with a vibe and grunginess, before the slick, plastic, green screen
CGI stuff came in and ruined everything.

Replacing
the old inadequate MGM/Fox standard DVD of the film from over a decade ago, the
new Kino Blu-ray will feature a new audio commentary by director Kaplan as well.

And if you
don’t believe me when I say that “Truck Turner” is a genuinely scuzzy and near
perfect masterpiece of the Blaxploitation genre, would you believe director Ernest
Dickerson? 

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