I say that “Coffy” was the greatest black film ever made, back in January? Yes I
did, but, when it comes to just the essence, that certain “je ne sais quoi”
of blackness, you can’t get better than “Dolemite.”
1975 and starring the genuinely brilliant comic Rudy Ray Moore (who passed away
in 2008 at the age of 81), “Dolemite” is by no means a good film. In fact, it prides
itself on being what it is. A super low budget, it’s sloppily made (the kind where the
boom mike keeps dropping into the frame – yes it’s that kind of movie), ramshackled wreck of the film that’s nothing more than a huge ego trip vehicle for Moore.
But that’s the glory of it. Everyone involved in the film knew it and they didn’t
give a rat’s ass.
filmmakers’ usual intentions are to try to make the best film that they can.
Even if it’s schlock, they want it to be the best schlock possible. “Dolemite” dispenses with all that. It has a genuine “F–K all ya’ll” rebellious black
attitude that’s almost liberating.
just flat out hysterical – the
intentionally and the unintentionally funny scenes. The film is just a straight
out blast from beginning to end. The film’s “What are we doing
today?”-making-it- up-as-it-goes-along storyline is not really all that
important. It’s more interested in set pieces where Moore gets to do his thing –
rapping (he made legitimate claims that he was the first real rapper), telling dirty jokes and displaying some of the worst martial arts fighting ever caught on
For the record, Moore plays Dolemite – a pimp (but of course, what else would he be) who was set
up to be busted, by his rival Willie Greene (D’Urville Martin), who planted some
drugs and illegal weapons in his car. Thanks to the efforts of his stable of women
(who also practice their kung-fu when they’re not out doing tricks), Dolemite
gets out of jail and goes after Greene for revenge. Well, eventually, that is – after more jokes, gun fights, nightclubs acts,
scenes that make no sense, that have nothing to do with the plot, and Moore doing
But to understand “Dolemite” better, you need to understand Moore, who was a genuine comic
genius. After getting out of the U.S. Army, Moore started out as a singer in the 1950’s, singing both country music
and R & B, while also doing some comedy on the side. By the early 1960’s,
he started releasing comedy albums, but still a hard luck life, making little money and not getting anywhere.
In the late 60’s, his luck began to change.
Inspired by a local homeless man, who he would regularly see in Los Angeles, who told wild stories, Moore created the character
of Dolemite, and staring making some of the wildest “party” comedy records ever
made. But while other black comedians at the same time dealt with topics such
as race, politics, and relationships, Moore only had one thing on his mind – SEX. Raw,
nasty, sweaty, unadulterated sex. His world was that of pimps, hookers and hustlers.
were some of the filthiest comedy albums ever made, with tiles that left nothing
to the imagination, such as “Eat Out More Often”, “This Pussy Belongs to Me”, “Cockpit”
and “Close Encounters of the Sex Kind”. And many of their covers featured a naked Moore
surrounded by naked women (and yes I have those LPs, and they hold a place of
honor in my collection).
Not only were they played during house
parties, but they were not recorded in a studio or live on stage in some auditorium, but were taped in small nightclubs where you could almost hear the clinking of the ice in
the drinks, with the raucous laughter from the small audience.
were huge successes, so it wasn’t surprising that Moore would turn his
attentions to the movies. But in a genius move, too acutely aware of his vast
limitations as an actor, and instead of playing some character, Moore simply
played himself. Now on the big screen was the great man himself – raw, foul, crude and screamingly funny. And it
should be obvious that many rappers such as Snoop Dog, point to Moore and
Dolemite as a major inspiration.
The film was
directed by D’Urville Martin, which was his sole directing effort. After playing bit roles and small supporting parts in Hollywood movies, such as the
elevator operator in Roman Polanski’s horror film classic “Rosemary’s Baby”,
Martin found his place when the Blaxploitation film craze happened in the 1970’s.
He was everywhere, almost always playing major supporting roles as someone’s crazy,
funny sidekick. But with Dolemite, he branched out to directing, which turned out
to be his career highlight, when he died suddenly, too young, in 1984 at the age
But all of this
is to say that, Vinegar Syndrome and Xenon Pictures will be finally releasing “Dolomite” on Blu-ray sometime later this year, as part of a series of new releases of seminal indie black films made during the 60’s and 70’s, which include the
recently announced Mevin
Van Peebles’ “Sweet Sweetback Badassss Song,” and “The Story of a Three day
Pass,” later this year as well.
huge disappointment is that aren’t any plans for a Blu-ray release of the
sequel, “The Human Tornado”, which is perhaps ever better than “Dolemite.”
NSFW trailer for “Dolemite” (or at least use headphones):