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Rare Screening of Blaxploitation Classic ‘Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off’ in Chicago (Some Backstory…)

Rare Screening of Blaxploitation Classic 'Slaughter's Big Rip-Off' in Chicago (Some Backstory...)

I’ve said it a 100 times before on this site that I love blaxploitation movies.
They are the films that made me for, better or worse (and mainly for
worse). Nothing can beat watching strong, virile, masculine black men going up against deranged racist
villains and laying them to waste. Can’t get enough of it!

And when it
comes to the glory that once was the blaxploitation genre, I’ve always felt that
American International’s 1973 “Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off,” toplined by Jim Brown, is
one of true great movies of the genre. It was a somewhat rushed sequel to the
successful “Slaughter,” which came out the previous year, in which the hero
ventures to Mexico to track down and kill the gangsters who killed his parents.

However “Big
Rip-Off” is one of those rare sequels that’s actually better than the original.
It is a dazzling, violent and chaotic film about a world gone mad. After taking
revenge on the gangsters who killed his parents in the first film, Slaughter now
finds himself in the cross-hairs of a vicious crime lord (played by the very
unlikely Ed McMahon of the old “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”) who’s out to
kill him as a favor to the surviving gangsters Slaughter didn’t wipe out in the
first film. With a climax that clearly inspired the bloody final confrontation
in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” “Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off” is blaxploitation
cinema in full bloom (In another “tip of the hat” Don Stroud who plays McMahon’s hit man in “Rip-Off” also appears in “Django” as one of the racists rednecks in the film).

A
lot of credit for the success of the film goes to the long-time Hollywood
veteran director Gordon Douglas who knew how to put a film together and who, as
film critic and MoMA film curator Dave Kehr once said of him, “did more with less than any other director” that he could think of.

In fact “Rip-Off,” which Douglas made in his late 60’s, was his next to last feature film
after a career literally spanning 4 decades, starting in 1935 by directing studio
comedy shorts that were shown between feature film double features. Moving up from low budget “B” movies to “A” list major Hollywood features, Douglas directed
every type of genre film you can think of – romance, musicals, comedies, action, detective, westerns and even sci-fi – and worked with almost every
major Hollywood star including Gregory peck, Frank Sinatra (several times; even as Sinatra was notoriously difficult to
work with), Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley and even Laurel and hardy.

And “Slaughter” was the second time Douglas had directed Jim Brown; the pair also worked together in 1964, in the blistering nihilistic western “Rio Conchos” for Fox, with
Brown in his first film role, playing a U.S. Army cavalry soldier.

Now a rare screening of “Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off” will take place at Chicago’s Black Cinema House this Sunday Feb. 7th. In addition, after
the screening, a discussion of film and
the genre will be led by Gerald Butters, author of the new book “From Sweetback
to Super Fly: Race & Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop.”

In the books, Professor Butters, who teaches in the Masters
of Liberal Studies graduate program at Northwestern University, describes the
explosion of blaxploitation film in early 1970s Chicago. Films like “Slaughter’s
Big Rip-Off” changed the dynamics of who attended motion picture theaters in the
Loop, and led many Loop theaters to gain a reputation, in a seemingly short
amount of time, as “black spaces.” But not all black Chicagoans
were happy with the genre, claiming that it was destructive to black youth. And
by 1973, plans were already in the works to bulldoze all of these theaters.

The program
will take place at Black Cinema House in Chicago, located at 7200 S. Kimbark
starting at 4PM. It’s free to the
public.

And, oh yes, the program will finish in time for those of you anxious for the Super Bowl that
Sunday as well. Why not see “Slaughter Big Rip-Off” first before the game and
expand your horizons?

Here’s the
trailer:

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