Archive for 70s Movies

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: THE OUTSIDE MAN (1972)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2012, Action Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Crime Films, Drive-in Movies, Fast Cars, Gangsters!, Hit Men, International Cast, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

THE OUTSIDE MAN (1972)

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!

Ah, the 1970s.  Not only was it a great time for gritty independent film-making, it was also a happy time for international productions.  You could have a film made in France, with a Spanish director, costumes by a British woman, stars from America and Poland and Germany and Thailand, produced by Italians, and with music by some Paraguayan rock star with a sitar and a hookah pipe.  When the movie was completed, it would be instantly dubbed into every language in the world, given an exploitive advertising campaign, and plopped into drive-ins and grindhouse theaters everywhere.  Italian horror movies did this for years, touting American actors in the lead roles but with a rainbow coalition of production credits that always made you go ‘hmmmm.’  Most of the time, we were duped into yet another six day wonder about women in bikinis and zombies in a Nazi-patrolled oasis (and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that!)  Every once in a while, a real treat would emerge from this United Nations of Sleazy Filmmaking—movies like THE OUTSIDE MAN (1972) a great gangster action movie with an A-list cast and a crazy diverse group of people behind the camera.

Look out! The OUTSIDE MAN is coming!

Directed by Frenchman Jacques Desrayaud, who also created THE SWIMMING POOL (1969) and LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (2001), and written by Jean-Claude Carriere (who wrote such high class films as BELLE DE JOUR, 1967, THE TIN DRUM, 1979, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, 1988, SOMMERSBY, 1990, CYRANO de BERGERAC, 1990 and THE HORSEMAN ON THE ROOF, 1995), and we have a highly respected couple of filmmakers who had worked with the likes of Luis Bunuel, Wayne Wang, Hector Babenco, Peter Brook, Louis Malle, and, well, Jess Franco (I guess everyone hits rock bottom at some time or another).  Very impressive credits to their names and some major connections.  Also behind the scenes we have music by Michel Legrand (THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, 1964 and YENTL, 1983), cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti (GREAT SILENCE, 1968, SALON KITTY, 1976 and CALIGULA, 1979), and produced by Jacques Bar (LET SLEEPING COPS LIE, 1988, and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, 1998).  This is some pedigree, with some of the greatest Europeans working in the 1960s and 1970s.  But there’s a bit of a CHINATOWN feeling to it all . . . “It’s an art film; it’s exploitation.  It’s an art film; it’s exploitation.”

But it’s the story and the cast that make THE OUTSIDE MAN so much damn fun!  This is one back-stabbing, sleazy, nasty picture . . . and it was rated PG back in the day!

We start in Los Angeles, amidst music that sounds like leftovers from STARSKY AND HUTCH (“You got no trouble with Jesus, You got no trouble with me!”) and it’s sung by Joe Morton, future star of BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (1984), SPEED (1994), and the TV show LAW AND ORDER!  That astonishing cast flashes across the screen, but more on them as they appear.

Jean-Louis Trintignant (LES BICHES, 1968, MY NIGHT AT MAUDE’S, 1969 and RED, 1994) stars as Lucien, a hit man with the heaviest French accent ever.  The handsome Frenchman is delivered a suitcase full of money and orders from a Los Angeles crime family to assassinate another mob boss.  When he arrives at the target’s house, he finds a mansion with a fleet of cool cars out front, a fountain, and Victor Kovaks, played by Ted de Corsia (THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, 1947 and THE KILLING, 1956) and his beautiful, much younger wife Jackie, played by POLICE WOMAN herself, Angie Dickenson (also in RIO BRAVO, 1959 and DRESSED TO KILL,  1980).  She sports a great bikini and a pool-boy.  Lucien kills Victor and calmly walks away from the scene of the crime.  When he gets back to his hotel, he finds that someone claiming to be his secretary has already checked him out and taken everything from his room, including his wallet and passport.  Suddenly, someone is shooting at him wherever he goes.  Turns out, the assassin after him is ice-cold Roy Scheider (JAWS, 1975, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, 1971 and BLUE THUNDER, 1983).

Sexy redhead Ann-Margret goes blonde for THE OUTSIDE MAN.

After escaping, Lucien hitches a ride with housewife Mrs. Barnes, played by Georgia Engel (Georgette on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and Esmeralda on the soap opera PASSIONS).  Her kid is played by Jackie Earle Haley (BAD NEWS BEARS, 1976, WATCHMEN, 2009, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, 2010 and SHUTTER ISLAND, 2010).  The boy says, “What are you, a foreigner?”  They watch STAR TREK on television, as well as Friskies commercials.  Our favorite killer calls Paris on her phone (“Who’s gonna pay for this?”) while Jackie Earle listens in.  Lucien smacks the crap out of the kid (according to reports, the slaps were real and brutal), then he leaves them, getting into an elevator with. . . NO!  Roy Scheider!  Luckily, two women get in and all Scheider gets to do is light Lucien’s cigarette.  Then, the shooting and chasing starts again.

Lucien, obeying orders, goes downtown following a group of bikers and a Jesus-freak hitchhiker who tries to convert the assassin.  Scheider accidentally kills the hitchhiker, so Lucien is driving around with a religious nut with long blond hair and a bloody hole in his head and a giant golden cross around his neck!  More chasing and shoot-outs ensue.

Lucien hears a description of himself on the news, but the wife and pool-boy of his victim have given incredibly erroneous descriptions of him, which makes him start to wonder if it was all a set-up.  He’s told to seek out the ex-moll of his boss, a stripper in a club named Nancy, played by Ann Margret (BYE BYE BIRDIE, 1963, TOMMY, 1975 and GRUMPY OLD MEN, 1993) in a very low-cut, revealing white outfit and a blonde Marilyn Monroe wig.  “I tend bar with my tits hanging out,” she says.  “Victor made sure that was the only job I could get.”  According to her, Victor’s brother, Alex, will run the mob better.  Alex, aka the pool-boy, is played by Umberto Orsini from THE ANTICHRIST (1974) and EMMANUELLE 3 (1977).  Nancy takes him to her friend Karl’s place where he can lie low for a while.  Karl’s a hippie played by Carlo de Mejo, who was in THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981), CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD/THE GATES OF HELL (1980), and MANHATTAN BABY (1982.)  Who knew a Lucio Fulci regular would be in the same movie as Ann Margret?

Meanwhile, Scheider has tracked down Georgette and followed the trail to Nancy who leads him to Lucien.  Cue exciting chase involving hit-men, Nancy, and the police!  Eventually, the French mob, led by Antoine (Michel Constantin of LE TROU, 1960 and THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, 1978) gets to America and decides to join forces with Lucien.

Who is trying to kill Lucien?  Who hired the assassin in the first place?  Can Karl and Nancy be trusted?  What about the wife of the target and his brother, the pool-boy?  Will Lucien make it back to Paris, or will he be trapped in the States and hunted like a dog?  Where can I get one of those fabulous suits Scheider and Trintignant wear throughout the movie?

The pacing, as in most European films of the period, is a little slow for today’s ADD tastes, but it works beautifully in the context of the movie, which stresses cool and hip over action-packed thrills.  There are car chases, foot chases, shoot-outs and more, but this is more FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) than DIE HARD (1988).  If you can groove on that kind of atmosphere, you’ll dig this one.

A shootout and a car chase during a funeral? Must be THE OUTSIDE MAN.

The music is groovy and funky, the women are smoking hot, the men are cool as can be, the cars are yacht-sized and beautiful, and the plot twists and turns like crazy.  This is the kind of cool every stupid OCEANS 11 movie wants to be, but falls short.  This is the kind of cool that cults are built around, and the movie throbs with it.  There are gorgeous hookers, loads of neon, drugs, strippers covered in glitter, pink Cadillacs, drive-in theaters, a Talia Shire cameo, roller derby scenes, scary layouts at funerals, an Alex Rocco cameo and more.    But that cast!  Where else will you see Police Woman making out with a star of EMMANUELLE 3 while being followed by Ann Margret, one of the sexiest women ever, who is rooming with the psychiatrist from the GATES OF HELL (1980) and pursued by Sheriff Brody, while Ted Baxter’s girlfriend mothers the guy who would one day play Freddy Krueger?  Plus, a small part by John Hillerman who played Higgins on MAGNUM P.I.!  This is the ultimate six degrees of separation matrix!  You can use this movie to connect anyone to anyone!

MGM has put out a beautifully restored copy available on CD-R through Amazon.

I give THE OUTSIDE MAN three and a half European hit-men out of four.

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl

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Transmissions to Earth: OCTAMAN (1971)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1970s Movies, 2012, Drive-in Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Monsters, Mutants!, Science Fiction, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by knifefighter

(Special Transmission For Fans of Nick Cato’s “Suburban Grindhouse Memories” Column: It’s not gone. Things have just been moved around. Nick’s column will now be posted on the last Wednesday of each month. In its place every other Thursday will now be “Transmissions to Earth.”)

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH:
OCTAMAN (1971)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

If ZAAT (which I reviewed last week) sounded bad to you, wait until you get a load of OCTAMAN (also from1971, the same year as ZAAT).

If you like to be surprised by how the monster looks later in the movie, you’re out of luck. Not only does the monster in OCTAMAN appear early in the movie – he’s standing around waving his tentacles at us in the OPENING CREDITS, as if to say “Hi everybody, here I am!”

Scientists are in Latin America studying the effects of underwater bomb detonations on a village that lives primarily on seafood (they find traces of radioactivity in the water! Wow, big surprise!), when one of them finds a baby octopus with big, staring red eyes, and it makes a squealing noise. I’m not sure why they don’t just say “Yeah, it’s a funny looking octopus, so what?” but instead they find this to be some momentous find and go back to the lake where the guy found it.

“Close the lid, I’m trying to sleep!”

Once there, they let the octopus go, and the very rubber-looking creature crawls (badly) back into the water. Meanwhile, the hideous OCTAMAN is watching them curiously. One of the locals, who was hired by the scientists, is about to dissect another little octopus and the angry OCTAMAN appears, covered in suckers, and waving its tentacles around as it trashes the place and bitch-slaps the guy to death. It takes the little one away, which suddenly throws the movie’s title into suspicion. Is it really OCATMAN? Because its actions sure seem a lot like those of a mama protecting its young! Yes folks, this might just be, the original OCTAMOM!

When Dr. Rick Torrez (Kerwin Matthews) finds out his funding has been pulled, he goes to a carnival owner named Johnny Caruso and his partner Steve, and Johnny agrees to fund Rick’s research, as long as he can have first crack at the half-man /half fish creature that is part of local legend. The police come to investigate the murder, and then leave taking the bucket with them that formerly held the little octopus (“Let’s take this in case we get thirsty!”). It seems even traces of these things can draw the horrifying Octaman, who tracks them for awhile before killing them. The way this thing will kill you is by either hugging you to death or slapping you. Over and over again, until you’re all bloody. Oh, it can also jam a tentacle into you like a spear when it wants to. But mostly it loves slapping.

OCTAMAN will slap the eye right out of your head!

Rick, his girlfriend, Susan Lowry (Pier Angeli) and their team (including the carnival guys) drive around the coastline in a Winnebago, looking for the monster, while another local, Davido (David Essex) tells them stories his grandmother told him when he was a kid, about an octopus that walked on land like a man.

Just when they’re about to dismiss the monster as a myth, it attacks – several times. And of course, as in all of these movies, it takes a real liking to the woman of the group, and keeps trying to carry her away.

OCTAMAN has a thing for the ladies. But he gets a little CARRIED AWAY!

They finally slow the creature down by shining light in its face (it hates that!) and making a ring of fire about it (to suck out the oxygen around it!). It collapses and is wrapped up in a net, but regains its strength soon after a rain storm revives it.

The story reminded me of THE CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON (1956), and it turns out that director/writer Henry Essex wrote the screenplay for that Universal classic. In comparison, however, OCTAMAN is pretty horrible.

The monster is shown constantly throughout the movie and it is an early creature creation by make-up and special effects master Rick Baker. It’s almost like the filmmakers spent most of their budget on the monster suit and wanted to get their money’s worth, showing it off as much as possible. While it looks interesting enough with its big red bulging eyes and circular mouth surrounded by tiny teeth (all set in a big, bulbous head), the monster is made of rubber, and so, it only has one facial expression (much like our old buddy, ZAAT!). No matter what it does, or how angry it gets, its face never changes, which is pretty laughable. It doesn’t take long to forget whatever is cool about the costume and just focus on how silly it is.

“Here I am!” – the monster is almost in every scene in the movie OCTAMAN!

Another odd thing is that the eyes are big and human-like, and yet when we see things from OCTAMAN’s point of view, it’s through segmented insect eyes!

Toward the end there is a big showdown in an underwater cave (just like in CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON – what a coincidence!), and the monster causes an avalanche to trap the humans inside. At this point, most of them just give up, talking about conserving oxygen so they can stay alive longer. But Davido is sent through an opening to find help. It’s about two minutes before Davido wiggles his way to the beach outside, and he goes back to get the others. Pretty absurd that it was so easy to escape, and yet most of the cast just gave up and considered themselves done for. Talk about lazy! If not for Davido, they’d all be still trapped in that cave, whining about the oxygen.

Harry Essex also directed the Mickey Spillane adaptation, I, THE JURY (1953) as well as another monster movie, THE CREMATORS (1972), but his writing credits go all the way back to the Lon Chaney Jr. flick, MAN MADE MONSTER (1941). He also wrote the screenplays for the science fiction movie IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), based on a story by Ray Bradbury, and the noir classic KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952). Seems to me, Essex should have stuck to screenplays instead of directing.

There is really nothing about this movie to recommend it. The plot is barely there. The acting ranges from so-so to just plain awful (they didn’t even have credits at the end to determine who played what). There are a few slow parts where nothing happens. And the monster is pretty goofy.

You might get some chuckles out of OCTAMAN, but that’s about it.

-END-

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

 

MURDER BY DECREE

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2011, Jack the Ripper, Michael Arruda Reviews, Mystery, Psycho killer, Psychological Horror, Screaming Streaming, Sherlock Holmes with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2011 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review: MURDER BY DECREE (1979)
By Michael Arruda

 

Today on SCREAMING STREAMING! it’s MURDER BY DECREE (1979), an atmospheric mystery/thriller that pits Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper, and it’s now available on streaming video.

I remember liking MURDER BY DECREE when I first saw it back in 1979 . I was especially intrigued by the Sherlock Holmes/Jack the Ripper storyline . Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of Jack the Ripper movies since then, and so the plot points and revelations made here in MURDER BY DECREE regarding the identity of Jack the Ripper don’t possess the power they once did.

And if you’ve seen any movies or read any books about Jack the Ripper (and who hasn’t?), the plot of MURDER BY DECREE offers nothing new . Yes, prostitutes are being viciously murdered in Whitechapel by Jack the Ripper, and the world’s greatest detective Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) is called in to investigate, along with his partner Dr. Watson (James Mason).

A psychic named Robert Lees (Donald Sutherland) informs Holmes that he believes the Ripper murders are the result of a government conspiracy, and the clues that Holmes and Watson uncover during their investigation seem to back up this premise . Holmes is led to Mary Kelly (Susan Clark), who confides in him that she is protecting her friend Annie Crook (Genevieve Bujold) and her child from threats which she intimates are from the highest positions in the British government, including the crown itself . Holmes finds Crook in an insane asylum, and what he learns from her confirms his theory regarding the identity of Jack the Ripper . He and Watson then set out to catch the Ripper and expose the conspiracy.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric period piece, you can’t go wrong with MURDER BY DECREE . The film looks terrific, as it depicts 19th century London at its foggy best . It has the look of the Hammer Films period pieces from the 1950s and 1960s .

And if you’re looking for good acting by veterans of the field, MURDER BY DECREE satisfies here as well . The film enjoys strong acting performances, especially from its two leads: Christopher Plummer, as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason, as Dr. Watson. They share an amiable chemistry, and when they are onscreen together, they are fun to watch . The rest of the cast is also excellent.

The film even gets off to a good start with some creepy murders in the London fog .

But then it slows down halfway through and never really picks up again . Towards the end, when the story should be picking up steam, it falters, and its conclusion, whereby Holmes explains all that he has learned and proved, is interesting, but it’s nothing new nor all that dramatic.

Even though there are some eerie murder scenes, MURDER BY DECREE is rated PG, so don’t expect much blood and gore . FROM HELL (2001), this ain’t! Further complicating matters is that some of the key murder and action scenes are shot in slow motion, and this doesn’t work at all, as it only results in slowing down the suspense.

The two main reasons to see MURDER BY DECREE, then, are the strong acting performances from its veteran cast, and the atmospheric photography of this period piece thriller.

Christopher Plummer is very good as Sherlock Holmes, and he plays the world’s greatest detective as a more compassionate and human man than he’s usually portrayed in the movies . Plummer’s Holmes is also very emotional, especially when the investigation brings him closer to the lives—and deaths— of the women he’s investigating .

James Mason, one of my all-time favorite actors, makes a very likeable Dr. Watson . Mason was an accomplished actor who starred in all types of films, and he enjoyed some memorable roles in genre movies, from the heroic Sir Oliver Lindenbrook in JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959), to the conniving Dr. Polidori in FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973), to the evil Straker in Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT (1979), to name just a few . Here, he makes a very distinguished Watson, applying some understated humor to the role.

The rest of the cast is full of veterans of the field . David Hemmings, a popular actor from the 1960s, who I remember most from movie roles in the 1970s, plays Inspector Foxborough, a Scotland Yard inspector with ulterior motives . Hemmings made a ton of movies, and one of his last was THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (2003) with Sean Connery, before his death later that year at age 62.

Frank Finlay plays Inspector Letrade, and he’s another actor I’ve always enjoyed, from his performances in Richard Lester’s THREE MUSKETEERS movies in the 1970s to Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE (1985), that bizarre space/vampire movie that should be on everyone’s “must see at least once” list . Finlay was also in THE PIANIST (2002), the film in which Adrien Brody won the Best Actor Oscar, but my all-time favorite Finlay role was his portrayal of Professor van Helsing in the 1977 Great Performances production of COUNT DRACULA, a neat and faithful retelling of Bram Stoker’s tale . Alas, as good as Finlay is, he doesn’t do much here in MURDER BY DECREE.

Donald Sutherland fares better as psychic Robert Lees, and his performance serves as a solid reminder as to why he was such a popular actor in the 1970s . Genevieve Bujold makes the most of her one scene as Annie Crook, so much so that she delivers probably the best performance in the film, other than Plummer and Mason . She’s really good . Susan Clark is also very good as the tragically doomed Mary Kelly.

MURDER BY DECREE was directed by Bob Clark, the man most famous for directing the Christmas classic A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) . Of course, Clark is also known for a less family-oriented Christmas movie, the 1974 Christmas horror movie BLACK CHRISTMAS, starring Margot Kidder . Clark also directed PORKY’S (1982) . Quite the varied resume!

MURDER BY DECREE doesn’t showcase Clark’s best work . The film lacks effective pacing, and the murder scenes don’t really pack the punch that they should, hindered by the annoying slow-motion photography .

John Hopkins wrote the screenplay . Hopkins is one of the writers who worked on the Sean Connery Bond film THUNDERBALL (1965) . In MURDER BY DECREE, there’s entertaining dialogue between Holmes and Watson, but there’s not much else that makes this one special in terms of writing .

Neither the direction nor the writing does much in the way of building suspense in this movie.

I remember liking MURDER BY DECREE when I first saw it back in 1979, but watching it now, all these years later, it doesn’t hold up all that well . It’s a beautifully photographed movie, it enjoys solid acting, and the first third of its story is rather compelling, but then it slows down and it remains slow all the way to its dramatic revelations, which, if you know the Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories, really aren’t that dramatic or surprising.

MURDER BY DECREE is one of those movies that, if you catch it in the right frame of mind, you might like it, but the fact is, there are better Sherlock Holmes movies, and there are better Jack the Ripper movies .

Watching MURDER BY DECREE is like looking at a mediocre painting . It catches your eye, and as you stay to look at it, you like what you see, but before long you tire of the experience and move on, and since it didn’t knock your socks off, you see no need to look at it again.

—END—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda

BLACK SHAMPOO!

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2011, Blaxploitation, Chainsaws!, Exploitation Films, Grindhouse, Soft-core, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, The Mob, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES: Modern Memories
Hair Salons and Chainsaws!
By Nick Cato

Brooklyn’s “reRun Gastropub Theater” was the setting on Wednesday, June 1st for a screening of the 1976 blaxploitation classic, BLACK SHAMPOO. The reRun Theater is a fun little indie cinema, located in the back of a trendy restaurant. Its stadium-styled seating is made up of 60 seats ripped from mini vans (!), and a full bar with snacks are located right alongside them. A 12-foot screen features digitally projected, locally made films as well as independent features from around the world (so, if you’re ever in NYC I strongly suggest a visit). Back in January, I had the pleasure of viewing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s SANTA SANGRE (1989) here, and the picture and sound were phenomenal.

The BLACK SHAMPOO screening was actually part of author Mike White’s book tour (his collection of pieces from his long-running fanzine, “Cashiers du Cinemart,” has been compiled in a hefty volume titled IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY [2010 Bear Manor Media]—and although I’m only halfway through it I can HIGHLY recommend it to any serious film geek). Mike has a large section dedicated to the film BLACK SHAMPOO (his all-time favorite movie), featuring commentary and interviews with a few of the films’ stars, as well as director Greydon Clark (who is responsible for countless 70s/80s exploitation classics, such as SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS (1977), WITHOUT WARNING (1980) and the infamous arcade sex comedy, JOY STICKS (1983)). While Mike did a brief intro for the film and a reading/book signing afterwards, it was the film that was the highlight of the evening.

This was my first screening of BLACK SHAMPOO, and as a life-long fan of the blaxploitation genre, I can safely say you’ll be hard pressed to find a more entertaining, funny, violent and downright FUNKY film. While the first 20 minutes play out like a really bad 70s porn film (complete with some of the coolest music ever to grace this type of feature), BLACK SHAMPOO soon turns into a hybrid love/gangster/revenge story complete with everything we psychotronic film fans love about these types of films: stereotypical black men and women and stereotypical gay hairdressers that would probably cause a protest were they done this way today; a party sequence that’s so out of place it almost gives the film a surreal edge; insane violence that includes chainsaw mayhem, pool cue mayhem and a mob-orchestrated curling-iron anal rape shakedown (you read that correctly); deplorable acting; and so much more, it’s hard to remember half of what went down after just one viewing.

The film centers around Mr. Jonathan, the owner of “Mr. Jonathan’s” hair salon on the Sunset Strip. His reputation as the ultimate ladies man has caused an endless line of women to book appointments for his “services.” And while he’s in the private back room “shampooing” his clients, the front of the place features women having their hair done by Mr. Jonathan’s staff, which includes Artie and Richard, two gay hairdressers who are done so over the top you can’t help but laugh every second they’re on the screen (fans of “classic dialogue” would do well to keep a pad and pen on hand during the entire film).

Mr. Jonathan gets so much action he actually begins to find shagging a real chore (even when two seemingly underage rich white girls seduce him during a house call…only to get their butts whipped by their mom’s belt for stealing her appointment [in a sequence that brings the “roughie” films of the early 70s to mind]. The mother then goes on to shag Mr. Jonathan as the two girls watch from the pool!).

After all this opening soft-core madness, BLACK SHAMPOO gets down to business. It seems the new black secretary at the salon has actually run away from her white mob “boyfriend,” who has kept her in his mansion as a modern day sex slave. When Mr. Jonathan catches wind of this, he takes his new receptionist, Brenda, out on a date and the two quickly fall in love. When the mob finds out Brenda’s whereabouts, they come down to the salon and trash the place (after kicking Artie’s poor little white ass in one of the most unconvincing “fight” scenes ever filmed). Brenda’s ex-boyfriend turns out to be underworld kingpin Mr. Wilson (an amazingly non-stereotypical name for a gangster), who is now on a mission to get Brenda back. He employs three of the goofiest goons ever to grace a trash film (Maddux, appropriately nick-named “Schumck;” an unnamed, tall black guy who looks like he played for the Knicks in the mid-70s; and a hysterical chauffer who has a few scene-stealing lines and actions).

Feeling guilty over the beating Artie took (which left him in a neck brace) and the trashing of the salon, Brenda goes back to the mob’s mansion. Mr. Jonathan—by way of a mob “invite”—takes a trip to the mansion so Mr. Wilson can explain that Brenda’s now back where she belongs—and Brenda seems happy about it. Confused and pissed off, Mr. Jonathan heads out to his cabin in the woods to get his head together—and Brenda eventually meets him there with Mr. Wilson’s top secret book of money laundering information. Before long, the mob catches wind of this, and we’re all set for a bloody-good showdown in the woods.

BLACK SHAMPOO is unlike any blaxploitation film out there, mainly due to the character of Mr. Jonathan. He’s not a cop or pimp ala SHAFT (1971) and DOLEMITE (1975), just a heterosexual hairdresser who happens to be quite handy with a chainsaw and pool cue. And while his onscreen persona is actually quite boring (John Daniels has the acting skills of a parking meter), for some strange reason the audience revels in his booty-shaggin, belly-slashing schtick.

I mean, come on folks: what other film features a chainsaw-wielding black hairdresser dishing it out to the mob after laying pipe on half of Hollywood? Mr. Jonathan just may be the COOLEST blaxploitation character of all time (I’ll let you all know if this holds up to repeated viewings as good as DOLEMITE, the granddaddy of all blaxploitation films). Also, major kudos for a sonically-funky soundtrack that will stay in your head long after the film concludes.

I also recommend watching BLACK SHAMPOO with an audience of like-minded fans: while I’m sure I would have loved this had I watched it alone on DVD, I’m not sure how many non-fans of this subgenre will be won over by it.

But I still say give it a shot. Until next time, I’m off to the salon . . .

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

NOTE: For more about Mike White and his book IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY, check out his site: http://impossiblefunky.blogspot.com/

 

Mr. Jonathan (John Daniels) is seduced by two rich white girls, Meg (Kelly Beau) and Peg (Marl Pero) in BLACK SHAMPOO.