Blacker than Black- “Urban Revenge” 15 movie pack…

Urban Revenge

This is my first purchase of flicks from The Garr Group (www.thegarrgroup.com , but good luck finding any useful information on their website- as it seems to be with most of these budget providers, their site is “Under Construction”), and they seem to specialize in multi-disc collections of Public Domain and ‘gray-area’ titles. After finding this, I think that I need to seek out some more of their collections if they are like this; some of the titles can be found anywhere, but others I had never seen anywhere on DVD…

 

I’ve always been a really big fan of 70’s “blaxploitation”; for a time in the early and mid 70’s some of these titles were allowed a freedom depicting an experience that other drive-in movies of that time. Most were very cheaply made, and, seams and all, showed a slice of life far from the way I was raised, but were exciting and daring (growing up we had an “inner city” drive-in that I would frequent, just so I could catch up on triple features no one else showed). Some great people came from that period of filmmaking, and some of them are still working today; people like Pam Grier (a personal favorite); Fred Williamson, Bernie Casey, Richard Roundtree and Jim Brown are just some of the names. Now, on a lower tier, people with VERY little money tried to jump on the gravy train to turn a quick buck; those are the titles (for the most part) included in this set…

 

The discs themselves come in a hard-sided double-width case with fairly serious cover art featuring Morgan Freeman (I do like on the back the little red circle that points out that “Warning- Some movies may contain explicit language, sex, violence and nudity”… REALLY? I wouldn’t have guessed that). The 15 movies are spread out between 3 discs, and as you’d expect from the dubious nature of this package, the quality is less-than-pristine. In fact, some of them are downright awful. Blurry transfers, video artifacts abound, rough prints, they’re all included here:

 

 

Disc 1-

 

1- Black Godfather (1974): A stalwart in these PD collections. Rod Perry stars in this urban take on Mafioso. Fairly flat and talky, but pretty well acted (you’ll recognize Tony Burton– Apollo’s right-hand man from the Rocky movies). Also features scenes in a warehouse, foreshadowing Reservoir Dogs. (94 min.  2 stars)

 

2- Black Hooker (1974): Not really blaxploitation; more of a drama about the cast-off son of a street walker and his life in the country, Some barnyard sex in the middle does nothing to spice up this lame and overbearing flick- shot and acted in parts like a play. Should never have been included in this set. (86 min.  1 star)

 

3- Velvet Smooth (1976): Now, this is more like it! It’s horrible and particularly badly-acted, but with the head-spinning action and the outrageous wardrobe, it makes most of its faults endurable in a bad-movie kinda way. A female detective and her co-workers are hired to takedown a gang of cardboard mask-wearing hoods. Someone thought that the lead actress (Johnnie Hill as Velvet) could carry this flick, and she did such a good job she never appeared in ANY movie again. (92 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

4- TNT Jackson (1974): More karate chick action, this time it’s the distraught sister of a murdered man avenging her brother’s killer. Hong Kong locations give this one a different feel, and better acting by the leads (Jeannie Bell, a former Playboy Playmate, is a lot easier to look at than Velvet Smooth) as well as more professional behind the camera talent (Roger Corman produced, and Dick Miller (Bucket of Blood) wrote it) make this a not-too-bad time waster. Warning- the print used is particularly faded. (71 min.  3 stars)

 

5- Super Soul Brother (1979): AKA The Six-Thousand Dollar Nigger. Dr. Dippy (yep- Dr. Dippy) comes up with a drug that would make a normal man a “super man”. They use a bum (“Wildman” Steve) for their experiments, with comical (well, ATTEMPED comical) results. Not funny in the least, not even unintentionally. (80 min. that seem twice as long   ½ star)

 

 

Disc 2-

 

1- Jive Turkey (1974): Numbers racket action with Mafiosa trying to cut into a black racket. Not high on action at the start, and the women are not attractive at ALL, but the story isn’t bad and there’s a feel about this that seems pretty authentic. Stay tuned for the women who kills a guy with the heel of her shoe (84 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

2- Candy Tangerine Man (1975): Some Super Pimp action with The Black Baron having to keep his bitches in line (they even get a special credit in the opening titles: “The Actual ‘Hookers’ and ‘Blades’ of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood); between on-the-lamb chicks who steal and his money, and the Mob trying to horn in on his action- what’s a poor Mack to do? With a good score and some recognizable faces (Marilyn Joi was a fixture in these kind of movies, and Buck” Flowers was in a  bunch of both John Carpenter and Bill Rebane flicks). With gratuitous ‘golden shower’ scene- thank God the print for this one is really bad and blurry. (86 min.  2 stars)

 

3- Brotherhood of Death (1976): ‘Nam soldiers vs. The Klan in this better-than-expected revenge flick. Like The Black Six, the leads were NFL football players- a gimmick that worked pretty well in this flick as, for the most part, the guys did an OK job. Well-made for what they had to work with, with an interesting story and enough action to keep things interesting. I was glad I ran across this- one of the few titles on this that I had never heard of before. (77 min.  3 stars)

 

4- Children of the Night (1985): Made-for-TV movie stars Kathleen Quinlan as a social worker out to make lives better for Hollywood hookers. Too well-made to be in this set, it can’t really be considered exploitation because, well, it’s a mid-eighties TV flick; it’s well produced and acted, and doesn’t have a predominately black cast (Mario Van Peebles is the basically lone African-American star in this). Good use of “Hell is For Children” by Pat Benatar (however, there’s no way music rights were cleared to be included this on this set) based on real-life incidences and people.  (93 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

5- Death of a Prophet (1981): Another Made-for TV flick (more like a SHOW with its short running time); this one detailing the life of Malcolm X, interspersing real life remembrances with re-enacted parts. Morgan Freeman plays Malcolm X going about the last day of his life through his assassination, intercut with newsreel footage and narration. Again, pretty good but shouldn’t be included in this mix (59 min.  3 stars)

 

Disc 3-

 

1- Mr. Mean (1977): OK but empty Fred Williamson exploiter (he stars and directs) with The Hammer playing Mr. Mean- one bad mutha who gets caught up in an international crime ring. Mostly shot in Italy with (rumored) borrowed equipment being used to make another film he was starring in at the time (the original Inglorious Bastards); the movie rambles on like pretty much all Williamson movies do (lots of people walking in and out of doors; people on the phone, etc.) but has a clunky charm to it all. (80 min.  2-1/2 stars)

 

2- Stigma (1972): Other than the racial prejudice on display over the Phillip Michael Thomas (yes, THAT ONE- Tubbs for Miami Vice) character, this is less blaxploitation than pure exploitation as Thomas plays a defrocked doctor in this expose of sexual diseases and the fun that can be had. A seventies version of the ‘it can happen to YOU!’ 30’s VD flicks, sleazy and hard not to watch, with the hysterical acting, dopey music, and all-over-the-place messages. Not to be missed- by the director of I Drink Your Blood, another insane drive-in flick. Look for an appearance by the DJ “Cousin” Brucie. (93 min.  3 stars)

 

3- Black Jesus (1968) I had heard about this and was really looking forward to finally seeing this rarely-screened ‘cult’ item starring Woody Strode. Again, not some much blaxploitation, this is more about political persecution and, in the end, martyrdom in the Congo. Strode is an actor of great charisma (an ex-football player who wasn’t as successful an actor in the States as he was overseas) and manages to make this heavy drama compelling and interesting. Backed and Directed by an Italian crew (81 min.  3 stars)

 

4- Black Force (1975) Jumping on the karate craze of the mid-seventies, this pointless and poorly-made fodder has a group of kung-fu experts hired to retrieve African artifacts. Owen Wat-son (who also appeared in Velvet Smooth) appears as the ‘leader’ and his wooden acting and puffed-up ego are hilarious. The credits introduce the actors along with what degree black belt they are, like that would somehow make the following action more authentic I guess (even someone who only provided a PHONE VOICE gets their 2nd Degree Black Belt credited!). Didn’t work- lame to the 5th degree (black belt). Also, don’t miss the credit playing up that “All martial arts sequences are authentic” and no special effects were used. If I were the filmmakers, I would have hired George Lucas’ team to spice up some of this “action”. One of the actors with the incredible name Warhawk Tanzania went on to make the insane Gang Wars a year later. (77 min.  1-1/2 stars)

 

5- Black Force 2 (1973): This re-titled flick (originally released as Brother on the Run and on this DVD with the title Man on the Run) has no karate action whatsoever. Instead, it’s a turgidly-paced lemon following the exploits of a shoplifter on the lamb and the nice-guy teacher who wants to help him. Terry Carter is the soft-hearted teach and the only other actor in here of worth (you’ll recognize the other- James Sikking from Hill Street Blues as well as playing Doogie Howser’s Dad); he’s pretty good, but just too weak to carry a dull picture like this. Only in the annals of exploitation would a sequel have been made two years before the original!  (84 min.  1-1/2 stars)

 

 

 

One last thing- for some totally unknown reason at the bottom of the package says “NOTE: Views or opinions expressed in this product are those of their individual producers and do not necessarily represent of those of TGG Direct, LLC”. Well, since none of these have separate audio tracks (or ANY special features), the disclaimer is a bit odd- is the Distributor afraid of being sued from someone watching these flicks? They don’t want to be sued when someone innocently watches Black Hooker and decides to devote her life to turning tricks? Right. Purchased at Kmart for $4.99- a deal at twice the price…

 

Advertisements