[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Blaxploitation

Related: African American cinema - 1970s - 1970s music - exploitation film - funk (music) - minstrel shows (theatre) - 'race' movies - soul (music) - American cinema - soundtrack

Films: Lialeh (1973) - Addio zio Tom (1971) and Africa Addio (1966)

still from Tamara Dobson in
Cleopatra Jones (1973) - Jack Starrett

Lialeh [SOUNDTRACK] (1973) - Bernard "Pretty" Purdie [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Coffy [SOUNDTRACK] (1973) - Roy Ayers [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Intro

A genre of American film of the 1970s featuring African-American actors in lead roles and often having antiestablishment plots, frequently criticized for stereotypical characterization and glorification of violence. While African-American filmmakers were substantially involved in making early movies in this genre, their participation in subsequent productions was minimal.

Definition

Blaxploitation is a controversial film genre developed in the United States in the early 1970s. The films in this genre were some of the first to target the urban African-American audience with primarily black characters, soundtracks featuring funk and soul music and urban settings, which lead to plots involving drug dealing, prostitution and other forms of crime. Because of this, and because many characters were seen as violent, sassy, African-American stereotypes, blaxploitation films were protested by civil rights groups. The controversy was only heightened by the fact that most of these films, although featuring black actors and musicians, were often written and directed by white men. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaxploitation [Apr 2005]

Excerpts from Blaxploitation.com

The best online resource on the genre.

[...] the black alternative to these mainstream offerings. Now known as 'blaxploitation' films, they satisfied the demand from inner-city audiences for movies made by and for blacks. It should be noted that the term 'blaxploitation' refers to the films' continuation of the trashy 'exploitation' films of the 1960's rather than the film studios 'using' black actors. [...] while Roy Ayers produced the superb 'Coffy' soundtrack in 1973. [...] --http://www.blaxploitation.com

In 1965 the young black actor Sidney Poitier starred alongside Anne Bancroft in a thriller called 'The Slender Thread'. The job of scoring the film went to Quincy Jones, a jazz trumpeter from Lionel Hampton's band. He had completed scores for 'The Pawnbroker' and 'Mirage' by this time and was set to score a number of television series. He said of Sidney Pollack, director of 'Slender Thread', that he was 'a modern guy who didn't get shocked when he heard a far-out piece of music'. This gave him the artistic freedom to experiment outside of the traditional jazz score. The track 'Big Sir' which closes the album gave a hint at what was to come. Uptempo, with a strong 'four' feel, it captured the evolving soul sound using full, brassy instrumentation.

Poitier went on to star in the racially-charged 'Guess who's coming to dinner?' in which he played white middle-class Katherine Houghton's boyfriend to the mixed reactions of her friends and relatives. 'In the heat of the night' saw Poitier playing a cop coping with Rod Steiger's racist redneck sheriff. These films showed Poitier in a presentable, middle-class light, tolerated rather than accepted by the white society in which he found himself.

[...] --of the.man@blaxploitation.com via http://blaxploitation.com/st-intro.html [2004]

Mandingo (1957) - Kyle Onstott

Mandingo (1957) - Kyle Onstott [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

For over two decades, since his 1958 publication of Mandingo, author Kyle Onstott has churned out formulaic novels for an eager audience. -- Plantation Mistress (1984) - Catherine Clinton [Amazon.com]

see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandingo

Mandingo (1975) - Richard Fleischer [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Mandingo is a 1975 film, based on the book Mandingo by Kyle Onstott, about a African slave in the 1840s United States who is trained as a prize fighter by his owner. The owner is just unaware that his daughter is having an affair with his best fighter.

The term has come to be used as a slang term for an interracial relationship.

The film was directed by Richard Fleischer, and featured James Mason, Susan George, Perry King, and boxer-turned-actor Ken Norton. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandingo_%28film%29 [Jun 2005]

see also: cross - slave - blaxploitation - 1957 - 1975

Movies

  1. Blacula (1972) - William Crain [Amazon US]
    William Marshall, a Shakespearean actor with a rich baritone voice, enriches this otherwise bland blaxploitation vampire film with his strong, seductive performance. He's Manuwalde, a European-educated 18th-century African prince who appeals to the Count Dracula for help in ending the slave trade. Dracula, never known as a great emancipator, puts the bite on Manuwalde's troubles, dubs him "Blacula" (the only time the name is uttered in the film), and imprisons him in a casket. Stirred to life, so to speak, centuries later in Los Angeles by gay antique hunters, he steps into the soulful '70s and splits his energies between feeding his bloodlust and wooing a young beauty (Vonetta McGee), a dead ringer for his long-dead wife. Thalmus Rasulala (Friday Foster) is a modern medical professor turned urban Van Helsing, and Elisha Cook Jr. has a bit part as a coroner with a hook for a hand. The potential for a clever urban black twist on the European vampire myth is lost in this dull, thoroughly conventional tale. Marshall is under enough sloppily applied facial hair to make him a wolfman, and his victims walk around with a plastic blue pallor. But despite the limitations, Marshall creates a magnetic, aristocratic character and infuses his monster with a sense of loss and sadness in the climax. It was followed by a sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream, and inspired Blackenstein. For a more interesting and thoughtful African American take on the vampire legend, look to Ganja and Hess. --Sean Axmaker, amazon.com

Documentaries

  1. Baadasssss Cinema - A Bold Look at 70's Blaxploitation Films (2002) [Amazon.com]
    What a great treat to find so many beloved icons in Isaac Julien's excellent documentary about blaxploitation cinema: actors Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, and Gloria Hendry, among others, as well as directors Gordon Parks and Melvin Van Peebles. Through their piercing perspectives, plus commentary by the likes of film critic Elvis Mitchell and (of course) cult aficionado and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Baadasssss Cinema makes a persuasive argument that 1970s blaxploitation was both an American achievement and a temporary fix for Hollywood's then-economic doldrums. Julien gracefully leads viewers on a tour of blaxploitation's aesthetic and social roots, including a desire by African American audiences to see black protagonists stand up to power. Baadasssss Cinema also explains the appeal of warhorse movie genres--gangster films, horror--to the blaxploitation industry, discusses African American ambivalence in the '70s toward the films' new racial stereotypes, and makes sense of blaxploitation's commercial burnout once Hollywood got hold of the formula. --Tom Keogh for amazon.com

    BaadAsssss Cinema is a 2002 documentary film, directed by Issac Julien. British director Issac Julien takes on the Blaxploitation era of the 1970s in this hour long documentary.

    With archive film clips and interviews, this brief look at a frequently overlooked historical period of filmmaking acts as an introduction rather than a complete record. Features interviews with some of the genre's biggest stars, like Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, and Richard Roundtree. Director Melvin Van Peebles discusses the historical importance of his landmark film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. For a contemporary perspective, the excitable Quentin Tarantino offers his spirited commentary and author/critic bell hooks provides some scholarly social analysis.

    The music of Blaxploitation films is rightfully discussed, focusing on Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" and Isaac Hayes' "Shaft." Also features interviews with writer/director Larry Cohen and film historian Armond White. Baadasssss Cinema was originally shown on the Independent Film Channel in August 2002 as part of a week-long Blaxploitation film festival.

    Contributors
    * Larry Cohen * Ron Finley * Pam Grier * Ed Guerrero * Gloria Hendry * bell hooks * Samuel L. Jackson * Elvis Mitchell * Afeni Shakur * Quentin Tarantino * Melvin Van Peebles * Armond White * Fred Williamson * Isaac Hayes archive footage * Roy Innis archive footage * Jesse Jackson archive footage * Ron O'Neal archive footage * Gordon Parks archive footage --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BaadAsssss_Cinema [Jan 2006]

Books

  1. That's Blaxploitation: Roots of the Baadasssss 'Tude (Rated X by an All'Whyte Jury) - Darius James [1 book, Amazon US]
    Of all the lovably outrefeatures of 1970s America currently being rediscovered, the "blaxploitation" film is one of the most deserving. Featuring funky soundtracks, pimp-suit fashions, and oodles of attitude, such flicks gave audiences fast action within simple plots involving cartoonish characters straight from some 1970s cultural garage sale. James proudly runs through those and other defining characteristics of the sassy film genre, in the process profiling modern black cinema pioneer Melvin Van Peebles; actor Richard Roundtree, portrayer of black superagent John Shaft; underrated actress Tamara Dobson (Cleopatra Jones); and the ultimate godmother, lubricious Pam Grier. Profusely illustrated, engagingly written, James' book would be worth having just as a checklist of the great black films of the funk decade, but it also features analyses of individual films and, among the interviewees, the interesting inclusion of white cartoonist Ralph Bakshi (Coonskin, Fritz the Cat, etc.), who draws a creative connection between his work and both George Herriman's comic strip, Krazy Kat, and the music of John Coltrane. Informative fun for the funky at heart. Mike Tribby for amazon.com

CDs

  1. Coffy [SOUNDTRACK] (1973) - Roy Ayers [Amazon.com]
    1. Coffy Is the Color Listen Listen 2. Pricilla's Theme Listen Listen 3. King George Listen Listen 4. Aragon Listen Listen 5. Coffy Sauna Listen Listen 6. King's Last Ride 7. Coffy Baby 8. Brawling Broads 9. Escape 10. Shining Symbol 11. Exotic Dance 12. Making Love 13. Vittroni's Theme-King Is Dead 14. End of Sugarman
    The film that gave Pam Grier her first leading role and vaulted her to queen bee of the blaxploitation movement also inspired a soundtrack that is arguably Roy Ayers's most rewarding work. Grier plays a disgruntled nurse who goes "underground" to exact revenge on the pusher men who put the monkey on her junkie sister's back. Ayers matches her step for gun-totin' step with crisp, percolating drum lines; colorful ripples of electric piano; and his signature, lissome vibe work. Ayers' twin talents--the head-scratching virtuosity of his jazz runs and the ass-shaking grooves of his R&B rhythms--are in full flower on this recording. But Coffy is more than an acid-jazz archetype. The classically inspired solo harpsichord piece and the wack auxiliary percussion freak-out also included here hint at a deeper pool of inspiration that Ayers would rarely return to again. --Matt Hanks for amazon.com [...] [...]

What It Is... What It Was! (1998) - Andres Chavez, Denise Chavez, Gerald Martinez

What It Is... What It Was!; The Black Film Explosion of the '70s in Words and Pictures (1998) - Andres Chavez, Denise Chavez, Gerald Martinez [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Booklist
Ever since 1970s black activists coined the derogatory label blaxploitation to describe the likes of Sweet Sweetback's BaadAsssss Song, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and Mandingomovies full of snappy street patter, outrageous pimp suits, and comic-book-style action--debate has raged over whether they are valid popular artwork or just demeaning. Most of the actors, writers, and directors interviewed for this book--'70s veterans like Melvin Van Peebles, Pam Grier, and Fred Williamson as well as current stars Ice-T, Samuel L. Jackson, and Keenan Ivory Wayans--disagree with the label. Their remarks are copiously accompanied by publicity posters for the controversial films. The garish graphics are intended to be the volume's main attraction, according to the introduction, and dating from a time when their kind of thing was still painted rather than assembled from photographs, they're pretty nifty, all right. But the text, especially the contributions of the stars of the blaxploitation genre, makes this a special bit of film history. Mike Tribby, Amazon.com

see also: Blaxploitation - film - 1970s - sleaze - trash

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications