The Black Six

My blaxploitation-fest continues with this 1974 outlaw biker film.

As in the previous blaxploitation films I have been watching, there is an American Rugby connection with all six of the main actors being actual players back in the day. They all came from different teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of them did some other work in film or television, but this was really the high point of their silver screen fame. I must say though that they were all quite natural on screen, sometimes funny, but not quite up to Fred or Jim level.

The story starts out with the murder of a black American Rugby player by a honky biker gang. He was killed because his white girlfriend is also the sister of the leader of the honky gang, and he didn’t like that.

We then meet Bubba and the other members of The Black Six. Bubba is also the brother of the murdered player. The Black Six is a peace loving biker group who roam the countryside on their bikes, working and sleeping where ever they can. They find work on a farm stacking hay bales into the loft of a barn. It was quite funny as they were obviously throwing light wooden boxes with hay glued on the outside…

After finishing the work the nice farm lady invites them in for dinner where they have a good meal, and of course there is a lot of good-hearted banter and joking around. The lady pays them what little money she can, as times are tough, and she hopes they would drop by again someday when she has more money so they can fix the barn wall which needs repairing. They ask if they can sleep in the barn for the night, which she happily agrees to.

The next day the lady goes outside to see that the gang has left, and that the barn has been fixed! A postman comes up to her and says; “I just saw that bunch of Negroes ride out, I just what to make sure everything is all right, you know how they are!”, to which she replies, “Yes…I know how they are!” with a smile on her face.

Mrs. Perkins

This was the actress’ only film, but she did fine.

Bubba (played by Gene Washington of the San Francisco 49ers) finds out in a letter from his mother that his brother was slain, so he decides he must go home and find out what happened. The rest of the gang of course join him. They don’t want to bash heads, they just want to find out who did it, as the police don’t who know did it although they kind of did but they are afraid of the honky gang.

The rest of the story is really quite dull, but the ending is where things get weird. After finding out who did it the Black Six decide to go violent and end up wasting all of the honky white gang in a rumble in a field, quite viciously. Unbeknown to them another even more vicious gang (or motorcycle dudes as the poster says) was waiting nearby, they just wanted to join in on the fun. Part of their attack strategy was to throw lit flares at them. The Black Six picked up the flares and threw them back, so there was a lot of flare throwing which looked like fun. There were dozens of the flare-throwing gang, but the Black Six were doing a good job of wasting them too. The last remaining member of the original gang who fled the carnage at first is ordered by the other gang leader to do something about it, so he lights up a flare, places it in the open gas tank of his hog, then makes a banzai run for the Black Six. He does a jump in the air and explodes, causing all of the other hogs which were strewn about the battlefield to explode. Over the flames we see shots of each of the Black Six like thus…

“Bubba”

We then see this…

From Wikipedia:
Several of the football players were disappointed with elements in the original script, especially that the black motorcyclists would be killed in the end, despite the fact that they stood for truth, justice and the American way. As a result of their protests, an inconclusive ending was shot.

That explains the ending. There was however no sequel.

It was a very cheaply made film and didn’t really have much of a story. But, the six main characters were fun to watch and the actors playing them seemed to be enjoying themselves. The ending too, though bizarre, was a bit of fun. So, it was not too bad, but the Slaughter films are the best of the blaxploitation films I have watched in the last week or so.

Date watched: October 19th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 67

Mean Johnny Barrows

I was about to watch another Jim Brown film when I came across this Fred Williamson flick on YouTube and thought I would give it a go. Right from the beginning it was obvious this was going to be a weird nonsensical and possibly terrible film. Freddo directed it.

It started off with Fred’s character Johnny doing some army training at an army base in California. Johnny, a captain or something, was doing some mine field training with some soldiers, explaining that the mines in the field are fake. He then steps on a mine and somehow instantly recognises that it is in fact a real mine. As he keeps pressure on it another officer comes along, he is obviously a racist and tells Johnny that all he has to do is replace the pin to defuse it, but in a racist manner. Johnny puts a pin in, but for some reason he asks his trainees to put their flak jackets around the mine, then he leaps away and it explodes, hurting no one. He then punches the officer’s lights out. He is discharged from the army. This is all important later in the film.

Next, we see Johnny in L.A., looking down and out in dirty clothes, and roaming the streets looking for work. He goes into a restaurant and the owner (and a mob family member) offers him work as a hitman, right there and then. To cut the story short, Johnny finally accepts the job as hitman about two-thirds of the film in after trying to find honest work, and working at a petrol station with a mean old dude, so goes about wasting some dudes from another mob family, and gets involved with a pretty blond who turns out to be a kind of Juliet of one mob family, with the Romeo being a son in the other mob family (played by Roddy McDowall), who Johnny also kills by slicing his leg open and telling him to jump into the sea from a boat (I presume sharks ate him, even though it was at a dock in the harbour, we didn’t actually see him die).

This brings us to the bizarre end. An assassin is hired to rub out Johnny, we don’t get to see his face until the final fight scene where they meet after a boring car chase, do some lame kung-fu on each other, and Johnny finally kills him with a ninja star to the head (it kills the assassin despite only barely piercing his forehead). It turns out the assassin was the officer Johnny punched out at the beginning of the film!

“ARRGHH! I have been mortally wounded by a ninja star!”

The very final scene is even more bizarre with Johnny taking the blond to a piece of land he was promised by the mob boss for the hits, along with a lot of money. He had fallen in love with her, and he didn’t know she was in cahoots with the rival mob bosses’ son. As he is asking her to shack up with him he moves in for a kiss but is shot by her in the stomach. She is pissed that he killed Romeo you see. She plugs him a few more times, then turns around and walks a few steps, and then realises she has stepped on a live mine, looks surprised at him for a few seconds, looks down, then is blown to bits. Johnny is still alive despite the shots. Quite an ending!

“Oh, sh…”

The film freeze frames on the explosion and the following text is displayed:

Everything in between in the mines is very slow moving. There is a story, but it just plods along until Johnny finally decides to take the hitman job, way too late in the story. The action is sparse and not really all that well done, along with pretty much everything else.

There is one bizarro scene near the beginning involving Elliot Gould. His character, a smooth-talking ex-professor dressed in fancy duds comes up to Johnny just as Johnny is about to take a hotdog out of a trashcan, he is that hungry. Gould’s character convinces Johnny to leave it and to go to a soup kitchen. On the way they go up to some random dude eating a hot dog and drinking a root beer, where Elliot smooth talks him into letting them have a bite and swig. The guy silently lets them and smiles and becomes instant chums with them. It was all very random, but as it turns out it was actually all random…

From IMDB:
Star Fred Williamson’s M*A*S*H (1972) co-star Elliott Gould came in for a half-hour’s work to help out his friend. Gould completely improvised his part on the spot.

That explains a lot.

Elliot and Freddo

Fred, like Jim Brown, was an American Rugby player-turned actor, and he also dabbled in directing and producing. Fred and Jim actually worked together in various films as well as television. And according to Wikipedia he has black belts in Kenpō, Shotokan karate and taekwondo.

Fred is 80 and still going strong.

So this was quite a mess, with the only real good stuff involving exploding mines, and Elliot Gould’s weird cameo. The two Slaughter films did this kind of film a lot better by concentrating on the action and less on the story.

Date watched: October 14th
Score: 3/10
Film count 2018: 64

Slaughter

I just had to see this film after watching the sequel last night. I watched this on YouTube and it was obviously ripped from a video cassette, so the picture was not great, but the sound was fine which was fortunate as the theme song was fabs (see below).

The story involves Slaughter going on a rampage in South America in order to find the mother that killed his parents in a car bomb attack. In the scene directly after the explosion we see Slaughter in the hospital. A doctor walks out of an operating theatre to tell him that his father did not make it, which was quite bizarre as this explosion seems pretty final…

It turns out that he was after Rip Torn (real name Elmore Rual Torn Jr.), and he of course kills him by blowing him up in a fiery car explosion.

Rip Torn as “Dominic Hoffo”, evil b’stard.

To fill in the story between the parents getting blown to bits and Rip getting blown to bits, we had various random characters and plot points thrown in.

There was of course a sidekick comedy-relief guy, played by Don Gordon (he passed away last year aged 90)…

Say hello to my wooden friend!

There was the kingpin gangster played by a fellow by the name of Norman Alfe. Norman was a wealthy furniture manufacturer and was an aspiring actor. This was his only film and he actually died not long after this film was made at the age of 48. There is very little about him on the interwebs, but one site says that his death is a mystery. This may have been his first and only film, but he was actually quite good.

Norman as Mario, the classy kingpin.

The love interest was played by Stella Stevens who appeared in many TV shows and films including Bonanza, Magnum P.I., The Nutty Professor, and The Poseidon Adventure. She had to take her clothes off a few times in the film, each time with Slaughter of course.

Stella and Jim.

The story was quite random and nonsensical for the most part. It just seems as though the writers sat around thinking of good action bits they could add in, then quickly filled in the gaps. The cinematography was a bit random too. Some shots were taken at strange angles, and for a couple of action scenes the cameraman decided a fish-eye lens would be a good idea, and that the camera should be at ground level looking up towards the action, it was quite bizarre.

The director who was a fellow by the name of Jack Starrett. I hadn’t heard of him either, but when I looked him up I found out that he played this very funny character in Blazing Saddles…

Gabby Johnson

The absolute best thing about this film though was the theme song by Billy Preston…just listen to that guitar!

The seventies fashions in this film were lackluster. Looking on the Internet for 1972 fashions though, I did find that there were some far-out designs back then, such as the neat threads these gents are sporting…I quite like the left outfit.

“Dudes! Look over there, is that Leif Garrett?!”

The sequel is better, but I still found this to be a hoot to watch. It is a pity the Slaughter films did not continue beyond just these two gems of 70’s gold, but Jim Brown went on to make plenty more films, one of which I have lined up to watch next.

Date watched: October 13th
Score: 6.5/10
Seventies-O-fashion score: 3/10
Film count 2018: 63

Slaughter’s Big Rip Off

Browsing for films on YouTube I came across this film, which as it turns out is another American International Pictures release. It was made in 1973 and features the acting talents of Jim Brown, with a soundtrack by James Brown. It also stars Ed McMahon as a drug lord.

It is pretty typical 1970’s B-grade fare with lots of action, cardboard acting, scenes where nothing much happens, TV-style directing, large collars, mustaches, and attitude. Some of it was just plain funny, especially a scene involving Slaughter being attacked by kung-fu assassins.

Some of it was quite violent, especially a scene at the beginning of the film where we see a character (played by George Gaynes, aka Lieutenant Lassard of Police Academy fame…read his bio, he had quite a life) on the receiving end of a headshot by a hitman shooting a machine gun from a low flying biplane. For the day this must have been quite shocking.

Jim Brown was an American Rugby player before he turned to acting, and quite a successful one too. This film was made seven years after he retired from sports, but he was obviously still in good shape. He had plenty of opportunities to show off his physique, mostly in scenes that involved some lady friends (his character had a girlfriend, but he was not very faithful to her).

Jim in action.
Jim in gun action (different film).
Jim these days.

Also in the film was Scatman Crothers, which is always a pleasure to see. He was the voice of Hong Kong Phooey don’t you know?!

The seventies fashions in this film were only average. The best dressed character, apart from Scatman of course, was “Joe Creole” who was a smooth-talkin’ pimp.

Scatman knows how to wear a hat.
Purple is my thang!

Ed McMahon did have some stylish sunglasses though, and the shirt is not too bad either…

Ed with the film’s hitman.

This is actually a sequel to the original Slaughter film that came out a year earlier, so I’ll have to check that out too. Hopefully it is as much fun as this one.

Fave lines in the film (from IMDB):

Slaughter: [Slaughter’s girl is wound up about him getting hurt] Now, you gettin’ all wired up ain’t gonna help nothing… So why don’t you go back on outside, and give the customers another look at your pretty face?
Marcia: You know, that’s what gets me about you, Slaughter… You’re so goddammed cool!
[She storms out]

Slaughter: [to his girl] I’m Slaughter, baby… The baddest cat that ever walked the earth… And besides, I’m gonna do it to them before they do it to me… You can bet your money on that.

Date watched: October 12th
Score: 7.5/10
Seventies-O-fashion score: 6/10
Film count 2018: 62

Youngblood

This is a 1978 film made by American International Pictures, who made quite a few blaxploitation films, including Scream Blacula Scream.

The story centres around “Youngblood”, a teenager who gets into trouble at school when he is caught with a handgun. He then gets involved in a street gang that has a beef with a local drug dealer after one of the gang dies of an overdose, so they decide to bring him down. What they don’t know, and Youngblood doesn’t know, is that Youngblood’s seemingly upstanding older brother is one of the leaders of the drug ring.

There is a little more to it, but really the story is nothing new or particularly engaging. The cinematography and directing are nothing flash, but it is obviously a film made on small budget. The acting though is fine, and there are a few familiar faces in the cast. The soundtrack is by War, and this is made clear to us right from the first opening credits, and is the first thing you see in the end credits. Click here to listen to the title song.

The film ends with the following freeze frame, where we have time to ponder what was to become of Youngblood. Freeze frames are a cheap way to end a budget film really. Instead of neatly tying up all of the loose ends and sub-plots, a freeze frame which lasts 30 seconds or so (as this one did) gives us time to forget all that and make up our own ending.

Not a great film, but overall it was watchable, and it is always fascinating to see 70’s America (in this case it was Watts in Los Angeles). I always marvel at the size of many of the cars back then, they were huge abominations, and the fashions of the day were superb.

“I got smarts and style!”
70's duds
“We got style!”
Date watched: October 7th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 61

Life of Brian

This is one of my all-time fave films, and I have reviewed it three times already on this site, giving it a perfect score very time. I last watched it in June, 2016.

It is still just as funny as ever, and even though I know most of the jokes, almost word for word, it never gets old.

The entire cast was great, and it is always fun in a Python film seeing the Python members play all kinds of different characters. The supporting cast too were very good, including a cameo by Spike Milligan. A Kiwi actor by the name of Terrence Baylor played this memorable character…

And another character who was always funny was Mathias, played by Brian Young…

A few facts (from IMDB):

When Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate addressed the soldiers daring them to laugh, he was truly daring them. The soldier extras were ordered to stand there and not laugh, but not told what Palin was going to do. Palin, in fact, can barely stifle his own laughter when saying “Biggus Dickus” in front of the soldier asked if he finds the name “risible.”

Spike Milligan was on holiday in Tunisia while the film was being shot. When the Python team realized he was nearby, they offered him a part in the film.

Six cast members played forty characters.

This film would not have been made at all if it was not for George Harrison who helped finance the film. The world needs more Georges.

Date watched: October 6th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 60

Farewell, My Lovely

The hot day continued, so I browsed for another film on YouTube, and came up with this particularly good 1975 film, another Raymond Chandler story.

Robert Mitchum starred as Philip Marlowe, hired to find an ex-convict’s girl. The story starts getting complicated quickly with plenty of characters and sub-plots to follow. The ending was not predictable at all, and for it all to make complete sense I think I need to watch it all again, or read the book which as fate would have it I loaded onto my Kindle yesterday, so I will get onto that.

At first I wasn’t sure if Robert Mitchum was going to be a good Philip Marlowe, but soon I was enjoying watching him play the part. I dare say that he was as good, if not a tad better than The Bogart, but perhaps that is the heat talking. Robert is the only actor to play the role of Marlowe more than once on the big screen. Richard Burton was the first choice for the role, but he was too busy to do it.

Also in this film was Kate Murtagh who was great as the gangster-like madam of a brothel, apparently based on a real life person by the name of Brenda Allen. You will also recognize Kate from the cover of Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” album (see below). Ah! The lives some people have! She is 97.

We also got to see a young, and not particularly brawny Sylvester Stallone.

Left picture: Kate on the left, Stallones on the right.

Other well-known faces in this were Charlotte Rampling, Anthony Zerbe, Harry Dean Stanton, and John Ireland.

The actor playing “Moose Malloy”, the ex-convict, is Jack O’Halloran who you will recognise from Superman II.

It was well made, engaging, and the entire cast were all great. I can’t think of any complaints at all, except that maybe there could have been a bit more action. If this was made today with Tom Cruise or Liam Neeson as Marlowe, then it would certainly have a lot more action with epic gun battles and ten minute car chases added in for 21st century audiences…so I am glad this was made in the seventies when story and quality acting were all that mattered.

Two good films in one day, not bad.

Date watched: July 14th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 42