Dolemite

Black comedian Rudy Ray Moore packed his first film vehicle with nudity, comedy, dancing girls, fighting girls, songs, castration (offscreen), and evil Caucasians. (As in most blaxploitation, white skin is synonymous with evil unless of course it s female and naked.) The only things he left out were quality and intelligence--making DOLEMITE a classic among...read more

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Black comedian Rudy Ray Moore packed his first film vehicle with nudity, comedy, dancing girls, fighting girls, songs, castration (offscreen), and evil Caucasians. (As in most blaxploitation, white skin is synonymous with evil unless of course it s female and naked.) The only things he

left out were quality and intelligence--making DOLEMITE a classic among lovers of truly bad movies.

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) is released from prison to covertly help the FBI stem the burgeoning tide of crime in the streets. He discovers that his loyal sidekick Queen Bee (Lady Reed) has lost his beloved nightclub to his rival, Willie Green (D'Urville Martin), a flunky of the wicked mayor and

corrupt cops. While his enemies try to kill him or return him to prison, Dolemite takes back the club and puts on a big show with a live band and costumed dance routines, himself as star attraction. Naturally a fight breaks out, and while Dolemite's scantily-clad, kung fu-fighting female acolytes

take care of Willie Green's men, Dolemite takes on and kills Willie himself, suffering a gunshot wound in the process.

After one of Dolemite's women attacks the mayor and is killed, a sympathetic black FBI agent pursues and kills the mayor. Gunmen then show up at Dolemite's hospital room, but are ambushed and arrested.

Rudy Ray Moore had been an all-purpose nightclub entertainer in the late 1950s through the '60s, trying his hand at singing, dancing, comedy--anything that paid the bills. He found his niche in the 1970s with a string of obscenity-laced "blue" comedy albums that were popular with inner-city

audiences, reaching into the top 100 in the Billboard charts. His breakthrough LP, Eat Out More Often, included a popular "toast" (rambling, boastful tall-tales recited in rhyme) about a mythical urban superstud named Dolemite. When blaxploitation films suddenly began raking in the bucks in the

early 1970s, Moore invested his profits from LP sales into bringing Dolemite to the screen.

With an eye to frugality, Moore apparently poured his entire budget not into antiquated concepts like production values, but rather the outlandish pimp fashions. That and food. Not exactly lithe when the film starts--his numerous shirtless scenes display a physique more Bluto than Popeye--by the

end he's truly straining the seams of his powder-blue and white velour leisure suits. (A scene of the porcine, bald, white mayor nude can only have been included to make Moore look good in comparison.) Nonetheless, Dolemite's bevy of babes adore him, making Moore a supreme example of that

quirkiest and most amusing breed of entertainers so rampant in the addled 1970s: the ugly narcissist.

In DOLEMITE (and to a lesser extent his later films, which move into the territory of intentional self-parodies), Moore has created an alternate universe as bizarre as any in science fiction; a world where the fat, untalented comedian is god--which is the film's great charm. Twice, Moore delivers

toasts, variations on classic urban legends of the Titanic and the Signifying Monkey. (Dolemite himself is based on a toast Moore reputedly first heard from an alcoholic vagrant, hence the screenplay credit, "From an original adaptation by Rudy Ray Moore.") Both toasts are rambling and pedestrian,

but his audience in each case explodes in hysterics.

The action has a similarly peculiar flavor: Apparently the viewer isn't supposed to notice that the car chase takes place at an incredibly slow pace, or that the incredibly unathletic Moore flails about like a marionette in a wind tunnel during the hopelessly spastic fight scenes. (The video box

claim that the climax is "one of the greatest martial arts rumbles ever filmed" is possibly the funniest thing associated with the film.) Jarring jump-cuts in several of the more violent scenes suggest that they've been trimmed for video; on the other hand it might just be part of the overall

ineptitude in a film where part of the fun is in playing spot-the-boom microphone. (Hint: It's not always at the top of the screen--sometimes it can be seen shoved into the bottom corners of the frame by the bumbling soundman.) (Violence, extensive nudity, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)

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