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The Black Godfather Reviews

Just another "good black pimp versus evil white pushers in the inner city" movie. Zero imagination, little action, and endless dull gabbing. After seeing a junkie friend killed while trying to rob drug dealers for a fix, J.J. (Rod Perry) receives a financial boost from kindly old crimelord Nate Williams (Jimmy Witherspoon). Soon J.J. is a powerful crime kingpin himself, running numbers and prostitutes. But he can't abide drugs, and joins with local militant leader Diablo (Damu King) to wipe out the dealers and force white druglord Tony Burton (Don Chastain) out of the neighborhood. After J.J. and his followers hijack an incoming shipment of heroin worth $3.5 million, Burton tries to force Nate to tell him where it's located, but winds up killing the old man. So he kidnaps Nate's daughter, J.J.'s girlfriend Yvonne (Diane Sommerfield), and offers her to J.J. in exchange. Instead, J.J. and his friends track the bad guys down to the hospital where they're keeping her hostage. After killing the guards, J.J. chases Burton and the captive Yvonne into the kitchen, where Yvonne gets hold of a cleaver and kills Burton. The movie starts off insipidly with J.J.'s friend trying to shoot one of Burton's dealers with an unloaded gun. Naturally the friend is killed, J.J. is shot, and Nate Williams, who happens to be strolling down the alley where J.J. lies bleeding, takes him in, explaining that "I'm the kind of man that recognize talent" (sic). Yes, it takes a lot of talent to forget to put bullets in your gun before shooting a man. After Nate bankrolls J.J., there's not even time for a funky song before J.J.'s a well-respected criminal, although the movie whitewashes his illegal activities by never showing him engaging in anything but pusher-bashing. The first half of the film is interminable talk about how drugs are ruining the community, pausing briefly for J.J. and Yvonne to have sex and chat about marriage, followed by a long scene of her walking around, making a cup of coffee, putting on a record, sitting on the couch... THE BLACK GODFATHER picks up for the second half, despite a major gunfight being talked about rather than shown. Bad guys are killed by spear and blowgun. There's a reasonably good car chase and a painfully bad catfight between two women who have absolutely no bearing on the rest of the film and are not seen before or afterward. Heroic J.J. seems thoroughly unconcerned when Yvonne is kidnapped, telling his comrades that they should sit tight and wait rather than look for her. The feeble script is matched by miserable acting and a lack of shot-to-shot continuity, with the actors courteously pointing their guns away from one another when firing, but managing to kill each other anyway. Martin Yarbrough's soundtrack is an annoying mess of synthesizer bleats and burbles, interrupted by a limp theme song and a romantic ballad for the love scene. Jimmy Witherspoon was a popular blues belter after serving as a cook and steward in the merchant marine during WWII, going on to front big bands with his soulful, gospel-influenced delivery. His song "Ain't Nobody's Business" became an R&B number one in 1949 and remained on the charts for nearly nine months, later becoming a signature tune for Billie Holliday. Also in the cast are Charles Lampkin from HAMMER (1972) in a bit role, and an actor named Tony Burton who, curiously enough, doesn't play the character named Tony Burton. Rod Perry went on to chase drug dealers out of the 'hood again in THE BLACK GESTAPO (1975), while director John Evans graduated to BLACKJACK (1978) and the talking-heads-in-prison documentary HUEY P. NEWTON: PRELUDE TO REVOLUTION (1997). (Violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)