With long-time Dolemite fan Eddie Murphy playing Rudy Ray Moore (the creator of the films and the timeless character), these classics are now available on VOD, restored and remastered from original 35mm elements.
With a much anticipated biopic in the works at Netflix, there’s no better time to rediscover Rudy Ray Moore’s great film accomplishments, with Dolemite, The Human Tornado, Disco Godfather and Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law premiering on VOD in HD for the first time this July.
Moore, previously a stand-up comedian, had used monies from his self-produced, self-distributed X-Rated comedy albums to fund his entry into feature films.
Dolemite, directed by D’Urville Martin, and released in 1975, fixes on a wrongly jailed man (Rudy Ray Moore) with his friend, the madame Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and his all-girl army of kung-fu fighters as they seek vengeance on rival Willie Green (D’Urville Martin) and the crooked cops who framed him.
Dolemite struck a chord with African American audiences in the climate of the early ‘70s, and became an overnight must-see hit. As Moore put it in a 1993 interview, “instead of us being kicked in the a**, we were kicking THEM in the a**”. Unlike studio-made ‘blaxploitation’ films like Shaft and The Mack, Moore’s Dolemite was a true independent, resonating with the clear voice of a pioneer in black filmmaking.
Described in 2008 the New York Times as “the Citizen Kane of kung-fu pimpin’ movies” Dolemite and its rapping, a**-kickin’, no-sh*t-takin’ title character has been a major figure in the African-American community for over 40 years. Roughly 25 years ago, with the spread of Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap, popularity has grown among young white audiences, and has become firmly entrenched with a wide swath of today’s youth.
Amazingly, all this has happened without ever losing the original fan base or its authenticity in the black community.
Though self-produced and independently distributed, “Dolemite” rivalled major Hollywood films at the box office when released in ’74. Moore followed it up with “The Human Tornado” in ’76, which finds Dolemite on the run from a redneck sheriff who’s caught him with the sheriff’s wife. Loaded with even more of the outrageous fight sequences and fighting back against racists and crooks that made Dolemite a hit, it is the favorite of Moore’s films among many fans.
Following the “Dolemite” films, Rudy Ray Moore produced and starred in that classic mesh of humor and horror, Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in Law, and his anti-Angle Dust actioner Disco Godfather.
Both have also been restored in HD from original 35mm negatives.
Netflix’ Rudy Ray Moore biopic (entitled Dolemite is My Name – from one of the many memorable lines in the original film) stars Eddie Murphy in the title role and was written by Larry Karascewski and Scott Alexander, the team behind other incredible biopics including Ed Wood and The People vs. Larry Flint. Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, and rapper T.I. are also in the cast.
The biopic is only a part of a recent Dolemite surge in the zeitgeist; rapper Amine just released a song opening with some choice sound bites from Dolemite, and there is also an EDM track built around samples of the film’s dialog making the rounds of European dance clubs. This is not new; famously, samples from Moore’s bits apprer many times in Dr. Dre’s seminal album “The Chronic”.
Also available on HD VOD this July from Xenon Pictures : the original black samurai film Death Force, music documentary Welcome to Death Row, action-drama The Muthers, 1973 horror-comedy favorite Blackenstein, and one of the original blaxploitation-horror- possession films, Lord Shango.
In coming months, Xenon and Uncork’d will be releasing for the first time in HD video on demand a number of other ground-breaking favorites from the Black Cinema canon, including Melvin Van Peeble’s revolutionary 1971 masterpiece Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and the incredible films of Jamaa Fanaka, beginning with the prison-boxing classic, Penitentiary (1979).
And notably, the almost-lost animated assault on racism, Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskinwill make its VOD debut. Misunderstood when originally released, rejected by activists who had famously not even seen it, this inflammatory masterpiece has finally been championed by supporters ranging from The New York Times to The Wu Tang Clan.