The Black Six
Director – Matt Cimber (The Candy Tangerine Man, The Witch Who Came from the Sea)
Starring – Robert Howard (War is Hell, Hitler), Cindy Daly (Beetlejuice, Carrie), and Mikel Angel (Werewolves on Wheels, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song)
Release Date – 1973
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “Six times tougher than Shaft! Six times tougher than Superfly!”
Last week I took my vacation. It was mostly a staycation so I planned on spending time with my youngest daughter and watch as many movies as possible. While I was looking through my review stack I wanted to check out something that wasn’t horror. I went through the sexploitation section and remembered that I had a blaxploitation box set that was sent to me from Mill Creek Entertainment.
I love horror but I will turn down a horror movie for a blaxploitation flick I had never seen before and this set of six had five I had never seen before. It was a no brainer so I tossed it in. The first one in the set is the 1973 film The Black Six. Thanks Mill Creek for sending these my way.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows 6 black bikers that travel around doing odd jobs for the elderly and other acts of kindness when one of them receives word that his little brother was murdered. He returns home with his gang and starts investigating the murder where he uncovers that he was dating a white girl and her brother runs an all white biker gang. After an encounter with them he realizes that his brother was murdered by the bikers for being black and dating a white girl. The Black Six steps up and puts the biker gang down and gets revenge for the fallen brother.**Spoiler Alert**
I love blaxploitation cinema. I love the stories, the cast, the action, and the look of these films. Some, like any other genre of film, are better than others but generally most blaxploitation films are entertaining. The Black Six is one of the lower quality blaxploitation flicks I have seen but it was still very entertaining.
The acting in this one is fairly weak but far from ruining the film. The characters are mostly comical from the main group in the Black Six but they are also the most awkward to watch on screen. They are all professional football athletes and not actors so that makes sense. The rest of the cast is drastically better and they do a much greater job in their roles.
The story for this one is similar to other blaxploitation following a black character that has lost a loved one (i.e. a brother, sister, parent, lover) and goes on the war path searching for the one responsible. This one does mix it up a bit and takes the characters out of the urban setting and replace the drug pushers and pimps with bikers. It has solid pacing and enough action to hold the viewer’s attention.
Finally, this one has no blood or gore. We do get some fight scenes with typical 70s exploitation fighting choreography that is goofy at times and fun at others. Overall, The Black Six was a middle of the road blaxploitation flick that offered some excitement. I recommend this for any exploitation or blaxploitation fan.
The Black Gestapo
Director – Lee Frost (Dixie Dynamite, Love Camp 7)
Starring – Rod Perry (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Project U.F.O.), Charles Robinson (Night Court, Sugar Hill), and Phil Hoover (Race with the Devil, Garden of the Dead)
Release Date – 1975
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “The people’s army has declared war!”
Blaxploitation is a sub-genre that I am very fond of. I’ve loved these films for almost as long as I’ve been a horror fan. I’ve seen a great number of these films but there is still plenty more for me to discover. Several years back I picked up the blaxploitation flick The Black Gestapo and checked it out. I remember liking it for the most part but it had been sometime since my last viewing. It is the second film in the Soul Team Six set so now was a perfect time to revisit it.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows a group of black men that band together to form the people’s army. They aim to stop the drug pushing, prostitution, and numbers running in their neighborhood by the local crime boss. Once they accomplish their goal of ridding the streets of these things they start doing them as well to finance their own exploits. One of their own refuses to join in and becomes a one man army to stop them from ruining their community again. **Spoiler Alert**
I’ve watched so many blaxploitation over the years but very few of them leave a lasting impression on me. The Black Gestapo is one of the few films that I can really remember the story almost scene for scene years later. I really enjoy the film even after a second viewing but there is still several issues that could be fixed.
The acting in this one is one of the better acted exploitation flicks to come out of the 70s. We do get some goofy and over the top characters but many of the others are more grounded which really evens out the film. I really enjoy the cast and the characters they portray.
The story for this one is a little more different than your typical blaxploitation film in which it pits the cast against each other and not the black community vs “the man.” With that being said, the movie does face several slow pacing scenes that almost grinds the film to a halt. Aside from those slow scenes the story is fun especially for a blaxploitation flick.
Finally, the film has plenty of action with several fighting and gun fights but we don’t get any blood or guts. Overall, The Black Gestapo is one of the more popular blaxploitation flicks and for good reason. It has a solid cast and a fun story. Fans of exploitation and blaxploitation should really dig into this one if you haven’t already.
Director – George McCowan (Frogs, The Manhunter)
Starring – Stephen Boyd (Fantastic Voyage, Lady Dracula), Robert Hooks (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Flash), Susan Oliver (Star Trek, Freddy’s Nightmares)
Release Date – 1970
Rating – 3.5/5
Tagline – “In war, sometimes the enemy comes from within”
Blaxploitation can go so many different ways but the most popular follows a black protagonist who is fighting an evil white person or group due to a number of various reasons. However, that is not the only type of blaxploitation. Sometimes you get a really powerful drama that focuses on the struggles that the African American citizens face on a daily basis in the 70s that can still be seen to this day.
Case in point is the 1970 war drama Black Brigade which was a made for TV film released under the name Carter’s Army. This unusual blaxploitation flick stars a very young Richard Pryor, Bill Dee Williams, and Stephen Boyd.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows Captain Carter (Boyd) who is tasked with securing a dam in Germany in World War II. He is assigned to an all black unit and is ordered to take 6 men with him to secure the dam. He enlists the lieutenant and 5 of his men. The captain is racist and believes this group is going to get him killed but through their journey he countlessly puts their lives in danger and they save him on more than one occasion with minimal casualties. By the end of their mission he has a new found respect for the black soldier and witnesses first hand how they are disrespected by white soldiers who are putting their lives on the line for their country just like they are.**Spoiler Alert**
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I tossed this one in. I can’t recall any blaxploitation flick taking place in World War II but Black Brigade became my favorite in this set. The film is nothing like the typical blaxploitation flick that I love but it was still easily the best film in the set.
The acting in this one is fucking top notch. The film was made for TV and not your typical exploitation flick so the cast is a step above most. Stephen Boyd and Robert Hooks deliver unforgettable performances as the racist captain and lieutenant of an all black unit. The supporting cast is just as fantastic. It was cool seeing Richard Pryor and Billy Dee Williams deliver a more serious performance. I loved the casting in this film.
The story for this one is a powerful story set against the backdrop of World War II. The movie’s main focus is how black soldiers were treated by white soldiers fighting the same war as them. The war action really brings this rich story to a boil and the viewer will not be able to look away.
Finally, this one does have several on screen deaths. They are not bloody and those looking for gore will miss out. The kills fit with the war theme of the film but they are easily forgettable. Overall, Black Brigade is a must watch for any movie fan regardless of the genre that you prefer. Check this one out whenever you get the chance.
Director(s) – Timothy Galfas (Night Gallery, Maneaters are Loose!) and Richard Kaye
Starring – Richard Lawson (Poltergeist, Sugar Hill), Annazette Chase (Truck Turner, The Mack), Philip Michael Thomas (The Wizard of Speed and Time, Wonder Woman)
Release Date – 1975
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “You know where he’s comin’ from”
Horror fans in various Facebook groups often ask me and other blaxploitation fans why we like those films so much. This is a question I have asked myself hundreds of times and I usually come back to the characters and the fight sequences. The cheesy fight sequences and larger than life characters always draw me in.
As I work my way through the Soul Team Six box set I find myself looking at the next film in the set which is centered around a street fighter. The film, Black Fist, was released under the title Bogard in 1975 but the title wasn’t black enough so it was retitled Black Fist to better fall in line with the Blaxploitation craze.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows Leroy Fisk (Lawson) who becomes a popular street fights for a mobster. When he makes a name for himself and starts drawing in huge paydays the mobster schemes with a cop to shake him down for money in order to earn back some of the profits Leroy was earning. Leroy figures out he is being shaken down and wants out of the game. He wins a big fight and takes the money to buy a club. This angers the mobster and they put a hit out on Leroy but mistakenly kill his pregnant wife instead. Now Leroy is pissed and will stop at nothing to kill the ones responsible for taking his bride and unborn from him.**Spoiler Alert**
I was hoping to get a blaxploitation flick with some heavy fighting and fun characters and Black Fist delivered. The film was action heavy and the story was not 100% predictable like many others.
The acting in this one is better than most but still plenty of room for improvement. The characters are all fun, including the mobsters, but there is a few scenes that are pretty heavy that just don’t have the impact one would think due to the casts’ reactions.
The story for this one is the textbook definition of Blaxploitation. Plenty of fighting, evil white mobsters, and a black character getting wronged before turning into a war machine. The film does have a few slower scenes but the story is strong enough to hold the viewer’s attention through these.
Finally, this is not a death heavy film. The focus of this one is the fight scenes which are far from perfect. They are prime example of 70s exploitation fight sequences and I fucking love it. Overall, Black Fist is not a perfect film but it’s a damn near perfect Blaxploitation flick. It has action and some extremely entertaining characters. Check it out.
The Black Godfather
Director – John Evans (Speeding Up Time, Blackjack)
Starring – Rod Perry (The Black Gestapo, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Damu King (Black Samson, Black Starlet), and Don Chastain (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Maude)
Release Date – 1974
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “There’s a new godfather in town”
My blaxploitation marathon is almost to a close. When I started watching the six films in the Soul Team Six set from Mill Creek Entertainment I was under the impression that I had only seen one film in this set prior to receiving it for review.
The Black Gestapo is one I knew I had seen before but after tossing in the fifth film in the set, 1974’s The Black Godfather, I quickly realized that this was one I had viewed years before. Once I realized what film this was I was pretty fucking excited to revisit it.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows petty thief JJ (Perry) who was shot while trying to rob someone. He was found by the Black Godfather and he patches him up. He offers him a job and JJ works his way up the ranks for the Black Godfather. Once JJ reaches a certain point he decides to use his power with the Black Godfather to get his streets clean. He is able to cut all the drug dealers out of his neighborhood except for on heroine dealer named Tony Burton (Chastain). Burton refuses to leave and wages a war with JJ and the Black Godfather. Much like a cornered animal, when JJ has Burton cornered he fights back killing the Black Godfather taking the war down a much darker path. **Spoiler Alert**
I watched this one many years ago when I first started collecting Blaxploitation on DVD. I found a box set on Amazon and ordered it. I remember really enjoying this one then and it was just as fun revisiting it.
The acting in this one is pretty standard Blaxploitation fair. The characters are extremely animated but the cast does a fantastic job and holding the scenes. The story for this one is another textbook example of Blaxploitation. We follow a strong black lead fighting the evil white men who are pushing drugs and destroying black lives. The film has solid pacing but does suffer from long spells of boring dialogue that seemingly has nothing to do with the story itself. Character development is an issue here as well with most of the supporting cast just appearing with no explanation why. Maybe the scenes explaining this are on the cutting room floor.
Finally, the film, like most Blaxploitation flicks, has several gun fights and kills from gun wounds. No real bloodshed and gore for those looking for it but we do get more cheesy fight scenes that are always fun. Overall, The Black Godfather is a must for exploitation and blaxploitation fans just like many of the films in this set.
Director – Cirio H. Santiago (The Muthers, TNT Jackson)
Starring – James Iglehart (Black Kung Fu, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Carmen Argenziano (Sudden Impact, Crazy Mama), and Leon Isaac Kennedy (Deadly Nightmares, Penitentiary)
Release Date – 1978
Rating – 3/5
Tagline – “Beaten, betrayed, and bustin’ loose!”
Here we are. I’ve now sit and watched six Blaxploitation films back to back. It was a fun marathon but I somewhat miss horror movies. Regardless, it was a fun marathon and I’m glad I was able to check these films out. The last film is the set is the one I wanted to see the most. The film, Fighting Mad aka Death Force, was one I had seen printed on shirts and posters at almost every horror or cult movie con I have visited over the years but I never came across a copy of the film until now.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows American Vietnam veteran Doug Russell (Iglehart) who is left for dead on an island where he is found by two Japanese soldiers that have lived there since World War II. He is trained in the ways of the samurai and is very deadly with a samurai sword. When he is able to escape the island he finds himself back with his wife and child but his troubles are far from over. Those that left him for dead has been terrorizes his wife and child and now he must put his new deadly skills to use.**Spoiler Alert**
I couldn’t wait to check out the blaxploitation with the main protagonist carried a samurai sword. It looked like a movie that I would rewatch over and over again until I became sick of it. However, this film was not as fun as I was hoping for and it left me struggling to finish it. It did pick up in the third act but that couldn’t save it or make it as great as I had hoped.
The acting in this one is surprisingly well done. I was expecting a mid-grade performance from the cast but this cast really went into this one with their all and it shows. The cast and the characters are more grounded than other blaxploitation flicks but it works for the more serious tone the film establishes.
The story for this one is my biggest hang up. The first half of the film is painfully slow to watch. It makes use of the slow build up with character development but that doesn’t improve the quality of the film. Once we find Doug off the island the film picks up drastically. The movie becomes way more enjoyable.
Finally, this film is not as bloody as one would expect a film using a samurai sword to be. The kills are extremely lackluster and the blood is pretty minimal. Overall, Fighting Mad is the biggest disappointment in this set. Sure, the film is still enjoyable but it could have been so much more.