Dolemite (1974)

Rating: *
Review Date: 8/17/14
Director: D'urville Martin
Cast: Rudy Ray Moore, D'urville Martin, Jerry Jones

"Dolemite is my name, and fucking up motherfuckers is my game!"

An enterprising thug named Willie Green (D'urville Martin) frames Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) and sends him to prison for 20 years. But new evidence appears in Dolemite's favor, so the FBI decides to let him go with the hope that he will lead them to the real criminal mastermind, Mr. Big. Dolemite wastes no time and quickly reclaims his old nightclub by force. It also helps that he has a group of highly skilled female karate experts at his disposal, which comes in handy. Dolemite settles his business with Willie Green and then sets a trap for Mr. Big with the help of FBI agent Jerry Jones.

This is a cinematic landmark in incompetent filmmaking, and the ineptitude on display is staggering. There are several scenes where the boom mic and light flags are clearly on camera, the audio fades in and out in a few places, and shaky reflectors cause all sorts of lighting goofs. There is also some extremely bad editing, but I wonder if these were cuts introduced by Xenon rather than what was in the original film. For that matter, I also wonder if the other goofs wouldn't be as apparent in the matted widescreen version of the film? Technical nitpicking aside, the writing is awful, the acting is terrible, and the martial arts action scenes are laughably embarrassing. The pacing is tedious, and the film slows to a complete stop during a party at Dolemite's nightclub, which features extended scenes of live music, singing, dancing, and incomprehensible rapping. While this may be Mr. Moore's claim to fame, his appeal is completely lost on me. The film holds an interesting place in cinematic history, and it's unclear to me whether it defines the blaxploitation genre or just parodies it. The presentation is dead serious, without the slightest sense of irony or camp, which makes it difficult to classify the film. Is it dark comedy, bad comedy, or simply no comedy at all? It's hard to tell. Regardless, it's definitely an urban classic that blaxploitation fans and film history buffs should check out.