Velvet Smooth (1976)

Rating: *
Review Date: 7/3/14
Cast: Johnnie Hill, Owen Watson, René Van Clief, Elsie Roman, Frank Ruiz

"This woman is tough, and she's mean. When she's on the case, she's like a machine!"

A jive talking portrait in awfulness. A shady guy named King Lathrop (Owen Watson) is running a protection racket and someone starts muscling in on his territory. A turf war is about to erupt, so he hooks up with a freelance private eye named Velvet Smooth (Johnnie Hill) to help him out. Velvet calls on her girlfriends Ria (Elsie Roman) and Frankie (René Van Clief) to dig into the details, and they immediately stir up trouble with a bunch of masked thugs. Fortunately, all of the girls are karate experts and manage to effortlessly dispatch their attackers. They're also extremely fond of groin punches, and I counted no less than thirty assaults upon male genitalia. One poor sap receives a dozen karate chops to the balls as an unrestrained Velvet goes all-out on his defenseless crotch. Afterwards, the camera lingers on him rubbing his jewels just to remind us of that awful scene. Velvet and her team keep moving up the food chain in order to catch the big boss who's calling the shots, but the villains immediately give themselves away so there are never any surprises or lingering questions. The only surprise comes right at the end, with the very last line of dialog. It comes out of nowhere, and is so amazingly stupid and delivered so poorly that you can't help busting out in laughter and disbelief.

This really is a gem in the "so bad it's good" category. It's played totally straight and the characters take themselves very seriously, which helps make it watchable. The plot is straight forward and extremely innocuous, so even though the presentation is bad, nothing ever comes across as offensive or distasteful. The production values are very low and the action scenes are hilariously terrible. Everyone pulls their punches to the point of absurdity, but what the girls lack in style and execution, they make up for with energetic enthusiasm. Especially when it comes to groin punches. The soundtrack is mostly 70's disco and funk, and features a laughably awful title song. However, there's one live performance in the middle of the film that's actually halfway decent, although it's unclear why it's in the film at all. Johnnie Hill is quite pretty and charismatic, but her delivery is rather flat. But she's certainly better than her co-stars, which is really saying something. In a nice nod to the blaxploitation genre and the films that inspired this one, at one point they drive past a theater that's showing "Cleopatra Jones And The Casino Of Gold" (1975). That definitely made me smile. Unless you have a thing for bad urban karate movies from the 70's, it's probably best to pass this one up.