Released to much success in 1975, Dolemite was Rudy Ray Moore’s first foray onto the silver screen. A blacksploitation film which embodied many elements of the genre, Moore was able to finally bring his comic persona to life in colourful fashion. Having started his career as a stand-up comedian, he was also famous for his underground following of comedic records. The self-proclaimed ‘ghetto expressionist’ was able to use the money he made from his albums and finally showcase his skills in full flow, as the foul-mouthed, ass-kicking, martial arts killing pimp who was irresistible to women.
Having been framed by a couple of crooked cops, Dolemite is quickly sent to prison, giving his arch-enemy Willie Green the perfect opportunity to seize most of his assets. After having gained total control of his nightclub, Green quickly becomes a problem for the authorities with his gang terrorizing the streets and killing innocent people. Unaware of his higher connections, they’re left with no other choice than to bargain with Dolemite to take Green down and put a stop to his criminal empire for good. Accompanied by his female army of kung fu killers, Dolemite is an over the top timewarp of blacksploitation madness.
The directing is poor, the editing is shoddily put together and the performances are so wooden they’re enough to make any desk jealous. And yet, Dolemite does have a certain degree of charm. Whether it’s the funky music or the extravagant costumes, Dolemite has its moments that draw you back in. With memorable lines and hilariously over the top fight sequences, one can see the appeal as to why Dolemite has such a strong cult following after all these years. Is it a great blacksploitation film? Well, not exactly. There are moments when the film's rhythm is disrupted far too often with unnecessary scenes and although they can be comedically out of place it does ultimately bog the whole thing down.
Although to concentrate on the negatives would be going against what makes this film so special. With Black Dynamite spoofing the blacksploitation genre to humorous effect in 2009, you can see why films like Dolomite were a perfect inspiration. Whether it’s seeing a boom mic repeatedly coming into a shot or a spinning kick missing from a mile off its target, they’re moments that make the film fun to watch. Add to that Rudy Ray Moore’s eccentric personality and you’re in for a strangely captivating experience.
Overall, Dolemite is a film that you’ll know whether you will like or not. It’s quirky, bizarre and a little all over the place. With Rudy Ray Moore's strong legion of admirers, there’s a passionate fanbase out there who’ll be eager to snap this one up. Others, however, will be left bewildered and possibly even bored with his onscreen antics. Fans of bad blacksploitation movies, on the other hand, will have a feast for their eyes and ears.
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DOLEMITE (1975) / DIRECTOR: D'URVILLE MARTIN / SCREENPLAY: JERRY JONES, RUDY RAY MOORE (STORY) / STARRING: RUDY RAY MOORE, D'URVILLE MARTIN, LADY REED, JOHN KERRY, JERRY JONES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW