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BLAXPLOITATION (BLACKSPOITATION) Motion Pictures From A White Guy's Perspective

Between 1970 and 1979 a large group of motion pictures with the intention of helping to create a new "Black Identity" were released. The Negro community had mix reactions to what became known  as either "Blaxploitation", or "Blackspoitation" films. This article is a look at those years and some of these films from a "White Guy's Perspective". 


GENERATION VS GENERATION

There was a generational change occurring within the then "Negro" community by 1970.
Young men and women were rebelling against that name and it's connotation, in a historical sense, to the slavery of their ancestors. These young people considered themselves as "BLACK" rather than "Negro" and wanted their new 20th Century identity to be recognized as such.

Moving forward, for the moment, to approximately 1984 both identity names, "Negro" and "Black" would be merged, by the Reagan Administration, into the new "Politically Correct" term of "African American".

According to the Cambridge Dictionary "Politically Correct' is defined as:

avoiding language or behavior that any particular group of people might feel is unkind or offensive:

Overnight the country became this thing called "Politically Correct". One day I was a "White Male" and the next a "Caucasian Male". Look up the definition of "Caucasian" and it says "White". Go figure.

To illustrate further the change the Government created initially by "Political Correctness". I worked with three people of three different ethnic backgrounds. One, a "Black" friend was against the term "African American" being applied to him. His objection was that he now being directly associated with Africa and the images of slavery. A situation, in his mind, worse than being called a "Negro" in his youth.

Another co-worker was pure born Hawaiian and she objected to her identify, of many family generations, being taken away from her. She was now a "Politically Correct" "Pacific Islander". The Reagan Administration had lumped her individual identity with other Polynesian, Micronesian and Melasneian cultures.

My third example was of a young man from "Puerto Rico". Suddenly he was no longer, for the United States Government, a "Puerto Rican", but "Black Hispanic". The reasoning for this "Politically Correct" name was that the Spanish colonized "Puerto Rico" and imported African slaves. Whose women they had children with mixing the two races.

So my reader, unfamiliar with the 1970's, can visualize the similar impact within the Adult "Negro" community as their children rebelled. Telling their parents that they wanted a new identity. In 1996 Aaron McGruder created a comic strip "Boondocks" about an African American family. The main character is a young boy named "Huey". One of McGruder's strips fully illustrated this Generational problem within the now African American community. In that one comic strip we see just three characters. "Huey", his Father and Grandfather. The Grandfather proudly calls himself "Negro", the Father proudly calls himself "Black" and "Huey" proudly calls himself "African American".


A BRIEF HISTORY OF NEGRO CINEMA

The major motion picture industry has reflected over the years, prior to 1970, some of the conflicts experienced by "African Americans", but mostly in their own "White" point of view.


The following is from Part One on the "Black Cinema" found at:

https://www.amoeba.com/blog/2010/01/eric-s-blog/-black-cinema-part-i-race-movies-the-silent-era.html

In most American silent films, minorities were generally played by white actors in make-up. When actual minorities were cast, roles were generally limited. Latinos in silent films usually played greasers and bandits; Asian-Americans played waiters, tongs and laundrymen; and blacks usually played bellboys, stable hands, maids or simple buffoons. Early film depictions of black characters were highly offensive, including those in the films Nigger in the WoodpileRastusSambo and The Wooing and Wedding of a Coon. Not surprisingly, both Asian-Americans and blacks responded by launching their own alternative cinemas. But whilst Asian-American Silent Cinema quickly faltered, black cinema (blessed with a much larger audience) flourished and soon many so-called race movies were being made by both black and white filmmakers for black film goers.

These first silent films were shown in segregated movie theaters and not just in the Southern States. but Northern Cities as well. As I was growing up in Los Angeles during the 1950's there were still segregated theaters, but in many cases self imposed. For the purpose of Hispanics viewing films from Mexico and Asians films from Japan and China primarily.

Initially during the silent film era. The "Colored" films had subject matter ranging from every day drama and comedy, to World War 1 portraying the Negro soldier, and even "B" Westerns.

The Realization of a Negro's Ambition


The Crimson Skull

In the silent western "The Crimson Skull" with it's all Colored cast. Negro actors portrayed Mexican roles instead of hiring ethnic actors. Which makes the interesting argument about who was discriminating upon whom and showing the lower position of Mexican actors during the period in motion picture race relations.




Of interest during the "Jazz Age" was how Europe looked upon Negro's. One example was dancer and actress Freda Josephine McDonald born in St. Louis, Missouri. This extremely talented young women couldn't find work in White Night clubs and most of the Negro Clubs were fronts for prostitution and drugs. White's frequented them for those two purposes.

Changing her name to Josephine Baker. The young dancer moved across the Atlantic to France and became a major star of the Paris Folies Bergere. Baker would be dubbed "Black Pearl", "Bronze Venus" and "Creole Goddess" by the French and Europeans. Who saw her performances as her fame advanced.

Josephine Baker's three major silent films were all hits. In 1935 her sound motion picture "Princess Tam Tam" premiered in New York City, but the Hays Motion Picture Censorship Office would not pass the film. Even though Baker had a large following in her home country which included White Americans. As a result "Princess Tam Tam" played only in a few segregated Negro cinemas, because the Hays Office was racially motivated.




"Hallelujah", from 1929,  was about a Negro sharecropper and featured the Gospel singing group the "Dixie Jubilee Singers". The picture easily received Hayes Office approval. The film was produced by Irving Thalberg for MGM and was directed by King Vidor. In short, like many motion pictures of the period, you had a White producer, White Director and White screenplay writer telling their version of the Negro experience in Arkansas and Tennessee.

Because of the type of film stock being used during the silent era. It was possible for a Negro actor's skin color to appear lighter and actually play a White part. One actor did this several times and was co-founder of  "The Lincoln Motion Picture Company" with his brother. The studio was established to produce high quality "Colored" motion pictures.

In 1931 the actor appeared in a motion picture that his face, but not his name, is still widely recognized today as I write this article. The film was "King Kong" and actor Noble Johnson. Johnson portrayed the Chief of the Skull Island Natives.



In 1949 the Noble Johnson portrayed, "Red Shirt", one of the many Native American roles he performed over the years. That classic feature film was John Ford's "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon".



My blog article on the remarkable "Noble Johnson: African-American Pioneer Actor" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/06/noble-johnson-african-american-pioneer.html

On April 9, 1943 a major "Colored" musical was released based upon a 1940's stage production. The title was "Cabin in the Sky" and it was directed by Vincent Minnelli and with musical numbers staged by Busby Berkeley. This Metro-Goldwn-Meyer feature was released to both White and Negro theaters across the United States and Canada. For anyone familiar with the "Big Band Sound" of the 1940's. The names of the cast, shown on the following poster, tell all.





One of the most widely known actors of "Color" appeared in many motion pictures during the 1950's and 1960's. He was a young doctor opposite Richard Widmark in 1950's racially charged "No Way Out". He was again opposite Widmark in 1964's "The Long Ships" and 1965's "The Bedford Incident". Some of his other features were 1955's "The Black Board Jungle" with Glenn Ford, portraying Rock Hudson's boyhood friend in 1957's "Something of Value" about the Mau Mau uprising in Africa and 1958's "Band of Angels" starring Clark Gable.

The performer was a nominee along with his co-star Tony Curtis for the Best Actor Oscar in 1958's "The Defiant Ones". Both lost out to David Niven for "Separate Tables". Three years later, in 1961, this fine actor co-starred with Paul Newman in "Paris Blues" and in 1966 portrayed an ex-Calvary soldier turned gambler in "Duel at Diablo" co-starring with James Garner and Swedish actress Bibbi Anderson.

Then came the first major motion picture looking at interracial marriage. The feature starred two old pro's Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and was "Guess Whose Coming to Dinner?" Although producer/director Stanley Kramer down played the potential drama of this event for comedy.




Although considered by many as first Negro and than African American. Sidney Poitier wasn't either and is Bahamian-American. His parents lived on "Cat Island" in the Bahamas and came to Miami, Florida to sell produce. On one of those trips Sidney was just happened to be born in Miami, Florida.

Back in 1958 actor Robert Mitchum came up with a story about a returning Korean War Veteran who takes up were he left off. By running moonshine made by his father. Mitchum was both the producer and star of  1958's "Thunder Road". The title actually referred to the sound his car's engine made.

The following still is very important not for showing Mitchum's son James in his first movie, but the lady in the middle, Keely Smith. Smith was a Grammy winning jazz and pop singer who performed with her husband Louis Prima's band.
 

Because of her skin color. Most American's thought Smith was half Negro. The fact that Robert Mitchum cast Keely Smith, as popular as she was, in the role of his girl friend "Francie Wymore". Brought racial controversy to "Thunder Road" and especially in the Southern part of the United States. In truth Keely Smith was half Native American and half Irish.

In 1959 racial prejudice came to the forefront in a major motion picture "The World, the Flesh and the Devil". New York City is abandoned after a world wide nuclear war. There are only three people left in the city. Portraying "Ralph Burton" was calypso and pop singer Harry Belafonte. Playing the White racist "Benson Thacker" was Mel Ferrer. Between the two men comes possibly the only women left on Earth White "Sarah Crandall",played by Inger Stevens.

Another controversial movie was released the following year by director John Ford entitled "Sergeant Rutledge". The title character is a "Buffalo Soldier" portrayed by ex-UCLA/Los Angeles Rams football player Woody Strode. Strode had already appeared in 29 motion pictures in mostly small roles, but two of them had been major parts. The two were the 1959 Korean War drama "Pork Chop Hill" starring Gregory Peck  and in 1960 "The Last Voyage" starring Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. Now he was a Negro soldier accused of raping a white girl.



My article on this fine character actor who technically was not African American either, but Native American. His father was a Black-Creek-Blackfoot and mother was a Black-Cherokee. Can be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/03/woody-strode-and-michael-pate-one.html

Another African American football player turned actor was Jim Brown. From 1964 to 1970 audiences found him appearing in "Rio Conchos", "Dark of the Sun", "The Dirty Dozen", "Ice Station Zebra" and "100 Rifles" with Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch. Director Tom Gries set up one scene between Brown and Welch in bed together. The purpose was purely racial. He wanted the audience to notice the differences in skin tones between Mexican-American Welch (Jo Raguel Tejada) and Negro Brown. Gries stated there was no other reason for shooting that specific scene.




My reader should now be familiar with some of the movie history that lead up to the decade of the 1970's.


THE CREATION OF BLAXPLOITATION OR IS IT BLACKSPOITATION?


There were many excellent Black actors other than the few I mentioned above, but like those that came from the silent film era and appeared in the 1930's and 1940's. These actor's roles were minor at best and mostly stereo typed. Yet, by the end of the 1970's many an unknown "Black" actor and actress would become that cliched term "Household Names".

The spectrum of films turned out during the ten year period from 1970 to 1979 totaled 177. Which is amazing when you consider the genre really didn't exist prior to that. Which is a statement not completely true.

Between 1963 and 1969 there were fourteen motion pictures that could be considered "Blaxploitation", but the word wasn't coined until 1970 and even then confusion existed as you will read.

So depending upon your point of view. The first "Blackspoitation" feature might be 1964's "The Cool World", not to be confused with 1993's animated/live action "Cool World". Then it might be the Jim Brown 1970 action film "tick..tick..tick", or neither as some critics claimed the first real motion picture of the genre wasn't made until 1971.

"The Cool World" directed by Shirley Clarke is about life in a Harlem Youth Gang called "The Royal Pythons"and  was released on April 20, 1964. Some actual gang members were in  Clarke's motion picture. This semi-documentary style film featured music by "The Dizzy Gillespie Quintet" and although the film was based upon a 1959 novel by Warren Miller it was an extremely uncompromising movie. "The Cool World" of this film is anything but Cool.



On January 9, 1970 director Ralph Nelson's "tick,,,tick...tick" was released. The motion picture starred Jim Brown portraying a deputy sheriff who is elected sheriff over the White incumbent. The movie has become a cult classic, because of its unflinching portrait of racial tension in a small Southern town. The title coming, of course, from the build up of that tension and will it explode into a race riot?



Look at a list of  "Blaxploitation" pictures for 1970 and some seem strange to be there at all. One in question starred Sidney Poitier in the second of his "Virgil Tibbs" trilogy "They Call Me Mister Tibbs". Why this is listed has never been made clear as both "In the Heat of the Night", 1967, and "The Organization", 1971, are not considered in the genre.

To add to the confusion "Blaxploitation" is defined by some critics as films with a primary black cast and crew. Yet, many of the films were made by White directors and crews.

Here are two official definitions:

Merrian Webster:
the exploitation of blacks by producers of black-oriented films blaxploitation movies

The Free Dictionary by Farlex:
A film genre of the 1970s featuring African-American actors and often having antiestablishment plots, sometimescriticized for stereotypical  characterization and glorification of violence.
Both the Poitier film and  "tick---tick---tick---" were examples of White directors and crew. It should be mentioned that some film historians consider these two films as "Blackpoitation", because they had a Black leading actor. A very loose definition, if one at all. Which brings me to the first released motion picture that fits all three definitions.

"Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssse Song" was written, produced, scored, edited and directed by it's star Melvin Van Peeples. The picture was released originally to two theaters only on April 23, 1971, but the impact it made on the Black Community and America was unimaginable by Van Peeples.

Because he had no money to promote his motion picture Van Peeples released the musical score performed by a band that was only two years old and still building a representation called "Earth, Wind and Fire".

The film's plot told of a young orphan boy, played by Peeples son Mario, who is adopted by a 1940's Los Angeles Brothel owner. Then the picture switches to the grown up boy, "Sweetback",  now played by Melvin, who performs in a sex show at the Brothel.

The motion picture hit hard by dealing with Black power in a way never before seen. "Sweetback" finds himself be pursued by the Los Angeles Police Department from L.A. to San Diego. They believe he committed a murder, but his own Black boss had agreed to frame "Sweetback" for it. In exchange for the Cops leaving his establishment alone and having a target for the unsolved killing. The movie ends with "Sweetback" crossing into Mexico and planning his revenge.

Below Melvin Van Peeples in front of a poster for his "X" rated motion picture.




The picture became a favorite of the "Black Panther" movement and as far as not having money to promote his film. The budget was $150,000 1971 dollars and it made $15.2 million 1971 dollars, but this film might never have been made had Melvin Van Peeples been permitted to direct his previous motion picture as a "Black Power" feature instead of a Comedy.

Released on May 27, 1970 was "The Watermelon Man" starring comedian Godfrey Cambridge. Although Cambridge was Black the producer and writer were White. The story tells of a White Bigot, Cambridge, in WHITEFACE, waking up overnight as Black. The film bombed and at the time who was the target audience?

Having seen the movie when it came out. I believe Melvin Van Peeples was right about the potential of the subject matter. The United States had reached a peak against the Vietnam War with our final pull out just four years away. So the idea of a White bigot facing his own fears of Black's could have been a trend setting feature at that moment, but subject matter aside. The major studios were still very politically motivated and had not reached the same point the country was moving toward race relations, but that would change as "Blackspoitation" became a reality.




BLACKSPORITATION HORROR MOVIES


I'd like to start with "Blaxploitation" Horror movies. As they were a definite example of the accusation that Black film makers were just copying White film makers. While I would agree that some of these films appeared too similar in construction, but the tone, if that is the correct word, was entirely Black America  There are four films in this category I want to look at: "Blacula", "Blackenstein", "Dr. Black and Mr. Hype" and "Abby".

"BLACULA" and "SCREAM BLACULA, SCREAM"


Playing African Prince "Mamuwalde" was Shakespearean trained actor William Marshall. Marshall had been seen in many small roles in major studio productions such as 1954's "Demetrius and the Gladiators" starring Victor Mature and Susan Hayward, the aforementioned  1957 "Something of Value" starring Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier and 1968's "The Boston Strangler" starring Tony Curtis. Marshall had also appeared on many television programs since 1952 before he became "Blacula".

The basic plot has "Mamuwalde" and his wife "Luva", Vonetta McGee, who also played "Tina" visiting Count Dracula in 1780. This was McGee's seventh motion picture. Of note is that in 1970's "The Kremlin Letter" the actress had the 18th major role. That part is described as "The Negress". One has to wonder what she might have thought of that name?

In a fit of anger "Dracula" turns "Mamuwalde" into a vampire he calls "Blacula" and imprisons him in a coffin. He then throws "Luva" into a dungeon cell where she will die. Switch to 1972 and two interior decorators purchase the sealed coffin and release the vampire on the Harlem scene. There "Blacula" will discover his wife again in the form of "Tina".

Sounds very typical of many vampire films already made and yet to come, but as I said the tone is completely Black America. This movie would be one of the first to cross over ethnic lines at the box office.





The sequel "Scream  Blacula Scream" co-starred Pam Grier, again with William Marshall, as an apprentice Voodoo Priestess who will findly give "Mamuwalde" the peace he wants.




"BLACKENSTEIN" aka "BLACK FRANKENSTEIN"



Black frankenstein.jpg

Vietnam soldier "Eddie Turner", Joe De Sue,  stepped on a land mine and lost both his arms and legs. His girlfriend "Dr. Winfried Walker", Ivory Stone, thinks she has the answer to making him "Whole" again. This comes from her former teacher and colleague "Dr. Stein", John Hart.

The problem is that "Dr. Stein" has a "sinister" Black assistant who is in love with "Dr. Walker" and he sabotages the DNA formula being given to "Eddie Turner". The result is the title character.

 

Note that the monster "Eddie" has a squared off Afro haircut instead of Boris Karloff's nuts and bolts. "Blackstein" goes berserk as he looses his memory of being "Eddie" and starts a killing spree. At the climax he pushes "Dr. Stein" into high voltage electrical lab equipment reminiscent of the ending of "I Was A Teenage Frankenstein". At the movies conclusion Los Angeles Police Doberman's tear "Blackenstein" apart.


"DR. BLACK AND MR. HYPE" 

Based very loosely on Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". The audience sees a reversal of "Watermelon Man", but with a murderous twist.



This film starred the very good African American actor Bernie Casey, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", "Never Say Never Again" and John Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness" among many television appearances, as kindly "Dr. Henry Pride".




"Dr. Pride" is looking for a cure for cirrhosis of the liver and instead finds a formula that turns him into the evil WHITE "Mr. Hype". It is rather ironic that Black film makers, in this period, went to WHITE FACE make-up. After the many complaints since the Minstrel shows and silent movies, like 1915's "Birth of a Nation", of the racial affront of using BLACK FACE. Although in this picture the point is used for reverse racism.



The film was described by one critic in the "Atlanta Daily Journal". As being:
for escapism and fun as everything is taken in an extreme and comes off as being comical rather than serious.
The ending has the Los Angeles Police killing "Mr. Hype" on the top of the Watts Towers. The way this was shown had critics comparing it to the Empire State Building death sequence in 1931's "King Kong".


"ABBY"

In 1973 William Peter Blatty turned his best selling novel into the motion picture "The Exorcist". In 1974 there was "Abby".

Abby poster.jpg
The motion picture was produced and directed by William Girdler. He told the "Louisville Courier Journal" in an interview at the time of the movie's release:
Sure, we made Abby to come in on the shirttail of The Exorcist.
In the movie "Abby" is possessed by "Eshu" a West African orisha, a spirit, of chaos and whirlwinds.Otherwise the picture follows the formula of Blatty's novel,


THE PUSH BACK

Three Civil Rights Organizations were against these films.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) throughout the 1970's extremely criticized these films for the false image they were showing America about the Negro community. They were not referring to the film makers as "Black".

How much of this was generational misunderstanding, or their own prejudicial viewpoint is unknown, I would point out that the President of the NAACP attacked Hattie McDaniel for accepting her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Gone with the Wind", because she was helping maintaining a stereo type. Instead of commending her as the first actor of Color to win that award recognized around the world.

Joining the NAACP was the "Southern Christian Leadership Conference". SCLC was a Negro Civil Rights Organization that was closely associated with its first President the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Completing the group was "The National Urban League" a non-partisan group based in New York that fights Civil Rights discrimination. At the time mainly against Negroes.

The three became the "Coalition Against Blaxploitation". Their claim was that these films perpetuated Black stereotypes created by White's. In short Black film makers were not expressing their new identity, but just continuing the "Uncle Tom" views of many White Americans.

In the December 1974 issue of  "Black World" literary critic Addison Gayle wrote:
The best example of this kind of nihilism / irresponsibility are the Black films; here is freedom pushed to its most ridiculous limits; here are writers and actors who claim that freedom for the artist entails exploitation of the very people to whom they owe their artistic existence.

GANGSTERS AND REVENGE


In 1931 producers Hal B. Wallis and Daryl F. Zanuck along with director Mervyn LeRoy made a gangster movie starring an unknown Edward G. Robinson entitled "Little Caesar".




On February 7, 1973 ex-Football player and for the past four years actor Fred Williamson starred in "Black Caesar". Chicago becomes Harlem and "Caesar Enrico 'Rico' Bandello" becomes "Tommy Gibbs", Basically that 1931 motion picture was remade as the"Blaxploitation" gangster motion picture "Black Caesar".



In a Q&A, date unknown, producer, writer and director Larry Cohen explained the picture's history. The story was originally conceived by Singer/Actor Sammy Davis, Jr.

Cohen states Davis:
wanted to do a picture in which he was the star, instead of being a flunky to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. So I suggested that they do a gangster movie like Little Caesar, since he was a little guy, and so was Jimmy Cagney, and so was Edward G. Robinson. And I thought he could play a little hoodlum working his way up in the Harlem underworld
That version of the movie was never made and Sammy Davis, Jr. dropped out. "Black Caesar" was a major success and also crossed ethnic lines and a immediate sequel "Hell Up In Harlem" was made and released on December 16, 1973

I already mentioned Pam Grier in "Scream, Blacula, Scream". So lets look at three of the lady's other motion pictures. Starting with "Black Mama, White Mama" released January 19, 1973.




Pam  Grier is Sidney Poitier and Margaret Markov is Tony Curtis in this reworking of "The Defiant Ones". Grier is "Lee Daniels" aka "Black Mama" and Markov is "Karen Brent" aka "White Mama". The two will escape a women's prison gang and be pursued. The film was co-produced and directed in the Philippines by Eddie Romero. The other producer was actor John Ashley who had been seen in the first three "Beach Party" movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

The two actresses would also be seen one year later in Roger Corman's "The Arena" released January 14, 1974.

 
.
Before this motion picture and "Scream, Blacula, Scream" was "Coffy". This was the motion picture that made made Pam Grier an "ICON" of the "Blaxploritation" films and established her drawing power to both White and Hispanic audiences.





The plot is about a Nurse whose sister is killed by a drug overdose. The nurse, "Coffy", becomes a vigilante going after the dealers. The film's heroine is an intelligent professional not normally seen as a character of the genre. In addition the movie "Coffy" was strongly anti-drugs. A plot device not normally seen in "Blackspoitation" films.

Although the movie was still very violent, contained total nudity of Grier and the usual four letter words. All of which led to the "Coalition Against Blaxploitation" condemning the film for it's Black stereo types. While ignoring the strong anti-drug message of the film completely.





Critic Karen Ross in "Black and White Media: Black Images in Popular Films and Television" wrote in 1996 that "Coffy":
let black audiences enjoy the sight of heroes kicking the white system and winning even while condemning the violence and recognized the implausibility. It allowed blacks the ultimate escape to cheer on the heroine that fought corruption and crime and then leave the theatre to be blighted by the racism in society
While movie critic Roger Ebert, at the time of the film's release, praised the strong and believable female lead and that Pam Grier possessed what he called a "physical  life" that most actresses did not have.

The movie is considered by film maker Quentin Tarantino one of his Top Ten Films.

Sequels of this genre did not go over well and instead of "Coffy 2". The producers created the character of "Foxy Brown" in the same mode as "Coffy".



Just to give my reader a view of "Blaxpoitation" films when seen in other countries. The U,K, has what American's would consider an extreme movie rating system compared to even the peak of the Hays Office. "Foxy Brown" was seized and confiscated under the "Obscene Publications Act of 1959". This occurred not to the actual motion picture released April 4, 1974. As it never played in the U,K., but with the video release there in 1987. The censors removed 2 minutes and 48 seconds before permitting the video to be released. Another 11 years would pass before the unedited video was shown, but restricted to 18 years and older.

What was the plot of  "Foxy Brown" that worried the British censors about the morality of Her Majesty's Subjects/?

Basically a rewrite of "Coffy" as "Foxy" goes after the drug dealers who killed her boyfriend.



The "Coalition" attacked the motion picture, because it was portraying "Negroes" with a negative stereo typical point of view and not in the political, social and cultural direction they saw the race moving. The "Coalition" acknowledged that "Foxy Brown" may be the heroine, but she is posing as a prostitute to kill the drug dealers.

The "Coalition Against Blaxploitation" was up against another point of view not just within the "Black' community. The film's stated budget was $500,000 1974 dollars, but the original Box Office take, again across ethnic barriers, was $2,460,000 1974 dollars and "Blackspoitation" had already crossed the Pond and become part of a major film franchise.


BLAXPLOITATION AND JAMES BOND

One might not picture Roger Moore in a "Blaxploitation" motion picture and I am very sure neither did Ian Fleming, but Moore's first outing as "James Bond" was just that. Released on June 27, 1973 was "Live and Let Die".





Above back row left to right:

Julius Harris as "Tee Hee Johnson", Geoffrey Holder as "Baron Samedi" and Earl Jolly Brown as "Whisper"

About bottom row left to right:

Jane Seymour as "Solitaire" . Roger Moore as "James Bond", Yaphet Kotto as "Dr. Kananga" aka "Mr. Big"

As the above main cast photo indicates Roger Moore and first time actress Jane Seymour were the two main White actors involved. Although David Hedison was "CIA Agent Felix Leiter" and Clifton James was the White Southern Sheriff and comic relief "J.W. Pepper".

"Live and Let Die" departed from the formula of the Sean Connery era and talked about Voodoo and Drug Trafficking. The film was set in both Harlem and New Orleans. While going back and forth to the Caribbean Islands for it's Voodoo set pieces.

"Bond" is after a "Dr. Kanamga" the dictator of the Island Nation of "San Monique" and believed to help "Mr. Big" run his United States drug operations. Several MI-6 and CIA agents had been killed within days of each other and this is why "M" assigns "James Bond" to the case. "007" will meet "Dr. Kananga's" psychic Tarot card queen "Solitaire" and she will fall in love with him.

For a supposed British film it was filled with American stereo types up against Roger Moore's super White Male "James Bond". Part of the film's stereotypical racial tone included calling "Bond" a "Honkey" and "007" stealing a "Pimp Mobile". All due to the screenplay being by American writer Tom Mankiewitz.





 

The month after "Live and Let Die" opened. On July 13, 1973 Tamara Dobson's appeared as Federal Agent "Cleopatra Jones", a Black Female "James Bond", in this comedy drama/




"Cleo" is an undercover agent working as an International Model for a cover. Actor Bernie Casey plays her boyfriend "Reuben Masters".



Actress Shelley Winters plays a Lesbian Drug Lord known as "Mommy". Like many of the "Blackspoitation" movies the villain again is White.



The film has many comedy one liners throughout. Winter's was turned loose for an over the top performance that fits the film perfectly. Tamara Dobson gave Black women a heroine they could look up too with strong Feminist overtones. Reflecting the changing place of young women in America.



A sequel was made  titled "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold". The movie was released July 11, 1975 and once more the evil villain is a White women. This time actress Stella Stevens plays the "Dragon Lady". All the posters for this picture reflected the Psychedelic themes of the mid-1970's.



Below is part of a poster of Stella Steven's as the "Dragon Lady". She has captured two Government Agents that "Cleo" must save. The film's setting was Hong Kong.






MARTIAL ARTS, A LITTLE COCAINE AND WESTERNS


Martial Arts was extremely popular in the 1970's. Bruce Lee's final motion picture "Enter the Dragon" was in 1973. In a small role in the film was 1971 Karate Champion and Professional Tennis Player Jim Kelly.  Note the poster stated "Introducing Jim Kelly" in the lower right corner of the cast..



Jim Kelly would become the first Black Martial Arts actor and star as "Black Belt Jones", on January 28, 1974, facing off against the Mafia attempting to take control of Harlem.



Kelly would return in "Black Belt Jones: the Tattoo Connection".




Ron O'Neal came to prominence in director Gordon Parks, Jr.'s "Super Fly", released July 1, 1972. The character of "Youngblood Priest" was not the person most Black parents wanted their children to be like.




He is a major drug dealer who now wants to get out of the business, but keep his life style. So "Youngblood" decides to sell 30 kilos of cocaine. Along his way to getting out of the business "Priest" has run ins with the law, but in the end with his girlfriend "Georgia", Sheila Frazier, completes his plan.



Concerning this motion picture Junius Griffith head of the Hollywood Branch of the NAACP remarked:
we must insist that our children are not exposed to a steady diet of so-called black movies that glorify black males as pimps, dope pushers, gangsters, and super males.
Griffith was off slightly as Ron O'Neal was back as "Youngblood" the following year in "Super Fly T.N.T.".

So maybe a good old fashion American Western would change the image.

While "Super Fly" upset the NAACP another feature released earlier on April 28, 1972 did not, but was just as violent if not more so. "Buck and the Preacher" was directed by and starred Sidney Poitier as "Buck". "Harry Belafonte was the "Preacher" and a co-producer. While actress Ruby Dee portrayed "Ruth" the "Preacher's" wife.



The picture opens with a wagon train heading west for a better life just after the Civil War. We've seen this many times, but in this case the difference is these are Freed Slaves. The wagon train is attacked by a group of bandits that kill men, women and children. Of course the bandits are White and their leader "Deshay" is portrayed by Cameron Mitchell at his evil best.





"Buck and the Preacher" was one of the first motion pictures to be directed by an African American and Sidney Poitier had the name power to do this. It also had the subtle political message of Blacks fighting for their rights against the White Majority.



At times the influence of previous non-Black westerns can be seen in this film. For instance at times Bellafonte and Poiter look a little like Paul Newman and Robert Redford from 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and some of their dialogue inrterplay is also reminiscent of that picture.




February 26, 1975 saw the release of a little Western written by and starring Fred Williamson, if the "Coalition Against Blaxploitation" was upset before. Then just the original title of Williamson Western should have set them off on him.

This update, but actually old fashion "B" Western was entitled "Boss Nigger". For obvious reasons the picture was also known in different States as "Boss", or "The Black Bounty Killer".





In his review of the picture on February 27, 1975 critic Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote the following two quotations:
a pleasant surprise if you stumble upon it without warning
an immensely self-assured parody of the Man with No Name played by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's films.
Most black Westerns either ignore race or make it the fundamental point of the movie. Boss Nigger somehow manages to do both quite successfully.

Two Black Bounty Hunters, "Boss", Fred Williamson and "Amos", DiUrville Martin, find a wagon under attack. They save a Black women, "Clara Mae", Carmen Hayworth, and discover that the attackers, now dead, have bounties on their heads. "Boss" finds a letter from wanted criminal "Jed Clayton", William  Smith, to the Mayor of the town of San Miguel, character actor R.G. Armstrong.

The letter instructs the Mayor to make the barer the new Sheriff. "Boss" likes the idea of showing up in an all White town and forcing the Mayor to give him the job. As he awaits the arrival of "Jed Clayton" the White townspeople start calling their new Sheriff "Boss" "Nigger".




 In a 1998 interview actor William  Smith stated:
I was killed in ... Boss Nigger by Fred Williamson. We had a great time with our fights. We went down to Arizona to film Boss with R.G. Armstrong. We had a lot of urban, black kids on the set. They were falling off their horses...Fred and I had a great fight scene in that, more than once.

On October 3, 1975 a strange mixture of Japanese Samurai and American Western was released called "The Master Gunfighter". A film I kind of like, but like many find confusing. The movie starred Tom  Laughlin in the title role. The actor also wrote and directed the feature. His story was based upon the 1969 Japanese picture "Goyokin".
The casting is interesting and the reason why the film is on some "Blaxploitation" listings and not on others. Playing "Finley" was Tom Laughlin and playing "Paulo" was Ron O'Neal. Having these two specific actors in the leads with their characters at odds with each other. Helped to create a publicity agents dream campaign. Which may have saved this picture from being shelved before it was ever released.



Black actor Ron O'Neal was portraying a Spanish Californian. While Black actor Lincoln Kilpatrick portrayed a man known as "Jacques:.

 

Nicaraguan actress Barbara Carrera was "Eula".



Set around Goleta, California, the basic plot has"Paulo" behind the planned murder of a group of Chumash Indians. He is part of a group of Spanish landowners upset with their treatment by the U.S. Government. Their plan is to misdirect a shipment of U.S. gold so that it can be stolen. Into this situation comes the once adopted son of "Paulo's" father a master swordsmen and gunfighter named "Finley".

Sounds like an Italian Western with Laughlin cast as Clint Eastwood. Actually in a way it is as the movie was shot in a Spaghetti Western style. Add in the fact that the Samurai sword fighting from the original Japanese film is left intact and you have a confusing, but beautifully filmed motion picture.




When Mel Brooks does not cast you in "Blazing Saddles". You make your own western. The actor in question was comedian Richard Pryor and he approached Fred Williamson to make what became "Adios Amigo". A comedy starring the two actors and produced, written and directed by Williamson.


 

Released in January 1976 the movie was a complete disappointment and flop. The initial script was only 12 pages and was designed to let comedian Pryor cut loose. Unfortunately as Williamson told authors David and Joe Henry for their biography on Richard Pryor:
I wanted to give him an idea, a concept, and then just turn the light on him and let him do whatever he wanted. You know what they say about comedians - that you can just open the refrigerator door and the light comes on, the jokes roll on out. Well, Richard's light didn't come on,
Pryor kept apologizing to audiences for making the movie in the first place for years afterwards.


MASTER RACE,  HAVING YOUR CAR WASHED, ANIMATED BLAXPLOITATION, A COMIC BOOK HEROINE AND A TORRID "GONE WITH THE WIND" CLONE


The image fears of the "Coalition Against Blaxploitation" might have had a perfect example in March 1975 with the release of a motion picture called "The Black Gestapo".



The movie was also released under a less controversial title "Ghetto Warriors".

The plot tells of a group of young people who form a "People's Army" to protect the Black citizens of the Los Angeles community of "Watts". The significance of "Watts" as it applies to the screenplay by Lee Frost and Wes Bishop goes back ten years to August 11, 1965. There was a now infamous traffic stop of a Black Motorist by a White Police Officer. The official record states the motorist was drunk and an argument broke out between the two men. Unfortunately things escalated into a fist fight and that turned into charges of Police Brutality.

From August 11, 1965 through August 16, 1965 18 year old Lloyd watched the "Watts Riots" on television. Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty asked California Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown for help quelling the looting and rioters. It was estimated that between 31,000 to 35,000 Adult residents of "Watts" took part in what I watched on my television screen. While blaming their own actions on the Police Brutality that took place at that ONE traffic stop. What was happening was years of viewed repressive behavior by the Los Angeles Police Department to the Inner City came to a head.

Governor Brown authorized the use of 4,000 members of the California National Guard to work with the Los Angeles Police Department.

When night came on the last day, August 16th, 34 people were dead and $40 million dollars in property damage had occurred. The property damage figure is equal to $309,528,205 2017 dollars.

The screenplay writers, Lee Frost and Wes Bishop, could have chosen any other Los Angeles location for the film's setting, but the choice was by design especially to those still living in the community. It should be noted that these two men were also White. Frost actually directed and both men produced.

The two had made 1972's "The Thing With Two Heads". That "Blackspoitation" science fiction film starred actor Ray Milland. as a bigot. His head is placed on the body of ex-Los Angeles Rams football player Rosey Grier, becoming the title character.



The plot for "The Black Gestapo" has a criminal organization referred too as "The Mob", implied as the "Sicilian Mafia". taking control of "Watts". Two friends Rod Perry as "General Ahmed" and Charles P. Robinson as "Colonel Kojah", implied members of a group like the "Black Panthers", form the "People's Protection Army".

Things get out of control after the White mob is run out of the community and "Colonel Kojah" takes complete control of the "People's Protection Army" and turns it into a fascist group aimed at driving all non-Blacks out of Los Angeles.



It is up to "General Ahmed" to stop his friend and a group now patterned after "Nazi" Germany.

The flip side of "Black Gestapo" was released on October 22, 1976 and was the episodic comedy "Car Wash".  The comedy didn't go over at the time, but has built up a cult following. It featured Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, the Pointer Sisters, Richard Pryer and others in sequences forming a day at the "Car Wash".

 







Next to the car wash was "Big Joe's Dog House" a hot dog stand run by Danny DeVito and Brooke Adams.

After 1972's "Fritz the Cat", but before the his 1978 "Lord of the Rings". Animator Ralph Bakshi made a "Blaxploitation" part live action/part animated picture called "Coonskin" released originally on August 20, 1975. Among the voices heard were Black actors Barry White, Scatman Crothers and Philip Michael Thomas The film is also known as "Street Fight" and "Bustin' Out".




Could not locate a poster for the title "Bustin' Out", but this is a Swedish poster for the picture.


Rabbit the Killer 1975 poster Barry White Ralph Bakshi

Look out Uncle Remus and Walt Disney, because Ralph Bakshi has made an adult version of "Brer Rabbit", "Brer Fox" and "Brer Bear".



Above Walt Disney's "Song of the South". Below Ralph Bakshi's "Coonskin".



As with Uncle Remus a man named "Sampson", Barry White, tells a story to the local "Preacherman", Charles Gordone, as the movie switches from live action to animation.
Unlike the characters in Uncle Remus the three in "Coonskin" rise to the top of organized crime in Harlem. The original working title was "Harlem Nights". Along their way the Rabbit, Bear and Fox deal with the Mafia and crooked White cops.

 





When the film was finished a showing was planned at New York's Museum of Modern Art. According to Larry Kardish, a staff member of the museum, in an 1997 interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Gregg Kiday:
About halfway into the film about ten members of CORE showed up. They walked up and down the aisles and were very belligerent. In my estimation they were determined not to like the film. Apparently some of their friends had read the script of the movie and in their belief it was detrimental to the image of blacks [...] The question-and-answer session with Bakshi that followed quickly collapsed into the chaos of a shouting match

 


In the above scene White mobster "Sonny" wears Blackface to enable him to carry out a contract hit on "Brer Rabbit". Note that the image is the typical "Uncle Tom" stereo type.

"Friday Foster" released August 1, 1977 was based upon a popular comic strip of the same name. The comic strip originally by Jim Lawrence and later Jorge Longaron ran for four years from 1970 through 1974. The title character was the first Black women a newspaper comic strip was based around.



The strip was also turned into a series of comic books.




The motion picture version starred Pam Grier as "Friday" and Yaphet Kotto portrayed "Colt Hawkins" her boyfriend.




The film had a great cast as the above poster indicates. Not mention on it were Jim Backus as "Enos Griffith" and Scatman Crothers as "Noble Franklin".

"Friday Foster' is an ex-magazine model turned photographer who seems to get herself involved with the stories she's covering. In this case the attempted assassination of the wealthiest Black Amereican in the country "Blake Tarr" portrayed by Thalmus Rasulala.

 





Here are a couple of comments made by Pam Grier before making "Friday Foster".:

In "JET Magazine" for December 1976:
I took the parts no other Hollywood starlet would touch because they didn't want to be demeaned or mess up their nails. It was a risk but I didn't know any better and somehow I came out on top
In a 1976 interview for "EBONY Magazine" the actress said:
Half the black men do not respect women. They do not respect their little sisters; they're still using profanity in front of them.
The character of "Friday Foster" ia a very highly intelligent Black women. Something that in the Black World she moves within goes against Pam Grier's second comment above. "Friday" must downplay her intelligence and give in to the Black men around her to get her stories.

However, compared to the nudity and sexism of Grier's earlier films "Coffy" and "Foxy Brown". The role of  "Friday Foster' is starting to show the empowered Black women we have today. Here is the official Pam Grier "Friday Foster" doll.




As I write this article both the NAACP and CORE still attack "Gone With the Wind" for it's stereotypes.

In the middle of the "Blackspoitation" decade of the 1970's was "Mandingo". A motion picture that makes "GWTW" seem a tame multi-star epic. "Mandingo" was based upon the torrid novel of the same name by Kyle Onstott and was released on July 25, 1975. The producer was Italian Dino De Laurentiis and the film was directed by Richard Fleischer, Walt Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "Tora, Tora, Tora". 

This motion picture starred James Mason, Susan George, Perry King and Brenda Sykes. The motion picture featured boxer Ken Norton. Norton at the time had fought both Muhammad Ali and George Foreman and had a large male following..



The setting was the South just prior to the Civil War and centers around "Falconhurst". A plantation that is barely surviving and is visibly  run down. It is owned by James Mason's "Warren Maxwell". Ken Norton is a slave on the plantation who is used in boxing matches to make money for Mason.

As the above poster implies Black Ken Norton's "Mede"is having an affair with the White "Blanche Maxwell". Susan George. While "Warren Maxwell's" son "Hammond", Perry King, is in love with the slave "Ellen", Brenda Sykes. However, "Hammond" will marry his cousin "Blanche" and my reader can imagine the rest of the story.

It should be noted that the following actors were asked to portray "Hammond Maxwell" and all turned the role down:

Timothy Bottoms, Jan Michael Vincent, Jeff Bridges and even his brother Beau.

While Charlton Heston turned down the role of "Warren Maxwell".

Quentin Tarantino referenced the movie in "Django Unchained" by mentioning "Mandingo Fighting" in one scene.

One more thought about "Mandingo" came from co-producer Ralphe Serpe during the film's production as quoted by Jeff Millar in April 1975. This is what Serpe thought of the movie being made:
A human, sociological story that's going to bring about a better understanding between the races... We're faithful to the story of the book but not the spirit. I mean, the book's hackwork, isn't it? It's almost repulsive. A lot of people have read it, but they read it for the wrong reasons. It's really a story of love. We had the script rewritten three times.... I hated that ending in the book where the guy boils the slave down and pours the soup over his wife's grave. I mean, we have the slave boiled but we cut out the part where he pours the soup on his grave. He just... pulls away. And we know that tomorrow there's going to be a lot of trouble. It's really a very beautiful ending

The author Kyle Onstott had written a sequel entitled "Drum". That feature came to the big screen on August 27, 1976 with Ken Norton in a different role with a new characters and cast. The story takes place 15 years after "Mandingo". Warren Oats is now the older "Hammond Maxwell" and Ken Norton is "Drum". The son of a White prostitute and a Black slave.





THE DETECTIVEThis was probably the most widely seen and most influential "Blackspoitation" film of the decade and it came out at the start on July 2, 1971.

Dashiell Hammett created a "Gumshore", a name used to describe a detective, in a 1929 novel. He was first seen on the motion picture screen in 1931 played by the forgotten actor Ricardo Cortez. A remake of that story made ten years later is considered a classic detective thriller. The screenplay was written by the picture's director John Huston. Huston's version of Hammett's novel starred "Tough Guy" Humphrey Bogart as "Samuel 'Sam' Spade in "The Maltese Falcon".

Raymond Chandler was also known for a fictional detective of equal fame. Chandler's "Gumshoe" made his first big screen appearance in 1944's "Murder My Sweet" portrayed by singer/actor Dick Powell. The detective's was named "Phillip Marlowe" and the motion picture was based upon the novel "Farewell My Lovely,

The most popular actor to portray Chandler's detective was once again Humphrey Bogart in 1946's
"The Big Sleep". He was followed by actor/director Robert Montgomery for 1947's "Lady in the Lake". In 1969 James Garner brought the detective to life in a film simply called "Marlowe" based upon Raymond Chandler's "The Little Sister". In 1973 Elliot Gould was "Phillip Marlowe"  in "The Long Goodbye. The last actor, to my knowledge, to play Raymond Chandler's creation was Robert Mitchum in both 1975's "Farewell My Lovely" and 1978 "The Big Sleep".

In 1970 White author and screenplay writer Ernest Tidyman, 1971's "The French Connection" and 1973's "High Plains Drifter", wrote a  novel in the tradition of Hammett and Chandler, but about a BLACK detective. He would also co-write the screenplay for the motion picture treatment of his novel "SHAFT".



Cast in the title role was Richard Roundtree inb his second film. The motion picture was released on July 2, 1971 and was directed by legendary photographer, turned motion picture director Gordon Parks. Not to be confused with his son Gordon Parks, Jr. of "Super Fly".

Gordon Parks Picture

"Shaft" was only Parks' second feature film. His first was "The Learning Tree" released on August 8, 1969. "The Learning Tree" was the type of motion picture the members of the "Coalition Against Blaxploitation" wished all of them would be like. It told the story of a Negro teenager growing up in Kansas during the late 1920's and early 1930's and the racial discrimination he comes up against. The character of "Newt Winger" is based upon the life of Gordon Parks who was also the novel's author.

The sound track by Issac Hayes won a Grammy for Best Motion Picture Score. Hayes was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his catchy theme song. While Richard Roundtree was nominated for "Most Promising Newcomer in a Motion Picture, Male".





Part of the plot is a variation of Raymond Chandler "The Big Sleep". As private detective "John Shaft" is hired by a Harlem mobster to rescue his kidnapped daughter from the Italian Mafia. That is attempting to take over his territory. While the relationship between "Shaft" and "Police Lieutenant Vic Androzzi", Charles Cioffi. Follows more closely Dashell Hammet's "Maltese Falcon" between "Sam Spade" and "Police Lieutenant Dundy",

"Shaft" was the first "Blackspoitation" film to actually appeal to both White and Hispanic audiences. The budget was $500,000 dollars and the Box Office gross was $13 million dollars. When the average movie adult theater ticket was $1.65..

The success of the feature led to two sequels:

June 8, 1972 saw the release of  "Shaft's Big Score". Once again the screenplay was by Ernest Tidyman from his own novel and Gordon Parks directed Richard Roundtree.

 ShaftBigScore.png

June 14, 1973 was the release date of "Shaft in Africa". The movie wasn't of the quality of the two previous films. For one thing neither Gordon Parks, or Ernest Tidyman were involved in the production. With Tidyman having published six novels about "John Shaft". Producers Roger Lewis and Rene Dupont chose to have Stirling Silliphant write an original screenplay just using Ernest Tidyman's character of "Shaft". The result was a lackluster motion picture.



On October 9, 1973 Richard Roundtree starred in the television spin off of "Shaft". It lasted for seven episodes and was cancelled. One problem was that the title character had to be toned downed from the way "Shaft" was portrayed in the three feature films. He now worked with the Police Department.

Another problem was that CBS alternated "Shaft", every other week, with another series called "Hawkins" starring Jimmy Stewart. "Hawkins" was a rural lawyer who investigated different crimes being committed in his rural community. Stewart was also cancelled after only seven episodes.

According to most critics the double cancellation was the result of the two shows having different audience demographics. Which meant no viewer watched both programs.


A WHITE GUY'S PERSPECTIVE


Should my reader be walking down Hollywood Boulevard, with its many movie houses, on any day in 1973. The reader might find a movie theater showing Paul Newman and Robert Redford as con men in "The Sting". Another might have Walt Disney's animated "Robin Hood", or advertising that Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman are appearing in the true French Prison tale "Papillon". Should that reader glance at anther theater marquee. It might inform them that Marlon Brando was appearing in the "X" Rated "Last Tango in Paris". While two others might mention "Live and Let Die", or "Black Caesar".


In short with the pure volume of films being turned out by the Hollywood major studios. "Blaxploitation" films became buried within the larger cities. Go out to Rural America and the Southern States and "Blackspoitation" features usually played at Second, or Third run movie houses, if at all. In some instances even these theaters had no room on their schedules to show these pictures.

Actually depending on the area of the country. The Distributors of these films took a lesson from low budget White film makers and targeted certain areas and totally ignored others. Rather than releasing the films everywhere and thereby decreasing the box office potential. In short "Foxy Brown" might play well in Cincinnati, Ohio, but not Gary, Indiana.

Even so:

The overall mood in the United States during the 1970's was right for a new Black identity in motion pictures. Among the factors contributing to this was the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement and what could be described as really the  "Age of Aquarius". Both helped change the outlook of many American's. At least in the larger cities and in some non-Southern Rural areas. Mostly around my age group, 28, and younger. However, there were other factors that nobody expected working against acceptance.

On February 4, 1974 a 19 year old heiress, to some of her grandfather William Randolph Hurst's fortune, was kidnapped. The papers and the World were attuned to the kidnapping of Patricia Campbell Hearst by the "United Federated Forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)".

As a result young Blacks, in some areas, found themselves on the wrong side of race relations by Color association.

 



"Patty" Hearst was brainwashed and started calling herself "Tanya". After becoming a willing participant in the activities of the "SLA". It would be a full 19 months after her kidnapping until the young women was located, rescued and deprogramming began.. In the eyes of the American Press and the General Pubic. The "SLA" and the "Black Panther" movement seemed to merge into one entity. This caused "The Coalition Against Blackporitation" to push harder against the young Black filmmakers. In a misguided belief they were protecting their own perception of what a "Negro" was as compared to young trouble making "BLACKS"!

The movie titles being released in 1974 by those young Black filmmakers and actors contributed to the harden stance of the older Negro community.

Movie goers were seeing "Black Godfather". Which was a rip off of both "Black Caesar" and the 1972 Francis Ford Coppola film. The picture's publicity was also playing off the promotions for "The Godfather, Part Two" soon to be released.



A small movie company called Dimension Pictures, which would go bankrupt by the end of the decade, produced a small film called "Tough", or sometimes "Johnny Tough" for its lead character.



The film was written and directed by Horace Jackson and unless you were into "Blaxploritation" films you wouldn't know his name. In 1959 there was a classic French motion picture "The 400 Blows" and the first by the great director Francois Truffaunt. The story is about a boy growing up in Paris, rebellious, misunderstood by his parents, truant from school, becoming a small time thief and having general problems with authority.

Horace Jackson turned that film into "Tough".  Johnny rebels against White authority as represented by his teacher, When Johnny asks for help. His parents won't back him up as they are more concerned with themselves, This negative position towards their son will lead to violence.

The subject of a young Black boy and the problems he faces should have been another picture the "Coalition" would support, but again they claimed it promoted rebellion and violence as solutions to problems. The movies theatrical run was very short and it ended up in the 12 AM to 4 AM television early morning television slot.

"The Black Six" was about an outlaw biker gang that came across as "The Magnificent Seven" meet "Easy Rider". The poster shows how some film makers were using previous hits to promote their own quickly put together films. Nothing new to White low budget studios like American International Pictures. Which just happened to be the major distributor of "Blackspoitation" films and this one also.

TheBlackSix.jpg

"Willie Dynamite" was a look at a pimp and drugs dealer. A subject we had seen in these before and would continue to be used.



What should have been a red flag was that "Willie" was portrayed by Roscoe Oman. At the same time this feature was released to theaters. The actor was being seen on Public Television in the role of "Gordon" on "Sesame Street". One wonders what a Black Parent thought in 1974, if they even noticed the fact.

"Three the Hard Way" starred Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly. They were attempting to stop a White Supremacist plot to eliminate all Blacks by putting a chemical in the water supply that would kill that one race only. Not a very good race relations story line. This was another action film by director Gordon Parks, Jr and very well constructed. The picture was released to movie theaters in a 93 minute cut. The DVD release was four minutes shorter at 89 minutes, but the television version was actually extended to 105 minutes.

  
Over the years following the 1970's. Some of these 177 motion pictures produced during that decade are looked upon as a representation of the changing lifestyles in the country. Along with a reflection of the change in Black culture. Which indirectly achieved the purpose originally stated for the creation of these films.

Not to paint a completely negative picture of "Blacksportiation". I would remind my reader of  "The Learning Tree" by Gordon Parks.  I would also advise my reader to look up the comedy "Cooley High" released June 25, 1975. It is a classic.



Based upon his autobiography "The Education of Sonny Carson" is a hard hitting motion picture, but unlike many of the period is completely true.




If for no other reason than Muhammad Ali portrays himself a must for any boxing fan is "The Greatest" based upon his life and featuring Ernest Borgnine, Robert Duvall, Ben Johnson and James Earl Jones among others.




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