12 February 2017

ARROW FILMS PRESENTS: WILLIE DYNAMITE. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.



WILLIE DYNAMITE. (1974) DIRECTED BY GILBERT MOSES. PRODUCED BY DAVID BROWN AND RICHARD D. ZANUCK. MUSIC BY J.J. JOHNSON.
STARRING ROSCOE ORMAN, DIANA SANDS, THALMUS RASULALA, JOYCE WALKER, NORMA DONALDSON, ROGER ROBINSON, ALBERT HALL AND GEORGE MURDOCK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Willie Dynamite sure is something. He's a real 'somebody,' too. In this hugely popular example of the 'blaxploitation' film genre, of which more later, he's the flashiest pimp in New York City in the early 'Seventies and he wants to be the Number One pimp too.

Can you picture a powerfully-built black man, who surely tops six foot two or three in his stocking feet, clad in silver platform heels, a hat that adds at least another foot to his already imposing height, and a fur coat so bright that it puts Joseph's Techni-color Dream Coat to shame? You can? Then you've got Willie...!

Willie, brilliantly played by Roscoe Orman, aka Gordon from SESAME STREET(!), is just amazing to look at. He's your stereotypical pimp from the movies, with the personalised purple-and-gold Cadillac and the walk-in closets of the most fantastically multi-coloured pimp-clothes and floor-length fur coats you've ever seen. The word that comes to mind is 'plumage.' Peacocks strutting up and down displaying their fine feathers for the ladies ain't got nuthin' on Willie.

The only thing Willie doesn't have, accessory-wise, is a flashy pimp-cane with a big diamond knob on the top. You know the type of dealie. If I'd made this film, I'd've given Willie one of these for sure!

Anyway, what does Willie do, exactly? Well, as a pimp, he's pretty much contractually obligated to do some pimping. So he runs a 'stable' of seven beautiful women, some white, some African-American and some Asian.

I don't much care for the word 'stable' but it sure beats 'kennel,' which it so easily could have been on account of the way the women here are only ever referred to as 'bitches.' Oh well. We know that 'Seventies films aren't exactly famous for the respect and deference shown in them to bitches, haha.

Willie's girls all live in a fancy apartment and wear gorgeous clothes and the best wigs. They only seem to get the lightest of slaps when the money they make for Willie doesn't quite come up to scratch, so that's good. Willie prides himself on the high quality of his hos, and he maintains that what they're selling to the johns is a fantasy that can't be fulfilled anywhere else. A pimp with an ethos? I love it.

Willie's not without his problems, however. The cops and the DA have it in for him big-time and are constantly on his back. He's engaged in a turf war with a conglomerate of other pimps, and his newest recruit, the stunningly beautiful Pashen, keeps getting herself busted by the police for 'loitering with intent to commit prostitution.' Well, she's a hooker, after all.

Also, his family don't know what Willie does for a living so he's got to keep the pimping secret from them, which is hard when your appearance screams 'pimp' from a mile away...! 

In addition to all this, an attractive and exceedingly strong-willed ex-hooker-turned-social-worker-type called Cora seems intent on making herself a thorn in Willie's side. She wants his girls to give up working for Willie and find other jobs. She even has a bash at reforming Willie, if you please.

Cora hones in on Pashen, the newbie, in particular though, because Pashen's only starting out in prostitution and can maybe be saved. Pashen is young and so beautiful she could do whatever she wants with her life. But Willie's filled her head full of his sweet-talking nonsense and Pashen is not receptive at all to Cora's pleading. Is it pointless trying to get through to her before it's too late...? You know the way these young 'uns think they know it all.

I said we'd return to the topic of 'blaxploitation movies,' of which WILLIE DYNAMITE is supposed to be an excellent example. They're the films from the early 1970s which were made for black audiences and were the first to feature primarily black casts and really cool soundtracks of funk and soul music, as well as people talking 'jive talk,' in which I'm not really an expert or I'd give you some examples, haha.

Some great examples of blaxploitation movies, other than WILLIE DYNAMITE himself, are SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG and SHAFT, both from 1971 and both credited with kicking off the whole genre in style. Prior to these movies, black people in films frequently played servants or 'lesser people.' Now, finally, they had a chance to come into their own as people in their own right.

One feature of the films is that they often portrayed black people being victimized by white people, for example, when we see Willie being wrongfully arrested by the cops for allegedly taking part in a robbery. It'd be obvious even to a blind person that the cops are picking on Willie because he's black. Or maybe they're jealous of his swish togs and the fact that he's always surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women...!

A couple of random points. For a movie about pimps and hos, I would've liked to have seen more sex and nudity. As it is, there's hardly any. Also, although she's not credited, the actress who plays Clint Eastwood's loquacious maid Birdy in the superb psychological horror PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971) is seen here playing one of Willie's relatives, the ones he's got to keep in the dark about his pimping. I think they think Willie's a music producer for a bunch of girl singers or something!

Willie's Female Relative, excitedly: 'Do your girls do benefits, Willie?'

Willie's Mom: 'I'm sure your girls perform whatever you tell them, Willie?'

Willie: 'They'd better...!'

Anyway, this marvellously entertaining film, that's not without a hefty dollop of social commentary as well as a terrific score with Martha Reeves singing the title song, is out now on Dual Format Edition from ARROW FILMS and FETCH PUBLICITY.

It has a great documentary, KISS MY BAAD ASSS, as an extra feature, in which actor and musician Ice-T gives us a thumbnail guide to blaxploitation movies. Interviews with Richard Roundtree (SHAFT), Melvin Van Peebles (SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS) and Isaac Hayes (remember Chef from South Park? Well, he's an Oscar-winning composer too!) also feature.

I wish I knew some good jive talk to finish this review with. As it is, all you hip cats out there, I gotta split...!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com











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