Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), the baddest pimp in town, has just been released from prison, ready to take revenge on notorious gangster Willie Green (D'Urville Martin), who set him up on a phony drug charge and stole his club, The Total Experience. With the help of his friend Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and their band of Kung Fu fighting vixens, Dolemite takes on every "rat soup eatin' motherf#%*er" in South Central.
In DOLEMITE, the man of the same name, was living free and good. He was a pimp, and everyone knew him, and he surrounded himself with a flock of beautiful women. However, his blissful life was halted when he found himself framed. He was charged with possession of stolen furs and a half a mil worth of narcotics. It wasn't his, but it got him a 20 year stay in prison. When we meet Dolemite, he has served 2 years of that sentence, when he is called into the Warden's office. As it turns out, his madam, who oversees his girls, among other things, Queen Bee, seems to have been able to convince the system of Dolemite's innocence. The Warden agrees upon his release the next day - but only under one condition. Someone is selling both guns and narcotics to the city's youth, And to make things worse, Dolemite's nephew, as he learns, was recently shot and killed, after being caught in crossfire. They essentially want Dolemite to go undercover, while being himself. The only ones that know the reasoning behind his early release, being the Governor, Queen Bee, the Warden and an unnamed FBI agent. Upon his release, Dolemite wastes no time, slipping back into his life, right where it left off, as he slips into some more "appropriate" attire, as he is greeted by his ladies at the gate. But at his house, he gets some bad news. Not only is the guy who framed him, Willie Green, responsible for the guns and drugs being sold in the city, he has also taken possession of Dolemite's club, "The Total Experience". From there, Dolemite's goal is to take it to Green, but it initially isn't easy. Green is well guarded, and also well armed as well, not to mention that Dolemite has 2 FBI agents, who are watching his every move. However, in the end, the rhyme saying, ass kicking Dolemite, along with his Karate trained females, are able to take the fight to Green and his people. Not only do they get back the club, but get the filth on the streets under control, as well.
It seems that I say what I am about to say a lot these days - but here it goes again. Up until now, this film was one that I well knew about, but just had never seen. There might have been times in the past, that I had planned to watch DOLEMITE, but for whatever reason, I just didn't. But with that said, over the years, I have been well aware of DOLEMITE's cult status(I think the first time that I had heard about it was Dr. Dre's "Nothin' but a G Thing", in which Snoop Dogg raps about it). But fast forward to the present, and fortunately via this great release from the folks at VINEGAR SYNDROME, I was finally able to check it out.
As the film's star, Comedian Rudy Ray Moore reveals in the "Making of" featurette, which is included on the disc, the "Dolemite" character started, after Moore found himself inspired by a homeless Wino that he knew. The man in question would often recite insulting rhymes, which Moore found to be quite humorous. Well, in the years that followed, Moore took what the homeless man would do, and made an original character out of it. That character was, of course, "Dolemite". In years that followed, Moore recorded a series of comedy albums, which featured the "Dolemite" character. No one expected the first album, nor the character to be a success - especially Moore. But it was. So now with a trio of successful albums, Rudy Ray Moore thought that the next logical step to take, would be to translate the "Dolemite" character to film. With this film, not only would the audience hear the character, as they always had, but also see him as well. The plans for the feature film were set in motion, as Moore got Jerry Jones to write the screenplay, and D'Urville Martin to direct(both of whom also co-star in the film as Blakeley and Willie Green respectively). When the film was put into production, not only was Moore, the Producer and star, he also worked as the film's set decorator as well. This was the case for many on the film, as a number of people wore many hats. With this is mind, a film directed by a first time Director, surrounded by a group of people with little, to no film experience - this couldn't possibly be a good film, right? Well, that's what we would assume, with good reason - but as it turns out, DOLEMITE isn't a bad film at all. In fact, I personally found it to be highly entertaining.
Well, to get it out of the way - yes, DOLEMITE is in fact, low budget, and does possess the flaws of novice film making(bad shots, sound, line delivery, etc). All of the above demonstrate signs of inexperience all around. But when you get past the initial stages, and the film sinks in, everything of the like, essentially becomes part of the film's charm. Personally, while there are quite a few landmark Blaxploitation films that I haven't seen, there have been a few that I have really liked(Pam Grier films like, COFFY and SHEBA, BABY, and the Fred Williamsom film, BOOMTOWN, to name a few), and fortunately, after seeing DOLEMITE, I can now add the film to that list. The film might have not had a budget, but elsewhere it has a lot of things. Naturally, since Rudy Ray Moore is a Comedian, he brought the funny to the film. Here, we see both varieties; comedy, that was intentional, and comedy which wasn't. In addition to the comedy, we also have a dose of crazy martial arts combat, with some gun play. Composited all together, it makes for one "outta sight" time. Sure these may not be the greatest acting performances you will ever see. But as "Dolemite", might say, "Just go with it, Motherfucker!".
For this release, VINEGAR SYNDROME has gone out of their way to lovingly restore the film. The film, here, has been 2K scanned, and restored via a newly discovered 35mm negative. Despite a few minor instances of popping and cracking, and a few lines, the film, both looks and sounds great. The print, crisp and clean, and the colors vivid. I have seen a lot of the VINEGAR SYNDROME restored releases, and they always seem to knock it out of the park, so to speak. And DOLEMITE, is absolutely no exception. The clarity of the print is surprising, seeing as many Blaxploitation flicks weren't really taken care of over time. And as a result, many subsequent DVD releases have left something to be desired(many not suitable for Blu-Ray as is). This is not the case with DOLEMITE here, as it looks great. Also, the film here is by default, presented in its corrected, and intended 16x9 widescreen presentation, thus eliminating all of the boom mics, and crash pads seen in previous incarnations of the film(which I have so read about). But do not fret. Because, if it's boom mics, and crash pads that you crave, this release includes a Full Frame, "Boom Mic" version of the film as a bonus feature! As for the disc's bonus features, For starters there's a historical commentary track with Rudy Ray Moore's biographer Mark Jason Murray. Also included are 3 featurettes. "I, Dolemite", a retrospective "Making of", "Lady Reed Uncut". An interview with "Queen Bee", herself, and a location piece titled, "Locations: Here & Now" The release also includes 2 original theatrical trailers; The first being of course, DOLEMITE, and the other being its sequel, THE HUMAN TORNADO.
Some details about the included featurettes are as follows
"I, Dolemite" (24m 01s)
This making of goes to explain star Rudy Ray Moore's beginnings in the 1950s, as he worked at the "Dolphin's of Hollywood" Record Shop, and then subsequently working as a DJ for owner John Dolphin's radio station. However when Dolphin was murdered by a disgruntled musician, who felt they were old royalties, Rudy looked for a career change. He soon turned to comedy, and the "Dolemite" character was born on record. The record, "Eat Out More Often" was a hit, so soon, Moore did a follow up, titled "This Pussy Belongs to Me". After a third, "The Streaker", Moore moved to something bigger - a film featuring his popular character. Here, not only is Moore interviewed, but also Writer, Jerry Moore, who recalls that many of Moore's lines were improvised. Thomas Von Sternberg, talks about how he started on the film as a Production Manager, before making himself the film's camera man. Also, Biographer, Mark Jason Murray, and co-star John Kerry shed some light on other aspects of the film, such as the hiring of Director/Co-star D'Urville Martin, who, we learn, wasn't too enthused about the film. Moore recalls finding Co-star and friend, Lady Reed. Reed is interviewed, and recalls her nervousness initially, but that Moore always reassured her. Co-star, Jimmy Lynch is interviewed, as he recalls shooting locations. Von Sternberg also adds insight about shooting/and electrical problems that they faced. Musician Ben Taylor talks about how he was approaced about doing the film's infectious theme song. The featurette closes with initial reactions to the film, both personally, and of the audience. Although the filmmakers weren't happy with it - nonetheless it became a runaway hit. One that was eventually picked up by Dimension Films for distribution. - A brief, yet insightful featurette. The only con being that it ends at the topic of the film's sequel, THE HUMAN TORNADO, in which it promises "To be continued"(Blu-Ray release?).
"Lady Reed Uncut" (23m 14s)
In this featurette, Actress and Moore collaborator Lady Reed("Queen Bee). In footage that is mostly recycled from the "making of", Reed recalls being discovered by Moore, starting out as a writer for him - and then going to record to film. She ellaborates on the film's subsequent success and how it changed her life. She also talks about her many comedy adventures with Rudy Ray Moore. - This segment is a little long-winded, but nonetheless insightful and candid.
"Locations: Then & Now" (1m 47s)
A simple split screen comparison of some of the film's key shooting locations - both then and now.
7/10 The soundtrack to DOLEMITE is old school greatness. Some old school disco synth, complete with a theme song, that tells the story of the titular character(which was quite the norm for those days).
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
The title of this film - SSSSSSS, should tell you exactly what type of film that you're in for prior to going into it. No, it isn't JAWS, but rather something much more campy. I enjoyed this film for the most part as I knew what it was going for. At the beginning of the film, we see Kogen and Stoner loading up a strange cage into the back of a truck, unaware of what was inside, we soon learn however, that Kogen runs a carnival freak show. And that, what was in the cage becomes the marquee act in the show - A half man-half snake creature. Yes, this is that type of film. A silly plot, with a silly outcome. But, If you just go with it, it's not that bad.
Special Features include
- Scanned & restored in 2k from 35mm negative
- "I, Dolemite" making-of documentary
- "Lady Reed Uncut" featurette
- "Locations: Then & Now" featurette
- Multiple framing options: the intended 1.85:1 widescreen version & an alternate full frame "boom mic" version
- Historical commentary track by Rudy Ray Moore's biographer, Mark Jason Murray
- Original theatrical trailer for both DOLEMITE & THE HUMAN TORNADO
- Original cover artwork by Jay Shaw
- Reversible cover artwork
- English SDH Subtitles
This film will be released on Blu-Ray on April 26, 2016