Blaxploitation is a
film genrethat emerged in the United Statesin the early 1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban black audience; the word itself is a portmanteauof the words “black” and “exploitation.” Blaxploitation films starred primarily black actors, and were the first to feature soundtracks of funkand soul music. "Variety" magazine credited " Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" with the invention of the blaxploitation genre.cite web |url=http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040611/REVIEWS/406110302 |title=Review of "Baadasssss!" |accessdate=2007-01-04 |last=Ebert |first=Roger |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=2004-06-11 |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=Chicago "Sun-Times" |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] The Hollywood-financed film "Shaft" is closer to being blaxploitation, and thus, is more likely to have begun the genre.cite book |last=James |first=Darius |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=That's Blaxploitation!: Roots of the Baadasssss 'Tude (Rated X by an All-Whyte Jury) |year=1995 |publisher= |location= |isbn=0312131925 ]
When set in the North or West Coast of the U.S., Blaxploitation films tend to take place in the
ghetto, dealing with pimps, drug dealers, and hit men. The genre makes frequent use of drugs, the Afrohairstyle, “ pimpmobiles", ethnic slurs against whites (e.g. " honky"), and negative white characters like corrupt cops and politicians and easily fooled members of criminal organizations. Blaxploitation films set in the South most often take place on a plantation, dealing with slaveryand miscegenation. [ [http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/18/18_blax.html Bright Lights Film Journal | Blaxploitation ] ] [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE2DD103FF93AA35755C0A9669C8B63&pagewanted=print FILM REVIEW; From Blaxploitation Stereotype to Man on the Street - New York Times ] ]
Following the lead of "
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song", many of these films featured funkand soul jazzsoundtracks with heavy bass, funky beats and wah-wah guitars. These soundtracks are notable for a degree of complexity that was not common for radio-friendly funk tracks and rich orchestration that included uncommon instruments such as flutes and violins. This style of music actually evolved into a bona-fide musical genre, also called blaxploitation. Prominent examples of this style include Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly and Isaac Hayes's Shaft. [cite web
title = Music Genre: Blaxploitation
publisher = All Music Guide
url = http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=ADFEAEE47C17D24EAA7520F7A61A74E1915DDA2AFF71D6BD310E6A6CFD9D1E67C32E59CC40F0ABAEC5FC3FCF7BE3F931A65B10D1CAEE51B0DB6C3E3E87EAAE705843&sql=77:11040
accessdate = 2007-06-21]
At the same time, the films also stereotyped blacks, the audience they aimed to appeal to, as pimps and drug dealers. This dovetailed with common white stereotypes about black people, and as a result, many called for the end of the blaxploitation genre. The
NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Urban Leaguejoined together to form the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. Backed by many black film professionals, this group received much media exposure and hastened the death of the genre by the late 1970s.
Blaxploitation films, such as "Mandingo", laid the foundation for future filmmakers to address racial controversies regarding
inner city poverty, and in the early 1990s, a new wave of acclaimed black filmmakers focused on black urban life in their films, particularly Spike Lee’s " Do the Right Thing" and John Singleton’s " Boyz N the Hood", among others.
Famous blaxploitation films
They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!", a 1970 sequel to "In the Heat of the Night", was, in style, a pre-Shaft blaxploitation film. It is stylistically very different from the original film. It can also be viewed as a 1970s cop film prior to " Dirty Harry" and " The French Connection" but similar in style.
* "Cotton Comes to Harlem" was written by Chester Himes and directed by
Ossie Davisin 1970. It featured two black NYPD detectives Coffin Ed played by Raymond St. Jacquesand Gravedigger Jones played by Godfrey Cambridgewho were looking for a money filled bale of cotton stolen by a corrupt reverend named Deke O’Malley. " Blazing Saddles" star Cleavon Littlemakes an appearance in the film.
* "Shaft" (1971) Directed by
Gordon Parksand featuring Richard Roundtreeas the black detective John Shaft, a character comparable to James Bondand Dirty Harry. The soundtrack has contributions from such prominent musicians as Isaac Hayes, whose recording of the titular song won several awards, including an Academy Award. Perhaps the most famous blaxploitation film, it was deemed culturally relevant by the Library of Congress. It spawned two sequels, "Shaft’s Big Score" (1972) and " Shaft in Africa" (1973), as well as a spin-off starring Samuel L. Jackson in 2000. (It was not a remake.)
Hit Man" (1971) This is the story of a hit man or contract killer, played by former NFL player Bernie Casey, hailing from Oakland who comes to Los Angeles after his brother is murdered. He later finds out that his niece gets "forced" into pornography and later murdered. He then sets out to murder everyone directly involved, from a porno actress (Pam Grier) to a theater owner (Ed Cambridge) to a man he looked up to as a child (Rudy Challenger) to a mobster (Don Diamond). Said to be a remake of Get Carter.
* "Super Fly" (1972) Directed by
Gordon Parks, Jr., this film had a soundtrack by Curtis Mayfieldand is considered to be a classic of the genre. Curiously enough while the movie celebrates drugs and the people dealing themFact|date=April 2008 Mayfield’s soundtrack is the exact opposite; a harsh commentary to the way drugs ruins the lives of especially the black man.
The Legend of Nigger Charley" (1972) Written and co-produced by Fred Williamson, who also stars.
* "Hammer" (1972). Starring
Fred Williamsonas B.J. Hammer. He plays a boxer who gets mixed up with a crooked manager who wants him to throw a fight for the Mafia.
Across 110th Street" (1972) is a crime thriller about two detectives (played by Anthony Quinnand Yaphet Kotto) who try to catch a group of robbers who stole $300,000 from the mob before the mob catches up with them.
Black Mama, White Mama" (1972) A remake of " The Defiant Ones" (1958) with Pam Grierand Margaret Markovin the roles originally played by Sidney Poitierand Tony Curtis.
* Blacksnake (1972) A unique
Russ Meyerperiod piece about colonial slavery, a cruel white plantation mistress named Lady Susan and her domination of both the black and white men on Saint Cristobal (Barbados).
Blacula" (1972) is a take on " Dracula", featuring an African prince (played by William H. Marshall) who is bitten by Count Draculaand, after turning himself into a vampire, spreads terror in modern day Los Angeles.
Trouble Man" (1972)Trouble Man is a 1972 blaxploitation film produced and released by 20th Century Fox. The film stars Robert Hooks as "Mr. T.", a hard-edged private detective who tends to take justice into his own hands. Although the film itself was unsuccessful, it is still of note today for its successful soundtrack, written, produced and performed by Motown artist Marvin Gaye. Like Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield before him, Gaye became the next in a line of soul music stars who recorded soundtracks for films aimed at black audiences. While the Trouble Man film was a flop, the Trouble Man soundtrack and single became successes for Gaye.
* "Trick Baby" (1973), based on the book of the same name by ex-pimp
Blackenstein" (1973) is a joking quasi-sequel to "Blacula", featuring a black Frankenstein’s monster.
Detroit 9000" (1973) is a 1973 blaxploitation feature film set in Detroit, MI, Street-smart white detective Danny Bassett (Rocco) teams with educated black detective Sgt. Jesse Williams (Rhodes) to investigate a theft of $400,000 at a fund-raiser for Representative Aubrey Hale Clayton (Challenger). Championed by Quentin Tarantinoit was released on video by Miramaxin April 1999.
Cleopatra Jones" (1973) and its sequel, " Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold" (1975), are films about a tough, street-smart black woman. The first film marked the beginning of a subgenre of blaxploitation films which focused on strong female leads who took an active role in shootouts and fights. Some of these films include " Coffy", " Black Belt Jones", "Foxy Brown", and " Get Christie Love!".
Coffy" (1973) Pam Grieris Coffy, a nurse turned badass who takes revenge on all those who hooked her 11-year-old sister on heroin.
* "Black Caesar" (1973)
Fred Williamsonplays Tommy Gibbs, a street smart hoodlum who worked his way up from the bottom of the barrel to the crime boss of Harlem.
James Bondfranchise once took on some elements of blaxploitation during the heyday of the genre, in the movie "Live and Let Die" (1973). (The plot involved many black and blaxploitation themes, including drugs and voodoo.)
The Mack" (1973) The Mack is a 1973 blaxploitation film starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor. This movie was produced during the era of such blaxploitation movies as Dolemite, however it is not considered by its makers a true blaxploitation picture. It is a social commentary, according to "Mackin' Ain't Easy", a documentary about the making of The Mack, which can be found on the DVD edition of the film. The movie deals with the life of John Mickens (AKA Goldie), a former drug dealer recently released from prison who becomes a big-time pimp. Standing in his way is another pimp named Pretty Tony, two corrupt white cops, a local crime lord, and even his own brother (the black nationalist), who try to force him out of the business. The movie is set in Oakland, California and was the biggest grossing blaxploitation film of its time. Its soundtrack songs were recorded by Motown artist Willie Hutch.
Scream Blacula Scream" (1973), a sequel to "Blacula"; William H. Marshall resumes his role as Blacula/Mamuwalde.
Johnny Tough" (1974) Starring Dion Gossett and Renny Roker.
Truck Turner" (1974)Truck Turner is a 1974 blaxploitation film, starring Isaac Hayes and Yaphet Kotto, and directed by Johnathan Kaplan. The screenplay was written by Michael Allin, Jerry Wilkes and Oscar Williams. Truck Turner (portrayed by Isaac Hayes) is a former professional football player who becomes a bounty hunter (along with his partner Jerry) in search of a pimp in Los Angeles, California. After a tragic accident (where Truck uses deadly force where the alleged pimp is killed and his friend is stabbed by a prostitute), Turner becomes a marked man by the a hired assassin.
Willie Dynamite" (1974)Willie Dynamite is a 1974 (see 1974 in film) blaxploitation film which features Roscoe Orman (Gordon from Sesame Street fame) as a pimp who lives the "life". This film, unlike Super Fly, is more dramatic to which someone intervenes. As usual with blaxploitation films, the lead character is seen driving a customized Cadillac Eldorado coupe - the one featured in the film was previously used in the Magnum Force (the Super Fly Eldorado seen in Magnum Force was painted pink but repainted for use in the film - the only difference is the D & G headlight covers which were not seen in the Dirty Harry film). In one scene in the film, the pimpmobile meets its demise when several ghetto thugs vandalize the car to which the hubcaps, grille cap, headlight covers, and lake pipes were ripped.
* "Abby" (1974) was a blaxploitation version of "The Exorcist" and starred then rising star
Carol Speedas a virtuous young woman possessed by a demon; Ms. Speed also sings the title song. William H. Marshall(of Blaculafame) conducts the exorcism of Abby on the floor of a discotheque.
Black Belt Jones" (1974)—Better known for his role as “Mister Williams” from the Bruce Lee film " Enter the Dragon"; Jim Kelly was given a leading role in this martial arts film. In it he plays Black Belt Jones, a federal agent/martial arts expert who takes on the mob as he avenges the murder of a karate school owner.
* "Foxy Brown" (1974) features the charismatic actress
Pam Grieras Foxy Brown.
Space Is the Place" (1974)
* "Three the Hard Way" (1974), three black men must stop a white supremacist group from imposing genocide against Negroes in three American cities.
Sheba, Baby" (1975) The action movie Sheba, Baby, starring Pam Grier as Sheba Shayne, was released in 1975. In the film, Sheba returns to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to confront thugs who are trying to intimidate her father into dissolving or handing over his family business. Austin Stoker plays Sheba's love interest, Brick Williams. Sheba, Baby was Pam Grier's last movie on her contract with AIP.
The Black Gestapo" (1975) Rod Perry plays General Ahmed who has started an inner-city People's Army to try and relieve the misery of the citizens of Watts. When the Mafia moves in, they establish a military style squad.
Black Shampoo", a take off on the Warren Beattyhit Shampoo.
Boss Nigger" (1975) Along with his friend Amos (D’Urville Martin) Boss Nigger ( Fred Williamson) takes over the vacated position of sheriff in a small western town in this Western Blaxploitation film.
Darktown Strutters" (1975) is a farce directed by Roger Corman's brother, Gene. A Colonel Sanders-type figure with a chain of urban fried chicken restaurants is attempting to wipe out the black race by making them impotent through his drugged fried chicken.
Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde" is a retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde tale, starring Bernie Casey.
Dolemite" is a 1975 blaxploitation feature film, and is also the name of its principal character, played by Rudy Ray Moore, who co-wrote the film. Moore had developed the alter-ego as a stand-up comedian and released several comedy albums using this persona. The film was directed by D'Urville Martin, who appears as the villain Willie Green. The film has attained something of a cult status, earning it a following and making it more well known than many of its counterparts. A sequel, The Human Tornado, was released in 1976.
* "Mandingo" (1975). Based on a series of novels, this blaxploitation film was set in the American South during the
American Civil Warand focused on the sexual relations between slaveowners’ wives and slaves. It was followed by a sequel, "Drum", which became a favorite among black audiences for a scene in which a slave literally tears the testiclesoff of a white slave driver.
Ebony, Ivory & Jade" (1976) by Cirio Santiago(also known as "She-Devils in Chains", "American Beauty Hostages", "Foxfire", "Foxforce"). Three female athletes are kidnapped during an international track meet in Hong Kong and fight their way to freedom.
Passion Plantation" (1976)
*"Sparkle" (1976) Directed by Sam O’Steen and written by Howard Rosenman and Joel Schumacher. It is the story of three sisters from Harlem who embark on a singing career. The movie shows the pitfalls and the background dealings in the music business. The story is a dynamic piece on family connections with it showing the love of the three sisters and the devotion they have to each other. It also showcases a wonderful performance by Lonette McKee as “Sister” whose rise to fame leads her to a life of drug use and abuse. This movie also stars Irene Cara and Philip Michael Thomas as “Sparkle” and “Stix,” a young couple in love and straining to deal with all that success has to offer, the highs and the lows. The musical score for this production was done by Curtis Mayfield and the album for the movie was recorded by Aretha Franklin.
* "Jackie Brown" (1997) Quentin Tarantino revives the blaxploitation genre with an all star cast.
Full Clip" (2004 film) made in the graphic novelstyle.
Get Christie Love!" (TV movie later released to some theaters). Police drama with the twist of starring Theresa Graves as an attractive young black woman as the cop.
Later influence and media references
An early blaxploitation tribute can be seen in the character of "Lite" played by
Sy Richardsonin "Repo Man" (1984). Richardson would later go onto write "Posse" (1993), which could be described as a kind of blaxploitation Western.
Later movies such as "
Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002), " Superbad" (2007), and " Undercover Brother" (2002), as well as Quentin Tarantino’s "Jackie Brown" (1997), " Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003), and " Death Proof" (2007) feature pop culturenods to the blaxploitation genre. The parody "Undercover Brother", for instance, starred Eddie Griffinas an Afro-topped agent for a clandestine organization satirically known as the "“B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.”" Likewise, "Austin Powers in Goldmember" co-stars Beyoncé Knowlesas the Tamara Dobson/ Pam Grier-inspired heroine, " Foxxy Cleopatra." Furthermore, the acclaimed film "auteur" and noted fan of exploitation films, Quentin Tarantino, has made countless references to the blaxploitation genre in his films, in addition to "Jackie Brown". In a famous scene in " Reservoir Dogs", for instance, the main characters engage in a brief discussion regarding " Get Christie Love!", a mid-1970s blaxploitation television series. Similarly, in the catalytic scene of " True Romance", the characters are seen viewing the movie " The Mack". John Singleton’s remake of "Shaft" (2000) is a modern-day interpretation of a classic blaxploitation film. The 1997 film "Hoodlum" starring Laurence Fishburnewas an attempt at gangster blaxploitation, portraying a fictional account of black mobster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson. In 2004, Mario Van Peebles, Melvin’s son, released " Baadasssss!", a movie based on the making of his father’s movie in which Mario played his father. 2007's American Gangster, based on the true story of heroin dealer Frank Lucastakes place in the early 1970s in Harlem and has many elements similar in style to blaxploitation films, specifically when the song Across 110th Streetis played.
Furthermore, blaxploitation films have made a profound impact on contemporary
hip hop culture. Several prominent hip hop artists (including Snoop Dogg, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Slick Rick, and Too Short) have taken the no-nonsense pimppersona popularized first by ex-pimp Iceberg Slim's 1967 book "Pimp" and then by films such as "Super Fly", " The Mack", and " Willie Dynamite", as inspiration for their own works. In fact, many hip-hop artists have paid tribute to pimping within their lyrics (most notably 50 Cent’s hit single “" P.I.M.P."”) and have openly embraced the pimp image in their music videos, by including entourages of scantily-clad women, flashy jewelry (known as “" bling-bling"”), and luxury Cadillacs (referred to as “" pimpmobiles"”). Perhaps the most famous scene of " The Mack", featuring the “Annual Players’ Ball,” has become an often-referenced pop cultureicon, most recently by "Chapelle’s Show", where it was parodied as the “"Player-Haters’ Ball"." The genre's overseas influence extends to artists such as Norway's Madcon. [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ync5XfNNPo Beggin'] ]
Parodies and spoofs
The notoriety of the genre has led to a number of parodies, some of them humorous, others satirical. The earliest attempts to mock the genre,
Ralph Bakshi’s "Coonskin" and Rudy Ray Moore’s " Dolemite", were both made during the heyday of the genre, in 1975. The satirical film "Coonskin" was intended to deconstruct racial stereotypes ranging from early minstrel showstereotypes to more recent stereotypes found in blaxploitation films of the era. However, the work encountered a strong amount of controversy before its release when it was protested by the Congress of Racial Equality, and its distribution was handed to a smaller distributor who advertised "Coonskin" as an exploitation film. However, it developed a cult followinng with black viewers. "Dolemite" was less serious in tone and produced as a spoof. "Dolemite" centered around a sexually active black pimp played by Moore, who based the film on his stand-up comedyact. The film was followed by a sequel, " The Human Tornado".
Later spoofs parodying the blaxploitation genre include "I’m Gonna Git You Sucka", "
Pootie Tang", " Undercover Brother" and " The Hebrew Hammer", which featured a Jewish protagonist, and was jokingly referred to by its director as a “"Jewsploitation"” film.
A more recent parody is the invention of the "
Botsploitation" genre championed by the website botsploitation.com featuring robotic version of famous cultural personalities. Robert Townsend’s comedy " Hollywood Shuffle" features a young black actor who is tempted to take part in a white-produced blaxploitation film.
animeseries " Cowboy Bebop" features several episodes with blaxploitation themes, particularly "Mushroom Samba" which extensively parodies blaxploitation movies.
"The Onion’s" book "
Our Dumb Century" has an article from the 1970s entitled “Congress Passes Anti-Blaxploitation Act: Pimps, Players Subject to Heavy Fines.”
FOX’s network television comedy, “
MADtv,” has frequently spoofed the Rudy Ray Moore-created franchise " Dolemite", with a series of sketches performed by comic actor Aries Spears, in the role of "“The Son of Dolemite.”" Other sketches include the characters “ Funkenstein", " Dr. Funkenstein” and more recently Condoleezza Riceas a blaxploitation superhero. A recurring theme in these sketches is the inexperience of the cast and crew in the Blaxploitation era, with emphasis on ridiculous scripting and shoddy acting, sets, costumes and editing. The sketches are testaments to the poor production quality of the films, with obvious boom mike appearances and intentionally poor cuts and continuity. There was even an episode where the Son of Dolemite met and faced off against Black Belt Jones.
Saturday Night Live"’s long-running character the Ladies Man parodied blaxploitation’s exaggerated sexuality. The Ladies’ Man, played by Tim Meadows, was an Afro-topped and sexually-crazed talk-show host who believed himself to be the living definition of what females search for in a man.
In the movie "
Leprechaun in the Hood", a character played by Ice-Tpulls a baseball bat from his afro; this scene is a satire of a similar scene in "Foxy Brown", in which Pam Grierhides a revolver in her afro.
Adult Swim’s "
Aqua Teen Hunger Force" series has a recurring character called “Boxy Brown” (A play on Foxy Brown, a lead character in another blaxploitation film). An imaginary friend of Meatwad, Boxy Brown is a cardboard box with a crudely drawn face with a goatee on it that dons an afro. Whenever Boxy speaks ’70s funk music, typical of blaxploitation films, is played in the background. The cardboard box also fronts a confrontational attitude and dialect similar to many heroes of this film genre. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Some of the TVs found in the action video game "" feature a blaxploitation-themed parody of the original "
Max Payne" game called "Dick Justice", after its main character. In the original Max Payne, there is a dialogue between two mercenaries, one of whom admits that he has christened his gun “Dick Justice.” Dick behaves much like the original Max Payne (down to the “constipated” grimace and metaphorical speech) but wears an afro and mustache, and talks in Black English. Duck King, a fictional character created for the video game series fatal fury, is a prime example of foreign black stereotypes.
The animated series "
Drawn Together" features a character named Foxxy Lovewho spoofs both 1970s Hanna-Barberacartoons and blaxploitation characters. Her name is derived from those of the characters Foxy Brown and Christie Love.
Internetphenomenon “The Juggernaut Bitch!!!” features a Blaxploitation-styled over-dub on a series of " X-Men" cartoon clips featuring the Juggernaut.
The sub-cult movie short "
Gayniggers from Outer Space", a blaxploitation-like science fiction oddity directed by Danish filmmaker DJ and singer Morten Lindberg.
Jefferson Twilight, a character in "The Venture Bros.", is a parody of the comic-book character Blade (a black, half-vampire vampire-hunter), as well as a blaxploitation reference: he has an afro, sideburns, and a mustache; carries swords; dresses in stylish 1970s clothing; and says that he hunts “Blaculas.” He looks and sounds somewhat like Samuel L. Jackson.
The intro credits in
Beavis and Butthead Do Americahas a Blaxploitation style, even having the theme sung by Isaac Hayes. Professional wrestler Human Tornado's gimmick is done in vein to blaxploitation films. Family Guyhas parodied Blaxploitation numerous times using fake movie titles such as "Black to the Future" ( Back to the Future), often featuring a black version of Peter Griffin.
List of blaxploitation films
History of cinema
List of women warriors in folklore, literature, and popular culture
* "What It Is...What It Was!; The Black Film Explosion of the ’70s in Words and Pictures" by Andres Chavez, Denise Chavez, Gerald Martinez ISBN 0-7868-8377-4
*" [http://www.blaxploitation.com/ Blaxploitation.com A comprehensive database on blaxploitation films, soundtracks and artwork.] "
*" [http://22.214.171.124/BB/admin/ReelNewsDetail.asp?ID=2734 An overview of the history of Blaxploitation]
* [http://funkmasterj.tripod.com/blax.html Comprehensive listing of blaxploitation links]
* [http://www.formatmag.com/reviews/blaxploitation-films/ An introduction to Blaxploitation Films]
* [http://foxybronx.free.fr/ French information site about Blaxploitation and other groovy film genres]
* [http://www.science-digtion.de/ The science of Rare Groove Diggin, including Blaxploitation, of course]
* [http://www.maderfaker.com/ Maderfaker Industry, a space devoted to Blaxploitation films]
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