28 For 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends – Day 16, Thalmus Rasulala

Thalmus Rasulala has one of the coolest names in history.

Rasulala. Thalmus Rasulala.

I dig it.

Thalmus is truly a blaxploitation legend.

He has fought off Blacula.

He has committed a jewel heist with noble intentions.

He has put on a suit and taken up the torch of justice by going after criminals like those he’s played before. He’s nothing if not versatile.

He worked as an actor for three decades.

After the blaxploiation boom died down, Thalmus focused on doing television but stilll managed to make a few films like New Jack City. He was the police commissioner in New Jack City, which was released in 1991, the same year Thalmus died of a heart attack.

Why We Love and Respect Him: He’s so good at his craft he could be wearing the same suit in side by side photos, and it would be easy to tell whether he was a good guy or bad guy in each one just by reading his eyes.

Best Known For: being Blacula’s Van Helsing. He was also on One Life to LIve.

Do Vampires Exist? – Clip from Blacula

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Cool Breeze (1972) as Sydney Lord Jones: Sydney and a crew of jewel thieves set out to pull off a jewel heist so they can establish a legit bank to serve the black community. Things get out of hand from there.

Blacula (1972) as Dr. Gordon Thomas: Dr. Gordon Thomas is a CSI-type guy with the police department, and he is the first to suspect a vampire could be responsible for several recent deaths. The rest of the department thinks he’s crazy so he’s left to investigate and manage the situation with the help of just a few close friends. He leads the way to stop Blacula.

Willie Dynamite (1974) as Robert Daniels: Robert Daniels is an attorney who is determined to rid the streets of pimps and drug dealers. His girlfriend runs a program where she tries to convince steet hookers to get off the street. Their efforts to change things, run afoul of Willie Dynamite’s efforts to make a ton of cash, off all that ass.

Bucktown (1975) as Roy: After Duke clashes with a corps of crooked cops while trying to open his dead brother’s night club, he calls his old friend Roy and asks him to round up some the gang and bring them to town. There’s a war going on, and Duke doesn’t intend to lose it.

Friday Foster (1975) as Blake Tarr: Blake Tarr is a reclusive billionaire and Friday Foster is hired to get a picture of him when he arrives for a special New Years event. When Friday shows up to get a picture of him arriving in town, he is ambushed by terrorists and a conspiracy is uncovered.

Adios Amigo (1976) as Noah: Noah is a minor character in ths Fred Williamson western about the adventures of Big Ben and Sam Spade.

Thalmus-Rasulala

Bio Links:

Great Thalmus Rasulala Retrospective on The Museum of Uncut Funk. They pay homage much better than we can do.

Thalmus Rasulala’s IMDB

Thalmus Rasulala’s Wiki

28 For 28: Day 11, Rudy Challenger

Rudy Challenger2

Looking back on Rudy Challenger’s work, it always seemed like he was in the background as the beginning, but became a key player by the end of it.

He wasn’t a leading man during the blaxploitation era, but Challenger made a nice career out of supporting roles and minor parts. He eventually focused his efforts on doing television work. When he dropped out of acting in 1993, he left behind a resume that gives a snapshot of popular network television shows of the day.

Eventually he would be known for playing the politician, businessman, or other suit-wearing character in a position of authority, but he made his biggest splash in the world of blaxploitation in one of his early roles, the preacher-turned safe cracker, Roy Harris in Cool Breeze.

Challenger is among the criminals in Cool Breeze, who might very well be the first gang of criminals to wear Nixon masks while committing the crime. Can’t verify it, but I highly suspect it to be so given this was released in March 1972, three months before the Watergate break-in even happened

This role outshined most of his other roles in blaxploitation classics like Hit Man, Sheba, Baby, Detroit 9000, and The Slams with Jim Brown.

RudyChallengerFIlmStrip

Why We Love and Respect Him: We love when a strong 6th man, or 12th man depending on which stupid sports analogy you prefer, has no problem stepping off the bench and playing those small roles that make the difference between winning or losing but don’t necessarily show up on the stat line.

He will always be one of the best actors to play a politician, or authority figure, we’ve ever seen aside from Morgan Freeman. Challenger’s portrayal of Michigan’s first black gubernatorial candidate Aubrey Dale Clayton in Detroit 9000 is strong evidence of that.

Rudy Challenger did that quite a few 1970s films, and we’re much better off for it.

Best Known For: Looking all official and shit, and getting shot in the head (See Harlem Nights and Hit Man.)

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Cool Breeze (1972) as Roy Harris: Roy Harris might look like you’re average reverend, but he’s not. He has the gift of safec racking at his disposal, and because of this, gets lured back into the criminal life for one more big score driven by somewhat noble motives.

Detroit 9000 (1973) as Aubrey Hale Clayton: Clayton is Michigan’s first black gubernatorial candidate, and he’s running during a time when the state’s inner cities are volatile ground. There’s also a cool jewel heist in the plot.

Hit Man (1972) as Julius Swift: Julius Swift is an old friend of Tyrone Tackett, but Tackett soon learns his friend isn’t as he seems. Swift is deeply involved in an underground porn-making racket, and is one of the men filmed raping Tackett’s niece. Tackett don’t go for that shit.

Sheba, Baby (1975) as Andy Shane: Sheba Shane is back in town and she’s looking for the loan sharks who keep leaning on her dear ol’ dad, and being a general nuisance around Louisville. Andy Shane just got in too deep.

Bio Links:

Rudy Challenger IMDB

Rudy Challenger WIki

Rudy Challenger TCMDB (I’m starting to like these better than the IMDB pages)