28 for 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends – Day 22, Carol Speed

Carol Speed was one of the premier ladies of the blaxploitation era, appearing in seven movies in just two years. Unfortunately, like many other leading women of the genre, she was typically cast as the male lead’s love interest, but occasionally she got to be tough too.

Her most successful film, depending on your point of view, is probably The Mack, as she had a big role in the film, and it is universally considered a classic. Abby, however, gives The Mack a run for its money.

Speed played a woman possessed by a demon who is in desperate need of an exorcism. The film was off to a great start at the box office until attorneys from The Exorcist got involved.

Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson get all of the attention from the perverts looking back and judging attractiveness, btu Carol Speed is every bit as good looking as those two. She just never had the opportunity to be a true lead in a film or an  on-screen badass like those two did.

We’ll take more Speed please.

Why We Love and Respect Her: Working with Rudy Ray Moore in Disco Godfather and trying to actually act in scenes with him. We’re not sure if anyone else has ever done that before, or since.

Best Known For: Being Goldie’s bottom bitch in The Mack.

CarolSpeedBeachPic

Blaxploitation Role Call:

The Mack (1973) as Lulu: Lulu is Goldie’s bottom bitch who also happens to be a childhood friend. Goldie encounters Lulu shortly after the Blind Man convinces him that pimping is the way of life he should pursue. Lulu is a prostitute without a pimp, but sides with Goldie immediately after learning he was in the game.

Savage! (1973) as Amanda: Amanda is a high wire act performer who gets involved with a black militant trying to lead a revolution. She helps lead an all-women army against The Man.

Dynamite Brothers (1974) as Sarah: In this Al Adamson classic, Sarah is Stud Brown’s girl, and he’ll do anything to protect her. In the meantime Stud Brown has teamed up with Larry Chin to battle local pimps and drug dealers who are making life in the city unbearable. Oh yeah, Sarah is a deaf mute.

Black Samson (1974) as Leslie: Lesile is the girlfriend of nightclub owner Samson, and Samson’s competition, especially from the underworld, are out to bring Samson down, and they aren’t afraid to go through Leslie to get to him. Leslie sports one of the best afros in blaxoploitation history in this one. You get a good look at it around 90 seconds into the trailer.

Abby (1974) as Abby: Abby is one the most controversial films of the blaxploitation era. Sure, there were movies that were a lot more outrageous, but this one was actually yanked from theaters after the people behind The Exorcist unleashed their legal team on it for copyright violation. Abby is a marriage counselor who gets possessed by an African sex spirit, and Blacula, William Marshall, is one of the guys who has to exorcise that spirit.

Disco Godfather (1979) as Noel: Noel is a community activist who helps the Disco Godfather, Rudy Ray Moore, spread the word about the dangers of PCP. The drug has been growing in popularity in the community, and the kids are falling victim to it. The Disco Godfather can’t stand to see kids fall into the clutches of drug addiction, and neither can Noel.

Bio Links:

Neat Interview with Carol Speed by the people at WilliamGirdler.com, where she talks about meeting the filmmaker and her experiences making Abby.

CarolSpeedBlackSamson

Carol Speed in Black Samson.

Carol Speed IMDB

Carol Speed WIki

28 For 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends – Day 20, Roger E. Mosley

foodshack

Roger E. Mosley has a face you can’t forget. I don’t know what it is about him, but he just has one of those faces to me. It is distinctive. So much so, every time I see him in a movie, I impulsively point at the screen and yell out, “Oh, shit! Mosley!”

I don’t get that excited when I see him on screen in the many television shows he’s done in his career, but real-deal, classic movies of the 1970s are a different thing entirely.

In addition to making a small splash in blaxploitation films, he found his way into much higher profile films as well, including a role in McQ, one of John Wayne’s final films released in 1974.

Many of Mosley’s roles are just plain fun.

His role as a hit man disguised as a reverend who tries to muscle his way in on the mob in Sweet Jesus, Preacherman, is a character that frequently seeks laughs and gets them. His character Huey was continually outsmarted by Tyrone Tackett and provided some much needed comic relief to the dark, dark, dark, plot of Hit Man. Then there’s Darktown Strutters, which is one of those films that defy explanation.

Why We Love and Respect Him: Roger E. Mosley wasn’t afraid to take risks. One year he might appear in movies with John Wayne and Jeff Bridges, and then show up as the boyfriend of a woman leading a motorcycle gang who dress like Solid Gold dancers the very next year.

Best Known For: Flying Magnum PI around Hawaii, but for blaxploitation fans, he’s best known for being Goldie’s brother in The Mack.

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Hit Man (1972) as Huey: Huey is one of the thugs sent to see to it Tyrone Tackett takes the fast track out of town. The only problem is every time Huey and his buddy try to come down on Tackett, he makes the two stooges look like clowns.

The Mack (1974) as Olinga: Olinga is Goldie’s nagging brother who doesn’t like the fact Goldie pimps hos downtown. Olinga is a black nationalist whose group is determined to rid the ghetto of drug dealers and pimps. This puts Olinga and Goldie at odds with each other. The two do reconcile long enough to avenge their mother’s violent death.

Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973) as Holmes/Lee: Rev. Jason Lee isn’t what he appears. This preacher isn’t out searching for lost souls, he’s out searching for a new racket and he’s found one in this town. He slips in as a preacher, and then slowly starts muscling in on the local thugs who control things. It soon becomes a violent battle of wills the preacherman refuses to lose.

Sweet Jesus Preacher Man

Darktown Strutters (1975) as Mellow: Mellow is Syreena’s boyfriend, but isn’t worth much when it comes to tracking down the missing folks in town and stopping the conspiracy threatening the community. For a movie as goofy as this one, that description sounds so serious doesn’t it?

How about we try…

Mellow’s girlfriend is leading a motorcycle gang in a revolution against a Colonel-Sanders lookalike who is using a chain of rib joints to gain the trust of the black community only to do cloning experiments on them in an effort to create voters who will pull the right lever at the polls. Mellow’s girlfriend is also on the hunt for her missing mother and several other prominent members of the black community.

Film Threat sums it up pretty well in their ode to Dark Town Strutters.

Big Time (1977) as J.J.: Don’t know much about it, never seen it. This is what IMDB says:

“A small time con-artist gets between the FBI and a suitcase filled with money. (Josiah Howard, ‘Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide.’)”

And here’s a clip featuring J.J….

He also did two biographical roles in the mid-1970s I didn’t include here because I don’t believe they should be considered blaxploitation. The first was his portrayal of Leadbelly in the movie Leadbelly. Second, was his portrayal of Sonny Liston in a Muhammed Ali bio pic starring Ali as himself.

Bio Links:

Roger E. Mosley IMDB

Roger E. Mosley Wiki

Roger E. Mosley and Antonio Fargas interviewed at a party for stunt men

Sounds boring, but Mosley saves thing with his wit. They talk about stunt men and Bill Cosby for most of the interview. Mosley gets passionate near the end when discussing black stunt men breaking into the business to do stunts for Fred Williamson and Jim Brown.

Mosley Hosting Evening at the Improv

He’s got jokes.

28 For 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends, Day 4 Max Julien

There are a handful of films that most commonly cited as the gateway to blaxploitation for the average viewer. The most popular of those seem to be titles like Shaft, Super Fly, Coffy, Car Wash, or The Mack. All of them are great films, and a great way to see what the elite films of the genre were like.

One of those films, however, stands out above the rest because its story digs below the surface of characters who live on the fringe of society, and the talented cast and crew deliver performances so memorable, they are still talked about 40 years later. That standout film is The Mack.

One of the biggest reasons The Mack stands out is because it’s easy to believe Max Julien really is Goldie, the ex-con who turns to pimping as a means of survival when released from a stint in the big house.

Max Julien’s impact on blaxploitation films, whether his films were technically blaxploitation or not, cannot be argued. He isn’t credited as a writer on The Mack, but he did contribute to the script and helped give it its authentic feel.

Julen burst onto the acting scene playing a revolutionary in the 1966 film The Black Klansman, and would go on to do some amazing work over the next decade or so, but then left film behind and focused on doing real, revolutionary work for real people, in real life.

mack4

Why We Love and Respect Him: In Addition to Max Julien essentially defining the look and character attributes of a big-time pimp, he also paved the way for the strong, black female character to be an ass-kicking machine with Cleopatra Jones. Julien wrote Cleopatra Jones with his then girlfriend in mind for the role, but Tamara Dobson would eventually get the part. Tamara was great, but we gotta give Max credit for developing the storyline in general, because it was this storyline that Pam Grier eventually rode to fame with Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Friday Foster. In that respect, Max begat Pam.

Best Known For: Pimpin’.

themack2Goldie

Blaxploitation Role Call:

The Black Klansman (1966) as Raymond, the Rabble Rouser: A black man infiltrates the KKK to avenge the death of a relative. Made just a few years before the concept of blaxploitation existed, it’s technically not in the genre was we see it today. First it wasn’t really developed as a vehicle to exploit black talent in order to appeal to a black audience. Second, it lacks a lot of the over-the-top elements that made the genre great. It is, however, a strong film, with a strong message, and Raymond’s role as the revolution-minded activist brought in to incite a cultural upheaval in the south is powerful.

Uptight (1989) as Johnny Wells: I honestly don’t know much about this film, but here’s what IMDB says: Black revolutionaries are betrayed by one of their own. Based on the 1935 classic, “The Informer.”

The Mack (1973) as Goldie: Goldie is an ex-con who sets out on the road to pimping after getting some advice from The Blind Man. He and his pal Slim, Richard Pryor, make waves in the underworld, and quickly become the biggest players in the game. This film is part of the core curriculum at Hip Hop Artist University.

Thomasine and Bushrod (1974) as Bushrod: Thomasine and Bushrod are a cople of criminals, per se, who target the extremely wealthy for robbery and then redistribute the haul among those who aren’t as fortunate. Despite having Julien as both a writer and lead actor, and being directed by Gordon Parks, Jr., it disappointed a lot of fans. Julien focused on efforts outside of film after this one was released.

thomasine_and_bushrod

Bio Links:

New York Times Hated The Mack

This just proves movie critics don’t know shit.

Tupac Came to Me in a Vision…

Max Julien talks about Biggie and Tupac, and the visions he had when they died.

Max Julien’s IMDB Bio

Max Julien’s Wiki

**Bonus Clip: Just for shits and giggles, we offer this refresher viewing of Dave Chappelle’s Playa Hater’s Ball, because it’s hard to watch old pimping movies without thinking about it at least once.

http://vimeo.com/15506672