Thursday, May 19, 2016

DOLEMITE (1975) (Blu-ray Review)

DOLEMITE (1975) 
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Label: Vinegar Syndrome
Rated: R
Region: Region-Free 
Duration: 90 Minutes 

Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: D’Urville Martin
Cast: D’Urville Martin, Jerry Jones, Rudy Ray Moore, Lady Reed 

What can I say about Dolemite that wiser and more worldly cult movie lovers have not said already? Maybe that this slice of 70's cinema is a fucking riot for starters, in all of blaxploitation there is nothing else quite like Dolemite, it is simply one of the most fun, outrageous and quotable blaxploitation movies of all time. A no-holds barred romp chock full of boobs, badassery and some of the most deliciously quotable dialogue of all time crammed into a fun, somewhat inept and completely awesome slice of 70's cult cinema. Comedian/actor Rudy Ray Moore created the Dolemite personality on his early comedy album, 'Eat Out More Often", a raunchy slice of urban humor which was an underground hit that actually made its way onto the top of the charts through his grassroots promotion. Moore was no dummy and wisely decided to further exploit the character by bringing him to the big screen with this independent production financed by sales of his won comedy albums - even if he had to do it hmself. The movie is directed by actor D’Urville Martin who was already a known character actor in blaxploitation movies like Sheba Baby with Pam Grier and Hammer and Black Caesar with Fred Williamson. Not sure why Rudy Ray Moore brought him into direct a film but I guess it could have been worse, as is the movie has a certain rough and inept charm about it and Martin gets to play another memorable character ontop of that.  

The movie centers around the mack daddy supreme Dolemite (Moore) who has just received an early release from a prison when the authorities realize that his old neighborhood has gone straight to Hell in his absence, his arch-nemesis Willie Green (played by director Martin) has not only taken over Dolemite's nightclub but also dragged the neighborhood through the mud with drugs and whores. Dolemite is greeted just outside of prison by a car full of hookers who provide him with some sweet pimp threads and a mouthful of appreciation. Also aiding him on his spree to rid the neighborhood of Willie Green is the nightclub singer Queen Bee (Lady Reed) who is a no nonsense madame who runs the multi-ethnic band of kung-fu hookers, that's right, multi-ethnic kunf-fu hookers. . 

If that sounds like a slice of '70s blaxploitation that would put a feather in your pimp cap you are probably gonna have a blast with Dolemite. On the downside... or upside, depending on your persuasion and appreciation for bad movies, the acting is mighty awful all the way around, which is not to say ruinous to the movie. In fact quite the oppsoite, the bad acting and awesome dialogue are a lot of the reason I love this movie. Moore may not be a great actor but very few actors could deliver lines like "I wanna let you know that Dolemite is my name, and fuckin' up motherfuckers is my game!" and "That rat-soup-eatin', insecure honky motherfucker!" with the charm of Moore, the guy is a goldmine of action-packed awesomeness. 

The movie is loaded with fun, oddball characters who pop up including the infamous Hamburger Pimp and a horny community priest, an FBI agent, and a couple of local copswithout a clue who love to hassle Dolemite. Its raw, fun and action-packed with no shortage of nude women, Dolemite is banging women left and right in this movie, which makes you wonder how he has the energy to fight crime and save the neighborhood from Willie Green and all those corrupt white people.

Audio/Video: Dolemite (1975) arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome looking pimp with a brand nw 2K scan from the recently unearthed original negative of the movie, presenting the movie in the original 1.85:1 widecreen format. Vinegar Syndrome have also included a open matte version of the movie dubbed the "boom mic" version, which presents the movie the way many of us first saw it, full of boom mics and the movie crew caught on film. This version has been around for awhile and has lead to the movie being remembered as a much worse film that it might actually be, but it is not the technical nightmare it is often remembered as, though I do love this fullscreen version, it is always good for a bad movie night get together with friends. The properly framed widescreen version of the movie with the new 2K scan looks surprisingly good on Blu-ray, far and away looking the best it ever has on home video. There's some light scratching, cigarette burns and inconsistencies throughout, but on the plus side there's a fine layer of film grain with some decent clarity and a modest amount of fine detail. In fact watching this new 2K restoration might ruin some of the movie's bad-movie reputation to a certain degree, the new transfer definitely gives some new life to this cult-classic.

Audio on the disc is handled capably with an English language DTS-HD Master 1.0 Mono presentation which handles the side-splitting dialogue and funky score nicely, obviously this is not the most robust audio source but it does the job just fine. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Vinegar Syndrome have also included some qaulity bonus content for this release, beginning with the "boom mic" version in HD which as I have said alfready is a lot of fun. Then we have the 24-minute making of featurette directed by Elijah Drenner who directed the American Grindhouse doc, featuring various interviews with Moore in addition to his biographer Mark JasonMurray, cinematographer Nicholas Von Sternberg, actor John Kerry, Lady Reed, and friend and co-star Jerry Jones, offering insight into Moore's early career and the movie. 

The disc also includes what has been dubbed a "historical commentary" by Rudy May Moore biographer Mark Jason Murray, who covers a lot of ground on the track, and edits in his own audio interviews with Moore, co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed and John Kerry and cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg, which was a nice change of pace for a commentary track. 

There's also a 23-minute interview with comedian and actress Lady Reed who speaks about her own career and working the comedy circuit with Moore. There's also a brief then and now location visit, a few  of which have not changed all that much in forty years, plus the awesome original trailer for the movie, including one for the sequel, The Human Tornado, which is also coming to Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome very soon. The dual disc BD/DVD combo comes housed in a clear keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original one-sheet illustration and a new one created by artists Jay Shaw, in a nice move the disc feature both versions of the artwork, too. 

Special Features: 

- I, Dolemite making-of documentary by Elijah Drenner (American Grindhouse) (24 Mins) 
- Lady Reed Uncut featurette (23 Mins) 
- Locations: Then and Now featurette (2 Mins) 
- Historical commentary track from Moore’s biographer Mark Jason Murray, featuring interviews with Moore as well as co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed and John Kerry and cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg
- Original Theatrical Trailers (3 Mins) 
- Reversible sleeve of Cover Artwork

Dolemite is the first in a series of restored blaxploitation movie which are on the way from Vinegar Syndrome, this is a remarkable and noteworthy release, and if you're a fan of '70s blaxploitation cinema you need this one in your collection, this is essential stuff. I can gurantee that even if you're not familiar with the character of Dolemite that the character has worked his way into some form of popular culture you are familiar with, be it a send-up of 70's black cinema such as Black Dynamite, or the rap persona of Snoop Dog or the occasional refernce in a Beastie Boys song the man has made his mark on popular culture and he ain't going nowhere anytime soon. I am looking forward to Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray of The Human Tornado, the sequel which I have never watched, they've set the bar high so my expectations are through the roof. 


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