Label: The Sprocket Vault
Region Code: A
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English 2.0 PCM Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: Fred Williamson, D’Urville Martin, William Smith, R. G. Armstrong, Don “Red” Barry
Blaxploitation western Boss Nigger (1975) stars former pro-footballer turned bad-ass black cinema hero Fred Williamson (1990: The Bronx Warriors) as "Boss" and comic sidekick Amos (D'Urville Martin, Sheba Baby), a pair of black-skinned bounty hunters in the Old West. After years of being enslaved by whitey they've turned the tables and have begun hunting down bad white men for a change! At the top of the film the pair gun down a group of bank robbers and find a note from the Mayor of a nearby town offering one of the crooks a position as the town's sheriff, which seems odd but it turns out the Mayor, played by R.G. Armstrong (The Car), is in the back pocket of notorious outlaw Jed Clayton (William Smith, Invasion of the Bee Girls). Boss uses this bit of information to blackmail the mayor into giving him the vacant Sheriff position, making his sidekick Amos deputy, much to the dismay of the local white-folks who don't take kindly to a black sheriff in a white town!
Amos begins posting notices around town laying down the new law, fining the not-so-good folk for racial slurs and general impoliteness, humorously jailing the bank president for using the n-word to the consternation of the befuddled Mayor. The film is a ragged bit of cinema that's poorly shot and edited but it has some charms, namely the presence of Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and D'Urville Martin as the gun-slinging bounty hunters turned local lawmen, plus a cast of fun side characters like Armstrong, and Carmen Hayward (Father of the Bride) as an ebony love-interest for Boss, and white-lady Barbara Leigh (Terminal Island) as a real-thirsty for lovin' schoolteacher!
The film is filled with a typical western tropes with a blaxploitation slant, scripted by Williamson the film is loaded with bad dialogue, but some of it as uttered by Williamson is pretty cool, the guy is just bad-ass clad in all black leather from head to toe, plus Martin offers up loads of laughs as the sidekick. The film struggles a bit to find and maintain a tone though, at first it delivers the humor in force but then goes for some pervy leering and rape (via Armstrong's Mayor character) and then we have the death of a small Mexican child who is trampled by a baddie on a galloping horse, coming to a close with the torture of out hero and some grim revenge. That said, all the key players are a blast to watch and I found the technical shortcomings of the film forgivable. Director Jack Arnold made some iconic sci-fi and horror films in the fifties with Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Tarantula, (1955) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) before moving onto Westerns and TV fare in the sixties, this is not his best film by any means but it is entertaining slice of blaxploitation featuring Fred Williamson kicking ass and taking names in the old west, it's schlocky but fun.
Audio/Video: Boss Nigger (1975) arrives on Blu-ray from MVD Visual and The Sprocket Vault in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. The flat murky image leaves a lot to be desired in regard to contemporary HD viewing with lots of softness, anemic blacks than leans towards dark green, and the color temps are all over the place. There's some print damage evident throughout but it's mostly minor white speckling, but it does look like it's been put through the proverbial DNR-wringer, it's just a shame this didn't get more love for it's Blu-ray debut. The mono PCM audio sounds okay, it's flat with some crackling and hiss in places but it does the job, the main theme song sounds good, optional English subtitles are provided.
Onto the extras we get carry-overs from the previous DVD by way of an 8-min interview with Associate Producer Myrl Schrelbman who discusses his mentor and friend Jack Arnold, he speaks about how Arnold struggled to film the death of the little boy by horse trampling, and the difficulty casting an appropriate villain to go up against the imposing Fred Williamson. He also gives a brief tribute to the director , recalling Arnold's entry in the military where he made documentaries before going on to make horror, sci-fi and western films.
We also get a 27-min interview with star Fred Williams who discusses his career as a footballer before turning to TV and film, and how he earned "The Hammer" nickname, the disc is buttoned-up with a trailer for the film. The 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray release comes housed in a stylish clear Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side is a sanitized "Boss"-titled variant, the b-side featuring the original illustrated one-sheet baring the Boss Nigger title. The Blu-ray disc features the Boss artwork, while the DVD disc, which features the same film and extras, has a sepia tone image of Williamson on a white background.
- “A Conversation with Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson” with Joel Blumberg (27 min)
- “A Boss Memory” with Producer Myrl Schrelbman (8 min)
Jack Arnold Tribute by producer Myrl Schrelbman (4 min)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min)
Boss Nigger (1975) is a bit on the shabby side of Western film making but it entertaining and fun, I love seeing Fred Williamson do his thing in an Old West setting, and D'Urville Martin threatens throughout to run away with the show, still managing to be decked out in velvety pimping threads as the wisecracking deputy.