Remember the Warren Beatty film SHAMPOO, about sexual and political attitudes in the Swingin’ 70’s? Well, BLACK SHAMPOO starts off as the Blaxploitation version, as super-stud Mr. Jonathan takes good care of all the follicle and sexual needs of the Horny Housewives of Beverly Hills – then veers sharply down Sleazy Street with lots of smutty scenes of simulated sex, flamingly gay stereotypes, and a violently gory finale! Yep, they truly don’t make ’em like this anymore; the “woke” crowd would never let ’em get away with it (except of course for the rich white bad guy!).
While Jonathan is out satisfying his amorous customers, his receptionist Brenda gets a visit from a trio of thugs representing Mr. Wilson, a greasy drug dealing crook who wants her back in his arms – and bed. The hoods trash Jonathan’s salon and rough up squeaky-voiced gay hairdresser Artie. Brenda goes back to Wilson so as not to cause Jonathan any more problems, but when she discovers Wilson’s secret ledger detailing his dirty deeds, Brenda runs back to the rugged Mr. J, and the two take off to his mountain cabin hideaway.
Lead henchman Maddox and the other thugs return to the salon and make Artie talk – by shoving a red-hot curling iron up his ass! They track Jonathan and Brenda down and, after running over J’s loyal old caretaker over, the chase is on. Mr. Jonathan turns badass and takes out the two lesser thugs with a chainsaw (Tobe Hooper would be proud!), but he’s overtaken by Wilson and Maddox. They try to get Jonathan to tell them where the ledger is by beating Brenda’s naked butt with a pool cue when, just before things get real nasty, the old caretaker rushes in and hacks up Maddox with a hatchet! Jonathan and Wilson struggle, until the macho Mr. J emerges victorious by ramming that pool stick straight through Wilson’s torso!!
Yep, it’s Exploitation Heaven, chock full of 70’s-style sex’n’violence, though the acting leaves much to be desired. John Daniels (Jonathan), who kinda-sorta resembles a Black Warren Beatty if you squint real hard, is as wooden as that aforementioned pool cue. Tanya Boyd’s (Brenda) emoting is Daytime Soap Opera level; in fact, she later had a long run as Celeste on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Joe Ortiz (Wilson) is as stereotypical a rich white sleazebag as there is. Skip E. Lowe (Artie) camps it up mercilessly. He’s probably the best known of the bunch though; his long-running cable access show SKIP E. LOWE LOOKS AT HOLLYWOOD inspired Martin Short to create his comic persona Jiminy Glick. Maddox is played by Jack Mehoff… wait, WHAAAT?? “Jack Mehoff”?!? Geez, couldn’t actor William Bonner have come up with a more believable pseudonym, like say… Matthew Calamari!?!
Director/cowriter Greydon Clark was a graduate of the Al Adamson School of Filmmaking, having worked as an actor in the Grade-Z auteur’s SATAN’S SADISTS, HELL’S BLOODY DEVILS, and DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN. I suppose he wanted to prove he could make movies just as good (or bad, depending on your point of view) as Adamson, and despite the rock-bottom budget and amateurish cast he was saddled with, he handles the material fairly well. Many of his shots are well composed, and I like the way Clark transitions from one scene to the next by fading into a negative image. Clark continued to make films through 1998, with titles like SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS, the bizarre sci-fi WITHOUT WARNING (starring a slumming Jack Palance and Martin Landau), the totally 80’s teen flick JOYSTICKS, FINAL JUSTICE with Joe Don Baker, the LAMBADA rip-off THE FORBIDDEN DANCE, and his last to date, STARGAMES.
Is BLACK SHAMPOO a good movie? Well, considering the limitations Clark had to work with, it’s not that bad. He gives it his best shot, and though I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, I wouldn’t change the channel if I came across it, either. It’s an artifact of another era, and as such deserves a look, especially for fans of 70’s Grindhouse/Exploitation flicks.
More in the “That’s Blaxploitation” series:
BLACK BELT JONES – BLACULA – FOXY BROWN – ABAR THE BLACK SUPERMAN – The CLEOPATRA JONES Saga – TOGETHER BROTHERS – TROUBLE MAN – SUPER FLY – THREE THE HARD WAY – HELL UP IN HARLEM – SLAUGHTER – SHAFT – COTTON COMES TO HARLEM –BLACK CAESAR