That’s Blaxploitation! 15: BLACK SHAMPOO (Dimension Pictures 1976)


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

 

 

 

Cleaning Out the DVR #14: SEX & VIOLENCE, 70’S STYLE!

Groundbreaking 60’s films like BONNIE & CLYDE, THE GRADUATE, THE WILD BUNCH, and MIDNIGHT COWBOY led to the complete obliteration of the Production Code, and by the sizzling 70’s it was anything goes! Low budget exploitation filmmakers benefitted most by this loosening of standards as the following quintet of movies illustrates, filled with bouncing boobs, bloody action, pot smoking, beer drinking, and hell raising:

THE MUTHERS (Dimension 1976; D; Cirio H. Santiago) – A Filipino-made “Women in Prison” Blaxploitation actioner? Yes, please! Former Playboy Playmates Jeanne Bell and Rosanne Katon, future NFL TODAY commentator Jayne Kennedy, and ex-Bond girl Trina Parks are all trapped on a coffee plantation run by the sadistic Monteiro with no chance of escape… until there is! Loaded with gore, torture, kung-fu fighting, bare breasts, a funky score, pirates (that’s right, pirates!), and a slam-bang run through the jungle – what more could you ask for? Forget about some of the gaps in logic, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Fun Fact: The prolific Santiago produced and/or directed such Grindhouse classics as WOMEN IN CAGES, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, TNT JACKSON, EBONY IVORY & JADE, and VAMPIRE HOOKERS, among many others.

THE POM POM GIRLS (Crown International 1976; D: Joseph Ruben)- One of the better Crown International “teensploitation” flicks is a practically plotless but immensely fun outing dealing with the high school shenanigans of football players’n’cheerleaders, featuring a pre-REVENGE OF THE NERDS Robert Carradine as the school’s “class stud” and the ever-delightful Rainbeaux Smith as (what else?) a swingin’ cheerleader. Writer/director Ruben throws in every teen flick trope in the book: food fights, dirt bikes, a groovy “love van”, a football brawl, and a “suicide chicken” race straight outta REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE! There’s plenty of gratuitous nudity and hormones running wild on display, so if drive-in movies are your thing, you can’t do much better than this one. Fun Fact: Ruben went on to helm the mainstream films SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY and MONEY TRAIN.

VIGILANTE FORCE (United Artists 1976; D: George Armitage) – Crack open a frosty PBR and enjoy this slice of 70’s exploitation insanity. The small California town of Elk Hills is being torn up by rowdy oil field workers, so Jan-Michael Vincent recruits his Vietnam vet brother Kris Kristofferson and his crew to clean things up. But Kris has other ideas, and soon he and his boys take over the town, beginning a reign of terror that leads to a violent, explosive climax with Kris’s vigilantes pitted against Jan-Michael’s Green Mountain Boys. Kris is one crazy, mean sumbitch in this wild actioner! Bernadette Peters shines as his sexy off-key saloon singer girl, and Victoria Principal plays Jan-Michael’s more sedate sweetie (who takes a bullet in the back courtesy of Kris… I told you he was mean!). The better-than-average supporting cast is filled with Familiar Faces: Loni Anderson (as ‘Peaches’!), Antony Carbone, Peter Coe , Brad Dexter , David Doyle (Bosley on CHARLIE’S ANGELS), Paul Gleason, James Lydon, Shelley Novack, Andrew Stevens, and a cameo by the one-and-only Dick Miller ! Hang on to your hardhats and get ready for non-stop action. Fun Fact: The producer is exploitation king Roger Corman’s brother Gene, which explains Miller’s cameo and the casting of Carbone (THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA).

THE VAN (Crown International 1977; D: Sam Grossman) – Recent high school grad Bobby (Stuart Getz) buys the “love van” of his dreams in order to score with chicks in this quintessential 70’s teen sex comedy. Hollywood car customizer George Barris created Bobby’s dream machine, complete with 70’s staples like a waterbed, 8-track player, shag carpeting, and mag wheels. It’s a genuinely funny lowbrow drive-in flick featuring a pre-TAXI Danny DeVito as Bobby’s boss at the car wash, who doubles as a bookie. And remember: “Nobody calls Doogie a turd! Nobody!”. Fun Fact: The soundtrack by Sammy Johns includes his big hit “Chevy Van” as the movie’s theme song – even though Bobby’s van is actually a Dodge!

CORVETTE SUMMER (MGM 1978; D: Matthew Robbins) – High school student Mark Hamill restores a ’73 Corvette Stingray to it’s former glory only to have it stolen, so he hitches a ride to Las Vegas with wanna-be hooker Annie Potts to retrieve his baby in this uneven but harmless ‘B’ comedy. The film shifts into high action towards the end, and the finale doesn’t really satisfy, but Potts (in her film debut) delivers a wonderfully deft comic performance as the ditzy chick in yet another 70’s-style “love van” (they were everywhere!!). The supporting cast includes Danny Bonaduce, Philip Bruns, Eugene Roche, Kim Milford, and the ubiquitous Dick Miller! The glittery lights of late 70’s Vegas (set to a glittery disco soundtrack) make it almost worth your time. Fun Fact: This was Hamill’s follow-up to 1977’s STAR WARS , attempting to break free of his Luke Skywalker image. It didn’t work.

More “Cleaning Out the DVR”: