DOLEMITE – A Review by John Strange

dolemite poster
By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
One of the pleasures of having Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in our city is the opportunity to see films that had their theater runs years ago (or in some cases not at all).  Some, like Stripes (from late June) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (this month) are very main-stream and appeal to a wide audience.  Others, like Dolemite appeal to, shall we say, limited audiences. 
Let’s talk about Dolemite, the first in a series of films from the fertile mind of Rudy Ray Moore.  Moore was a comedian who began using the Dolemite alter-ego in his act.  Moore wrote a feature film script based on the character and decided to make the film on his own.  He cast his friends and fellow comedians to the various roles.  To direct the film he called upon his friend, D'Urville Martin.
In the film, Dolemite is a pimp who has been serving a 20 year stretch for a crime he didn’t commit.  His arch-rival, Willie Green (played by the film’s director, D'Urville Martin), has used Dolemite’s time in prison to take over all of Dolemite’s businesses.  When Dolemite is paroled from prison, he and his friend (and fellow pimp) Queen Bee (played by comedienne Lady Reed) plot to take his possessions (land and ladies) back from Willie.
This is not the type of film that your average film-goer will have ever even heard of.  That is unless they are fans blaxploitation films of the 70’s.  Even then, you might not know about this one.  It’s not a Foxy Brown (Pam Grier), a Sweet Sweetback (Jim Brown) or even a Shaft (Richard Roundtree).  It’s a film made by amateur filmmakers for very little money.
Every scene, every line of dialogue, screams, “We have no idea how to do this but we’re gonna do it anyway!”   I really don’t know which are worse, the fight scenes or the love scenes.  But to be really honest, who cares!  They are all so bad that they are hilarious!  This is one of those films you would have seen back in the day at the drive-in on a triple feature Saturday night with all your friends ignoring the film and making out!
The amazing thing is not that this film got made (as I understand it, Moore paid for the film himself from money he made from his comedy album sales) but that they actually made two more!  The Human Tornado was released a year later (1976) and the third film, The Return of Dolemite (later renamed The Dolemite Explosion for the DVD release) released in 2002.
I have heard rumors that the theater may show the other two films some time in the future.  If their restoration (by Vinegar Syndrome) is as good as this one, then I certainly hope so.  I will be in the theater to watch them and cheer Dolemite on!  In the meantime I think I am going to have to see about getting a copy of this film on Blu-ray/DVD for my personal collection!
Original Release Date: April 26, 1975
Directed by: D'Urville Martin
Cast: Rudy Ray Moore, D'Urville Martin, Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, Brenda DeLong, Terri Mosley, Marilyn Shaw, Lynell Smith, Vera Howard, Joy Martin, Jana Bisbing, Brenda Banks, Pat Haywood, René Van Clief, Pat Jones, Lola Mayo, Charlene Soulter
MPAA Rating: R
Selig Rating: Full Price*
Runtime: 90 Min.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
*In this case, I would pay the price for the tickets to see this one-time screening on the big screen as opposed to watching it on a television.
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