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Boss Nigger Review

February 24, 2014

Much like Gun Crazy or The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Died and Came Back as Mixed Up Zombies, if you have a title this wild for a film, you better do it right the first time. So think fast what film has the most offensive title that’s apparently family friendly?

Boss Nigger Film Rating
Kids could handle things like this easier back then.

Boss Nigger of course! A Blaxploitation Western with a cast and crew of young black stars of the day and old white people behind the camera. I wish the production history on the film was documented somewhere. It was written, produced and stars Fred Williamson, who has charisma to spare even when he’s relegated to minor roles. Thankfully, he has a starring role and much more screen time here than in 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

Here’some production run down:

Robert Caramico Cinematographer of the Ed Wood scripted pornography film Orgy of the Dead and Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive
Gene Ruggiero Film editor old enough to have worked on Ninotchka (1939). Boss Nigger is Edited alongside Eva Ruggiero (wife? cousin? daughter? what’s the link!?)
Jack Arnold Director of superior 50s science fiction films The Incredible Shrinking Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Current old white guy making film called Boss Nigger.

I want to see pictures of these guys on set next to D’Urville Martin and Fred Williamson! Jack Arnold was sort of at the end of his career making this film and had settled into mostly directing television. Even in his best films, I don’t know how much personal input he had to make his mark as a director. I mostly remember his more popular films either having solid 1950s special effects and cinematography (or in the case of Shrinking Man, a surprisingly heavy ending that comes out of nowhere!) It’s not the 1950s anymore, and outside occasionally nice landscape shots of desert scenery, the film mise-en-scene is pretty awful. The flat illustration below of the Western town is pretty much how the town looks the entire movie.

boss-nigger-review

So don’t watch this expecting The Wild Bunch or The Shootist. Boss Nigger is a completely different story. Its story revolves around Boss (Fred Williamson) and Amos (D’urville Martin) arriving in town, they saving a black woman from racist killers and electing themselves Sheriffs, because why not!? Between helping other minorities and seducing any attractive young woman in sight, we then follow a standard Blaxploitation formula:

WHITE PERSON ACTS RACIST
GETS SHIT KICKED OUT OF THEM
REPEAT FOR HALF AN HOUR

That sums up half of Boss Nigger’s running time. We are then treated to Boss and Amos rescuing a black woman from racist Outlaw kidnappers. It all leads to some bad decisions made by our heroes, as they have a showdown in town leaving quite a good number of the cast dead. If that sounds like a pretty basic plot that could’ve been shot as a TV show, you are right. Williamson and Arnold just really extend these scenes to make a feature and it’s not subtle.

Nobody enters Boss Nigger expecting a fresh take on the Western genre and it’s not even as creative as Blazing Saddles, made a year earlier. It’s about making real, serious issues (like racism) seem like a firearm-filled walk in the park with Fred Williamson arresting and fighting assholes. D’Urville Martin, by the way, is no Fred Williamson. He is supposed to be the comic relief, but the real humour comes from his complete lack of competence in the role, which makes him quite endearing. D’Urville is a bit short and seems to have trouble with horseback riding and basic gunplay in the film. By comparison, Fred Williamson is much funnier, even with less obvious jokes. Maybe D’Urville was distracted by his directorial debut, Dolemite, which was released in the same year.
Since D’urville is nominated for “person most likely to accidentally shoot himself in a fight”, the rest of the cast is mostly stock bad-racist whitey or “one of the good ones” Boss supporters. No one really stands out. They are only there to be the butt of jokes, or the in case of women, get naked or fawn over Boss. The action is also weaker in the film, with only Fred making fighting seem fun., Some fights are choreographed badly, particularly the final fight, where a good part is not in the camera’s sight as it’s behind a bar in the saloon. You see tons of whiskey bottles on the wall and no one even breaks them! It’s not as poor or laughable as Dolemite, but doesn’t leave much of an impression either.

My favourite thing about blaxploitation films is their soundtracks. Boss Nigger has a score with the very modern sounding “We Produce” name credited as the composer. It’s funny to watch Boss and Amos ride horses in a Western setting to a set of generic funk riffs. Occasionally, a more traditional Western score is heard, especially when the story shifts to the racist outlaws on set. However, it doesn’t last, as the final showdown has the racist outlaws riding into town with that crazy funk score again! Who screwed that up? There funk score even resembles the People’s Court intro theme. Isn’t cool when films date weirdly like that?

The notorious theme song is the most noteworthy piece, which is performed by Terrible Tom. I can’t find any evidence of Terrible Tom doing any other music outside this film. (If you are Terrible Tom or know anything about him, contact me). The song is not as strong as the music from SuperFly or Shaft, but if you find the title “Boss Nigger” in any way entertaining, you’ll find the chorus entering your mind when you least expect it.

The film has a surprisingly high rating on IMDb, which I assume stems from people enjoying the risque title. Boss Nigger has some amusing lines from Williamson, but as a story, it’s a mess. If the Blaxploitation traits of strong, overtly sexual and aggressive black men punching out idiotic racists is your thing, than this will satisfy you, as it’s slightly unique setting alone to make it stand out from other Blaxploitation hybrids like Space is the Place or Blacula. Despite the occasional weak production value and storytelling, it’s entertaining to see Fred Williamson do his thing with a lighter racial commentary. Besides, what other PG films has women and children killed, socialism praised, and racism handled with violence? If only all modern day PG films were as crazy as that, genre fans wouldn’t cry over PG-13 so much now, would they?

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Misleading Film Adveristing

October 13, 2013

I don’t know about any of you but I’m pretty much done with film trailers. I’ve always tried to avoid posting any new trailers on this blog as I feel they give me a false perception of what a film will even be like these days. On the other hand, I cannot just put on my nostalgia glasses and pretend everything was hunky dory two or three decades ago. For example, let’s take a look at international advertising with the 1973 Blaxploitaiton film Savage!.

”Savage” was directed by Phillipino director Cirio H. Santiago who is surprisingly still kicking out action films to this day. Santiago is probably better known for producing some women-in-prison films in the early 70s and directing several blaxploiation films and what I call the “girl-army” films of the 1970s. ”Savage!” is marketed as a blaxploitation film but doesn’t really dwell on following any rules of that genre too long. (It’s more about the main character joining a team of female vigalantes to overthrow a government). Italian advertisers must have felt the same way as me, as they decided to turn this:

Savage blaxploitation 1973 poster

to this:

I can understand Italian distributors thinking that a white lead would sell better, but I don’t understand in actually trying to fool the audience into thinking the lead isn’t black! If they go see it, wouldn’t they think they’ve stepped into the wrong cinema?

The Italian poster goes into further exploitation territory as well. Note the officer’s flame thrower on the American version has turned into a shotgun, and his victims have been added to the slaughter on the second advertisement. The race-hopping lead has also moved from a gun smoking to full blown guns blaring. Even the director’s changes aliases between posters: from Cirio Santiago to the nationality-confused name of Cirius Xantiac!

I have yet to see the film and don’t know if I ever will. It has very small release on DVD and was released on VHS under various titles (which also features images of actors not in the film). Among the few reviews I’ve found online, none have spoken to positively about it, generally referring to it as a weak film even among blaxploitation aficionados.

So who’s to blame for the race-change? The artist who designed the American poster was John Solie who did several other films posters (including the Shaft series) while the only unique credit I can find that isn’t an alias on the Italian poster is Remo Angioli as a presenter. Sadly, Angioli’s filmography is even more obscure than the film itself as the only other film credit I can find for him is being the producer of the Italian horror film ”Nude for Satan”. So who’s the real culprit in this ad? Has anyone else seen this happen in other posters of the era? Little help anyone?

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Red Sun Review

July 15, 2011

Think fast! What’s a film that has Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune and Alain Delon together duking it out? Doesn’t exit right? Incorrect foo’!


Le Samourai vs. Death Wish vs. Yojimbo

Believe it or not, this film exists! The French call it, Soleil rouge but I know it best as Red Sun which I was lucky enough to catch at 16 mm print. Did I mention it’s a Euro western with Samurais? Why isn’t this film more of a cult item?

The samurais and cowboys plot isn’t as wacky as you’d initially think. It involves Link (Charles Bronson) and Gauche (Alain Delon) are robbers that attack a train which happens to be taking the ambassador of Japan over to Washington. During the robbery, Gauche steals a gold sword which was intended as a gift from the emperor to the president. Gauche even crosses Link by trying to kill him in order to take the money all for himself. The only survivor of the sword theft is the samurai Kuroda (Toshirô Mifune) who teams up with Link to find Gauche. Gauche isn’t keen on the idea (classic moment where Bronson states that Mifune looks like he’s wearing a dress) but the two travel together so that Kuroda can take back the sword while Link just wants his share of the money.

Red Sun was directed by Terence Young who I brought up in my Thunderball review. From what I’ve seen of Young I find him to be a decent director who can give a film good pacing, even if its lacking in emitting any really exciting or memorable moments. With that, Young makes Red Sun, enjoyable but a bit muffled. Problems arise with the villain, as Bronson and Mifune team up to chase down Delon, I found it hard to get really into their crusade as Delon’s character Gauche is not a villain who I felt strongly against enough. Sure he took the gold and ran off but so what? He takes off midway through the picture so your blood never really boils over his villainous deeds. Towards the end of the film, Delon even stops becoming the main villain as some very cliche Indians storm the fields and begin attacking the four (did I forget to mention that Ursula Andress is in this?). This attack does lead to the most exciting scene in the film however, involving a fire in a tall grass where Delon, Mifune, Bronson (and even Andress with a shotgun!) begin to take out Indians as flames begin to surround them. Good stuff!

As Andress and Delon vanish for a large chunk of the film, the rest mostly involves Mifune and and Bronson. If you autmatically like these guys like me then you’ll enjoy seeing them on screen side-by-side. Most of their interactions are mildly amusing despite it being the typical “we-are-different-but-I-am-slowly-learning-to-understand-you” plot that we’ve all seen a dozen times. It seems to remind me of another East meets West films from years back…

Rush Hour Red Sun poster
Without the Gauche plot, it’s just Rush Hour!

I’ll stick with Red Sun over this though! There’s not a whole lot of background on the films of Terrence Young outside of the Bond series, let alone Red Sun in particular. It received generally negative reviews on it’s release with critics saying that Mifune and Bronson were too old to be playing these kind of roles (Alain Delon is quite a bit younger than both of them) and that the film was just stupid. I disagree with these blanket statements as nowadays, it’s a trip to see these actors and will definitely satisfy your Cowboys and Samurais fix. I wonder how Mifune felt about the film, as after it’s completion he took four year break from acting. What was he up doing?

Red Sun is not an overlty great film but despite it’s cast, I don’t think it has a big enough cult following. If the cast alone peaks your interest then this is worth seeking out. If not, there’s still worse Terrence Young films out there. Ever tried watching Inchon?

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