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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You don't watch this kind of film expecting Citizen Kane or Sunset
Boulevard, you watch it with a group of friends because it's an
experience. Imagine going to a drive-in theater circa 1973, Chicago
music is playing on the car radio as you pull into the space, turn off
your radio, and put the speaker on your car window. A film like this
immerses you in the early 70s as if you were actually there: bell
bottom pants, afros, big jewelry, flashy cars, and lapels as big as
mudflaps. In today's overly sanitized world, The Slams is a wonderful
look back at a time when nothing was digital, and editing was done by
hand with film, actors did their own fight scenes, the settings aren't
faux gritty (they ARE gritty), and Lurch (Ted Cassidy) throws a ladle
of bleach into Jim Brown's face. It's all very ugly, violent, and badly
acted, as the body count piles up.
In keeping with obscure films, there's always one weird actor that you can't get out of your mind afterwards, and here it is a prison guard who laughs at everything; the actor's name isn't even listed in the credits on IMDb, but it's a hilarious performance, especially when he refuses an order to get into a dumpster. You have to see it to understand what I'm talking about.
I can see why Quentin Tarantino is obsessed with 70s films because they have a realism that is sadly missing from today's movies; it's almost like they pulled people off the street, put them into their costumes, and fed them their lines. There might have been a script, but everything looks ad-libbed or improvised on the spot, the way real life is. If anything, watching a film like this gives you the impression that today's films are too carefully planned, too perfect to be real. Wouldn't it be nice to have a little bit of realism alongside your CGI robots and multiple explosions?
First-rate prison crime drama with ample doses of action and humor. Exceptional of its type. Jim Brown stars with a great supporting cast including Ted Cassidy (Lurch from Addams Family) and Frank DeKova (Chief Wild Eagle from F Troop). Roland Bob Harris is great as the sleazy captain of the prison guards who meets a deservedly gruesome fate. Look fast for the legendary Dick Miller in a bit part as a carjacked taxi driver. For sensitive types be warned it's a violent movie with lots of foul language and racial slurs. Despite this, it somehow actually manages to be a fun movie that keeps you engrossed the whole time.
***SPOILERS*** Big bad Jim Brown in what for him is a comedic part as
convict Curtis Hook gets himself stuck in deep you know what by
knocking off a hot heroin shipment that included 1.5 million in cold
cash that belongs to the syndicate. It was in fact when Hook's two
accomplices tried to knock him off in Hook refusing to have anything to
do with the heroin, that's bad news for the brothers and sisters in the
hood Hook told them, that Hook in beating them to the punch or trigger
offed them. Cought running from the police with a near fatal bullet
wound Hook ends up in the "Slams", convict word for prison, where he's
soon to find out that his trouble has just begun.
The usual behind bars movie with Hook who hid the 1.5 million in an abandoned amusement park being attacked, as well as doing his own attacking, by the both convicts and prison guards, it hard to distinguish between the two,in where the stolen money is hidden. We also have the head of the white convicts the sadistic and almost seven foot tall Grover, Ted Cassidy, who's in fact working for "The Man" jailed Mafia boss Capiello,Frank DeKova, who ends up getting his, a couple of broken ribs, when he tries to mess with the take no BS Hook. It's in fact Capiello whom the 1.5 million dollars as well as the heroin,that Hook dumped in the Pacific Ocean, belongs to. Hook in knowing that as long a the missing cash isn't recovered that's his life insurance policy, in him being able to stay alive, keeps everyone in the prison, convicts and guards, guessing to just where the money is. It's later when Hook sees on the TV news that the amusement park that he hid the cash is to be demolished that he plans his escape to both get his hands on the cash and check out of the country to South America or the Caribbean!
****SPOILERS**** Ingenious plan concocted by Hook has him with the help of his good friend from the hood pimp Jackson Barney, Paul Harris, hide underneath or underground in a construction site portable toilet on the prison grounds as everyone thinks he in fact escaped over the prison walls. As it turned out it was the mob or Capiello controlled prison captain of the guards Capt. Stambell, Roland Bob Harris, who ended up paying the price in Hook pulling his "impossibe" escape, the first one in the "Slams", off successfully. That's in Capt.Stambell together with Hooks prison identity bracelet ended up being grounded into hamburger meat courtesy of Hook dumping him into a cement mixer!
P.S The film "The Slams" also has 28 year old Clement Von Franckenstein, no relations to Dr. Henry Frankenstein, in his motion picture debut as one of the inmates.
This film begins with a robbery. It's a nasty affair--as they use
poisonous gas to get the money. After leaving with the loot, one of
them Curtis Hook (Jim Brown), betrays his partners--shooting them and
hiding the money. Unfortunately for Hook, he's soon caught and sent to
prison. Hook plans on just doing his time on a minor charge and
collecting the money after he is released. But when he learns that the
place where he hid the money is about to be demolished, he decides he
must escape and reclaim the money instead. Plus, if he doesn't get out
of the slammer soon, someone is bound to kill him, as practically
EVERYONE seems to have it out for him.
For fans of old-time TV, this is an interesting film, as two of the most deadly tough guys in this prison are played by Frank DeKova ("F-Troop") and Ted Cassidy ("The Addams Family"). However, it's not the sort of film you might expect from these guys---it is VERY rough--with foul language and lots of violence. Plus, EVERYONE seems bad in this one--everyone. While Hook is terrifically amoral, so is everyone else--the guards, the gangs, the blacks and the whites. Because of this and because Hook is affiliated with no one, it is clearly NOT a blacksploitation film--just a very gritty prison flick. While it's not a great film (mostly because I hated EVERYONE), it was very good and well worth seeing.
Despite having a lead actor who was one of the prominent actors in the 1970s blaxploiation film genre, "The Slams" has been all but forgotten since its theatrical release, not even getting a release on VHS or DVD. Watching the movie, it becomes pretty easy to figure out why no one has been clamoring for its resurrection. Even for 1973, I am sure audiences found nothing really that original here. Every plot turn will be familiar to people who have seen their share of prison films or prison television shows. As a result, there is no excitement, even though there are plenty of prison beatings and fisticuffs along the way. Jim Brown tries, but there is little he can do with such a flat script. Recommended only for die hard fans of the blaxploitation genre.
Slams, The (1973)
** (out of 4)
Forgotten blaxploitation flick has Jim Brown playing Curtis Hooks, a man who ends up in prison on a small charge but once inside he has all sorts of hits on his life because everyone knows that he stole $1.5 million in drug money and has it hidden somewhere. THE SLAMS, to date, has never received a VHS or DVD release so it's one of the rarest films of its genre, which is somewhat surprising since it does feature one of the biggest stars. There's quite a bit of good stuff here but sadly we've seen everything countless times before and you just end up with one cliché after another. The screenplay is certainly prison-drama 101 as everything you'd expect to happen does just that in the exact order that you'd think it would happen. You get the typical gay jokes, the attacks in the laundry room, the sadistic white racist, the mafia boss, the crooked cops and of course every time the cops walk away you're going to witness yet another hit. The film really doesn't offer up any drama and you can't help but wish that you cared more than what you actually do. With that said, there are still some fine performances with Brown leading the way. This certainly isn't Oscar-worthy material but it's not meant to be. Brown simply shows up with that tough attitude and kicks some major butt. The supporting cast includes a nice performance by Ted Cassidy as the racist and Frank DeKova playing the mafia boss running the prison. Dick Miller appears briefly as a taxi driver and Charles Cyphers (HALLOWEEN) can be spotted playing a guard. Director Jonathan Kaplan at least keeps the film moving at a nice pace and makes it look very professional. He also manages to get a pretty good atmosphere out of the film and the prison has a very dirty feel to it as it should. Still, THE SLAMS can't be seen as anything other than a disappointment. There are a few good moments but not enough to recommend this to anyone but those who must see everything the genre offered up.
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