3 items from 2016
The 1970s were a very interesting time for genre fare. Independent, low-budget horror was spreading through “exploitation” flicks meant to draw viewers in with promises of violence, nudity, and a variety of other visceral thrills that often came at the price of other luxuries like plot structure, acting, and production value. From this burgeoning grindhouse scene sprang an even more interesting phenomenon, the “blaxploitation” wave. Blaxploitation, particularly horror blaxploitation, focused on film tropes through the lens of black culture.
Those familiar with blaxploitation are likely aware of William Marshall, but they probably know him by another name: Blacula, aka “Dracula’s Soul Brother.” Blacula is one of the most well-known characters of blaxploitation cinema, due largely to what Marshall brought to the role. Despite what on its surface could be considered a silly premise, Marshall managed to bring some pathos to the proceedings, insisting that his character be an African »
- Bryan Christopher
Strangely enough, Pam Grier’s last Blaxploitation feature, 1975’s Sheba, Baby, would be the title to introduce her to a much wider audience thanks to its PG rating. Though undoubtedly adult in theme, it’s a kittenish exercise compared to the violence, gratuitous sex, and shameless taken-for-granted racist and misogynistic antics of earlier efforts. Its classification as the final chapter of Grier’s Blaxploitation days is also sort of a misnomer, since this refers to the last time she’d don her famous persona as an action star in pursuit of a more serious career, heading into Drum (a sequel to the infamous Mandingo), starring opposite Richard Pryor in Greased Lightning, and even a Ray Bradbury adaptation in Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). But 1975 was one of several sterling years for Grier, headlining three films, though none of them would eventually reach the same iconicity as the prior year’s »
- Nicholas Bell
Blaxploitation films burst onto the scene in 1971 with the huge success of Gordon Park’s Shaft. By 1972, audiences were clamoring for more, and filmmakers and studios were keen to jump on the bandwagon. While most of the majors were focusing on the Shaft formula of hot chicks and cool Dicks, American International Pictures saw a void that no one had filled yet: the black horror film. And so, with as little money as they usually invested, they sent forth into the world Blacula (1972), and wouldn’t you know it? Audiences loved it.
Just don’t call it Blaxploitation—because it isn’t. Blacula, surprisingly, showcases little of the developing tropes already established by Shaft. There is no "jive" talk, no gratuitous nudity or overwhelming violence. And I say "surprisingly", because it would have been so easy (not to mention profitable) to follow the formula set in motion by Shaft, Superfly, »
- Scott Drebit
3 items from 2016
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