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******SPOLIERS****** "Willie Dynamite" is miles above the average
"Blaxploitation" films made in the 1970's by it's not glorifying the
title character in any way but showing him as a ruthless as well as
tragic and misguided person. A person who's self-destructive lifestyle
as a big time city pimp lead to disaster not only to himself but to all
those around him: his women his friends his hangers-on and worst of all
his sweet and church-going mother played by Royce Wallace.
Back in those days, the 70's, Willie Dynamite, Roscoe Orman, could easily have been made to be a hero for the youth of the inner city ghettos to be looked up to and emulated. Instead the movie wisely chose to show him and his lifestyle for what it was, indifferent and unfeeling. Thats how Willie was to those women who worked the streets and hotels for him selling their hot bodies for the only thing that mattered to him the bottom line: Cold Cash.
The film chronicles the rise and fall and in the end redemption of big city pimp Willie Dynamite after he saw his mother collapse in the courthouse, when she found out what Willie really did for a living, and later die in the hospital without Willie being able to tells her that he's sorry for what he did and get her forgiveness. Willie let his mom on to believe that he was a record agent not a pimp.
Willie's top hooker Pashen, Joyce Walker, who wanted to get out of the hooker business and become a fashion model after she was shown the light by Cora, Diana Sands, a social worker who tried to save girls like her from being exploited by pimps like Willie. Pashen instead gets sweet-talked back into turning tricks by Willie's and ends up having her pretty face slashed while she was in the womens house of detention waiting to be bailed out by him.
Diana Sands steals the movie with her sensitive portrayal of a social worker who knows all too well what life on the streets can do from her sad and abysmal life as a young women and tries to get the girls working for Willie to save themselves from that life like she did. We also see Diana change her opinion about Willie when he's destroyed by his fellow pimps as well as the law and becomes a broken and humbled person instead of the brash and arrogant pimp that she fought with throughout most of the movie. It's Cora's tender and emotional scene with Willie at the end of the film made you want to reach for your handkerchief.
Finally Willie himself who went from a cold-hearted and unfeeling person who looked at both his hookers and the Johns who paid for their services only as dollar signs to where he became a sensitive and understanding person by the time the movie ended but it took a walk through hell for Willie to get to that point. The movie also has fine location filming in and around NYC with a great musical soundtrack.
It would be unfair for "Willie Dynamite" to be described as a "Blaxploitation" movie; It doesn't exploits it's audience it educates it.
The ad and plotline for this movie may give you the impression that Willie Dynamite is a typical blaxploitation actioner with heavy doses of violence and sex but that is not the case. Willie Dynamite deals with a NYC pimp (Orman) who must deal not only with the police and a dedicated social worker (Sands), but also his fellow pimps who resent his increasing level of power within the city. There is not much in the way of nudity or blood or even profanity. During the last third of the movie, the story switches gears as both Orman and Sands go through some major changes which cause them to alter their outlook and approach to their lives. In doing this, Willie Dynamite goes in a different (and less sensational) direction than many films of this period chose to go. The film also takes on a higher level of believability which helps to bring the two main characters to life. Both Orman and Sands are impressive in their roles. It is sad to note that Sands died shortly after making this as she was a very talented woman. Orman, believe it or not, went on to become a staple on TV's Sesame Street as Gordon! Now that's a change of pace. His fur coats and fur hat add some unintentional laughs to the story, though at the time this was made, they were probably in vogue. In fact, Willie Dynamite has a great early 70s ambiance that many of the bigger movies of the time did not contain. Willie Dynamite may not be the best known of the blaxploitation genre but it deserves more attention than it got.
After watching 100 or more blaxploitation movies in the last 10 years or
my wife and I fell in love with this movie. You love blaxploitation for
cheesy acting, the characters, the cars, the ghetto heroes. But for this
one, it's the costumes. Sure, it's got pimps, hos, bad cops, drugs and
prostitution, even a ex-hooker with a heart of gold. With costume changes
nearly every scene; leather, fur, satin and those hats!, this one should
have taken an Oscar!
If we can find the DVD, this one goes in the permanent collection.
Mary and David
In the course of one week, poor Willie the pimp is getting the heat from rival pimps, from the cops (including the wonderful Albert Hall), and from a reformed prostitute who is trying to get Willie's girls' to unionize (`You can call me the Ralph Nadar for prostitutes', she snaps in one of the film's funniest lines). He even gets the IRS on his ass, although that scene isn't terribly realistic since no pimp and/or drug dealer with even half a brain would put his earnings in a bank!. What else? His purple Caddy gets towed about twice a day, his girls get busted (or worse!) and ultimately, his poor mom strokes out. Pimping just doesn't pay! This film isn't like most of the other blaxploitation films. It downplays the guns and drugs angle, and the lead character is not so baaad that he's good or vice versa. He's a nut, really. You can even see people in the background who were unaware they were in a film, pointing at him and laughing. You can almost feel sorry for him because he's more stupid than evil, and that's where the film wins the viewer over. The film breaks away from formula a number of times, and despite the OUTRAGEOUS costumes and decor (even the telephones are fur-lined!), we care about the people in this film. There are good cops and bad cops, and there is a nice balance of giving us women with brains and brawn, but who are still capable of a pretty nasty catfight when the need arises. Something for everyone! My only beef is that despite a pretty bad' theme song, the score doesn't rock at all. In fact, there are even a number of scenes that are scored with folky harmonica music. How uncool is that? It's also a shame that this film wasn't nominated for Best Costume design, but we all know how unlikely it was that most of the Academy members ever even saw this film. Just isn't fair! Overall, I think this is one of the best films of the blaxploitation genre, and along with `Unholy Rollers' and `Switchblade Sisters', one of the best exploitation films of the seventies.
Highly entertaining and interesting as willie dynamite applies the
principles of capitalism to enhance his business of managing sporting
ladies. But where there is greed and the quest to be second to none, one is
always confronted with jealousy and envy from your fellow
The character Willie dynamite was immaculate in his dress from the beginning of the film to the end. He changes wardrobe complete with hats more times than Cher did in her last concert! He displays the 70's pandering apparell that he wore to absolute perfection.
I originally saw Willie Dynamite in 1973, and after watching it again today, after all of these years, it had the same impact. That is why I feel that I can recommend the viewing of this film. If you like blaxploitations films, this is a must see!!!
A classic 70's Blaxploitation film. Pimps as colorful as peacocks with
land cruisers dressed in chrome.
Roscoe Orman (Gordon from Sesame Street) plays Willie, a pimp who has the patter down pat and the clothing that rivals anything that your imagination can come up with. He runs afoul of a determined social worker and the police, both determined to bring him down. They use every trick in the book to make his life hell and bring on him the wrath of his fellow pimps.
Diana Sands, who was one of the top black actresses of the 50s and 60s, shined as the social worker. This was one of her last films as she died of cancer before its release. She was 39.
Like Al Capone, Willie's downfall was the IRS.
It is impossible to deny that this film has some hilarious parts. You
can't help enjoying the absolutely ridiculous outfits and mannerisms of
Everything from Willie's beyond gaudy car to even the characters' names (i.e. the white pimp named Milky Way) is pretty entertaining.
But it does have some serious (well okay, maybe not serious) implications as well. It is basically set up like most classic tragedies; a man in a position of great power falls due to a tragic flaw. Willie is likable enough not to deserve our hatred, but ruthless enough that we accept that he deserved his fate. Okay, so it's a bad idea to overthink this movie, but it is important to at least recognize that format.
Furthermore, its social implications are pretty relevant. It portrayed Black and White characters in both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as providing more well rounded characters to serve as positive rolemodels. It started out glorifying the pimp lifestyle and slowly de-glamorized it as a life of dishonesty, drug addiction, violence, and eventual ruin. It may have really given young kids growing up in ghettoes in that era as made something to think about by slowly exposing the harsh realities of a life outside the law. Especially since it also presented positive Black role models who came from similar situations, like Cora, a prostitute-turned-social worker on a quest to help rescue other young girls from a life on the streets.
Willie Dynamite is most certainly one of the most flamboyant pimps to
grace the screen and his "stable" of beautiful women are frequently
clad, but don't let the smooth taste fool you, Willie Dynamite is not
average pimp film.
"Willie Dynamite" was at times thought-provoking, frequently intense and entertaining throughout. Watching Willie Dynamite fall from pimp grace makes for some interesting drama.
Roscoe Orman is great as the fallen pimp and Diana Sands is brilliant as always but there is much to be said about the performance of the young Joyce Walker, Willie's newest and most inexperienced 'treat'. This film's motto seems to be 'even an old dog can learn new tricks' as each of the main characters undergo some form of transformation before the credits start rolling.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What is uncanny about Willie Dynamite is that the film is able to take
this despicable, self-absorbed, sadistic pimp and humanize him. How
director Gilbert Moses and actor Roscoe Orman(as Dynamite)pull this off
is worthy of applause. The destruction left by his devious activities
are of focus in this blaxploitation effort. Cora(Diana Sands, in a
solid performance), a social worker, attempts to pry a lovely young
prostitute, Pashen(Joyce Walker)from the clutches of Dynamite's
powerful influence. Willie Dynamite decides to take his pimping solo,
splitting from his colleagues, securing wealthy clientèle for his
girls. Dynamite lives it up lavishly, while his girls are treated to
second hand "glamor" wardrobe they believe is high-class. Meanwhile,
Dynamite's fellow pimps are seeking after him, not appreciative of his
decision to separate from their network which brought forth quite an
enterprise. The police are after Willie, hoping to pin the right crime
on him that'll stick, forcing him off the streets. Dynamite has a
reputation for getting his girls hooked on narcotics, when their worth
is depleted and value diminished sending them away to fall into
destitution. Cora, understanding his dangerous nature, wishes to see
Willie taken down, soon recognizing that despite his corrupt ways, he's
still a human being in need of guidance.
The film starts out as almost a comedy where these pimps, with their pomp and attitude, driving their colorful cars and wearing their vibrant custom suits, fur coats, and flashy hats, are almost caricatures, over-the-top creations broadly performed by the African-American cast. But, as the film progresses, it gets dead serious and we see how the life style of a pimp can, in fact, lead to tragedies of severe magnitude. Preshen almost succeeds in getting away from the whoring business, but through Willi's commanding dominating personality, he's able to convince her to stay, with the consequences of her brief imprisonment leading to a devastating abuse threatening a potential modeling career. Dynamite's mother(..and their family)have always been told that he was an important music producer, explaining the gifts and other extravagances he could give her..the truth revealed and the possible incarceration of her son yields a terrible reaction. And, as competition arises, one of Willie's top girls is killed by a throat slash during an altercation over rich clients. It's a domino effect that leads to Willie's downward spiral, everything that happens contributed to his bad behavior, repercussions deriving from his mistakes and avarice. It's a hoot seeing Orman, a fixture on Sesame Street, in the role of a lecherous pimp! Shooting on the streets in many cases adds a grit and grime providing an authenticity that gives the material presented extra punch. Orman, at times, can be pretty electrifying, and his character, for most of the running time, is easy to root against for he's not very likable at all. Great chase scene as Willie attempts to break free from two detectives on his tail, while hoping to recover hidden drugs stashed away for safe keeping.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was an entertaining story that made good use of its 1970s New York setting. Willie is trying to keep his position as the most profitable pimp in the city, but the heat are coming down hard. He has an enemy in a politically active social worker trying to liberate the women in his stable, and he has pressure from the other pimps to follow a group plan to out-maneuver the law. Willie doesn't want to deal with any of it; he just wants things to continue the way they have been. Eventually it starts to fall apart; the heat make trouble, costing him time and money, his women get pulled, disfigured, and killed, and his momma passes away after learning the truth about Willie's career. Willie then decides to rethink things, and the social worker turns supportive, offering him compassionate council, and with one conversation, he decides to turn his life around. For me, the weak parts were the chase sequences, as they tended to go on too long. It was also too abrupt when Willie reformed; it would have been a better story if they could have shown it to be a slow, gradual process. Something that stuck out was the sound design; you can hear every movement of fabric in this movie. If someone shifts in their seat, you hear their coat rubbing against the chair. The audio was like a high quality FM signal, and the main character's voice was especially resonant, so that was a plus. Bell was an entertaining protagonist, with the highlight being the first scene of the movie: the pimp council. This story remains fresh and interesting, despite the dated fashions. I think you could make pretty much the same movie today, and the message of unchecked ambition would be just as relevant.
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