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DOLEMITE (BLU RAY) (1975)
Published by David Carter on 2016/5/8 (333 reads)
Directed by D’Urville Martin
Review by David Carter
Released by Vinegar Syndrome
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Mono DTS-HS SDH English
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Two framing options, Making of Documentary, Lady Reed featurette, Locations, then & now featurette, commentary track by Mark Jason Murray
Trailer Online: Yes
The Blu Ray format has seen more re-releases of classic films that its predecessors VHS and DVD. Each release is accompanied by much fanfare, and phrases like “classic” and “important film” are thrown around quite liberally. Vinegar Syndrome has made a name for themselves by resurrecting forgotten and underappreciated films from the past, and their latest release is a film which truly deserves the titles of classic and important: Rudy Ray Moore’s DOLEMITE.
Made for a fraction of the already-limited budgets of blaxploitation films like SHAFT and SUPERFLY, DOLEMITE nevertheless became equally and arguably more cultural important than either film. Independently financed and produced by Moore, DOLEMITE was an expansion of the Dolemite character from his raunchy comedy act. DOLEMITE takes the tough-talking, hard-hitting, ladies’ man archetype of blaxploitation to the extreme, with Moore portraying a character that is both a pinnacle and parody of the genre. It would be this version of the blaxploitation male lead that becomes the most resonant with audiences, turning the Dolemite character into the modern equivalent of a folk hero. Almost 20 years after its release, DOLEMITE was name-dropped in the seminal “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang,” reviving interest in a character that had truly never left the culture, as DOLEMITE had become one of the most successful and influential independent films of all time.
DOLEMITE sees the titular character released from prison after having been set up by rival Willie Green (director Martin). Green managed to take Dolemite’s freedom and his nightclub, but he was unable to take the loyalty of the community from him, and once back in town, Dolemite’s friends begin helping him reclaim what is rightfully his. Queen Bee has helped keep Dolemite’s stable of women working the streets while he was away, and fortuitously has also taught them the deadly art of kung fu.
Dolemite will need all the help he can get, because the conspiracy that put him behind bars goes all the way up to the mayor’s office. Crooked cops Mitchell and White are in cahoots with Willie Green, and they will stop at nothing to prevent Dolemite from returning to prominence in the community. They would be wise not to underestimate Dolemite, however, who proves to be more than up to the task of taking on corruption in South Central LA.
DOLEMITE’s strength as a film lies in its likeability and authenticity, something true about Moore himself. The line between Dolemite and Moore is paper-thin (if it exists at all) and DOLEMITE is a showcase of the comedian at his best. Rare is it that films are made with such freedom and abandon as DOLEMITE. It hops genres liberally, ranging from comedy to kung fu and back, with Moore taking pieces from every film genre to create a wholly unique work. The fact that the film is lumped in with blaxploitation is somewhat misleading, as Moore was simply making a film about the Dolemite persona rather than consciously attempting to conform to a genre standard.
Moore and Martin’s refusal to conform to standards have led the film to be somewhat notorious for its production quality. Vinegar Syndrome acknowledges and embraces this by including a full frame “boom mic” version of the film, referencing the infamous boom mic visible in many shots. One must remember that independent cinema wasn’t at the same level in 1975 as it is today. DOLEMITE was both a labor of love and quite groundbreaking for the time.
Vinegar Syndrome has amassed an impressive catalog of films but the Blu Ray of DOLEMITE is likely the jewel in their crown. The print of the film is nothing short of amazing. Having seen the film in both its VHS and standard DVD releases before, it was almost like watching the film for the first time. A wealth of extras are present as well. Of note is the historical commentary track by FilmFanaddict head honcho and Rudy Ray Moore friend and biographer Mark Jason Murray; a must for fans of Moore and blaxploitation. Three featurettes help put the film in context as both artwork and historical document of a wild time in LA’s history.
DOLEMITE is already near the top of the list for best releases of 2016. It’s an essential experience for fans of the more exotic side of cinema.
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