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Three Reasons Not to Time-Travel to the 1970s
Movie Reviews
© 2012 James LaFond
Caligula
1979, DVD 2007, General Media Entertainment, 102 minutes, rated R
With a screenplay by Gore Vidal and a cast including Peter O’Toole, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Malcolm McDowell, what could possibly go wrong?
The answer is everything. Only Gielgud’s appearance offered a promise of redemption for this Broadway-like depiction of Rome as a brothel/execution chamber—and then his character died.
It is tragic that for the three decades between the making of Spartacus and Gladiator that this atrocious movie was the only film depiction of ancient Rome available. Don’t bother watching it.
The Good Guy from Harlem
A Rene Martinez Jr. Film
1976, 2007 DVD release by East West Entertainment, 86 minutes, rated R
This really wasn’t much worse than a lot of 1970s crime TV. The acting and sound track are all porn level except for the performance of Loye Hawkins, as a private detective, tasked with recovering a Harlem king pin’s daughter from an evil blonde bodybuilder named Big Daddy. My favorite lines from the movie are “I’ve got your money, your coke and the picture of your daughter.”, “Niցցer is you crazy?” and “Yeah he dead.”
The shooting was done mostly on roadside lots and hotel rooms in Florida or Georgia. The action scenes were terrible, with the exception of the last one, which was comical. The hero uses a mix of karate and jiu-jitsu and generally forgets he is packing a gun. For all of its flaws it was much better than Caligula. I like watching the 70s blacksploitation stuff, because, if you were a black guy my age, and wanted to see a movie with a leading man you could identify with, it was your only real option. These films offer a conveniently small window on the decade in which I came of age. I do not expect to be able to sit through these low budget 70s flicks now sold as DVDs at the dollar store. So when I find myself still seated after the final scene I feel like I got my dollar’s worth.
Black Terminator
An Al Adamson Film
1976, 2007 East West DVD, 82 minutes
This was a relatively high budget martial arts flick of the day. Martial arts star Jim Kelly and his stunt team do a Southern California version of Enter The Dragon. Kelley’s action stunts and style are very much modeled on Bruce Lee. He plays an agent for some network of martial arts troubleshooters called DRAGON, who battles a really hot voodoo princess and the predictable private army of incompetent martial arts goons in a visually impressive location.
There is a really sappy love scene flashback and some lame James Bond gadgets. However the movie is redeemed by its bizarreties: a satanic/Catholic/Amerindian spiritualist/voodoo brothel in Mexico run by a mafia guy; a midget shotgun assassin; a tree-swinging cowboy midget wrangler; African jungle warriors right out of a 1950s Tarzan flick; a team of evil Mexican dwarf wrestlers; a mixed-race goon-squad packed into a giant white Ford station wagon; a black communist kung fu master in a Che beret; and...and…a pet attack condor who gives the hero his best fight and gets reverse punched into extinction! This has got to be the worst ever PETA violation on film—an assault on an endangered species!
It was a fun time, even though Jim Kelley did his best—and failed—to save the martial arts action movie genre from itself by actually shooting a bad guy.
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