Rudy Ray Moore passed away recently, and the world is a sadder place for it. I was first introduced to Rudy Ray when I listened to Schooly D put his rap “Signifying Monkey” to music. It’s a filthy but endearing tale of how a bullied little monkey gets his revenge on the lion, by using his gift of gab. He convinces the lion that the elephant has been talking shit about him, and soon enough the monkey can say whatever he wants about the lion, because the dumbass thinks it’s the elephant’s words… then he goes to kick some elephant ass, and you can imagine how that goes.
Moore never reached the broad popularity of pioneers of profanity such as Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, because he never toned his act down for the likes of “Sanford & Son” or the Tonight Show. His fanbase was smaller, but stronger. He built up a pimp stage persona called Dolemite, and by 1975 he brought it to film during the golden age of blaxploitation, with Dolemite. This would spawn several sequels, but the first one has an immense, low-budget charm to it. Directed by D’Urville Martin, who himself plays Willie Green in this, and was Reverend Rufus in Black Caesar, it feels like guerrilla film-making in the John Waters style and manages to be consistently entertaining.
I watched this with Milky one night, and we conceived a drinking game around it. I’ll tell you the rules as we go along. The movie’s pacing is slow by modern standards and you may find the game helpful in digesting this classic. The story is simple; boss pimp Dolemite was set up by fellow pimp Willie Green and some crooked police; he now resides in jail, but the Feds give him a deal: help them take down his partner and the bad cops, and they’ll set him free. Dolemite wants revenge, so he takes the deal, and not soon after he is outside the jail in his Cadillac, changing out of the cheap suit they gave him, into his pimpin’ silk threads, surrounded by his stable of fine women. To the chagrin of the guards and cons watching.
The movie wastes little time in giving us some action, as thugs immediately try to hit him as he leaves prison. But Dolemite is a force to be reckoned with; to go with his witty repartee, he is a bad-ass at kung fu. He whups the ass of a thug with a machine gun and takes out the rest of the crew, and it gives him a taste for the payback he must inflict. The first rule of the drinking game is, you take a shot every time Rudy Ray obviously misses someone with one of his moves, and they fall down anyway. The fights are better than many, but D’Urville Martin wasn’t going to waste time on a second take if Moore’s foot was anywhere near the stunt-man’s face (if they had stunt men- maybe that’s why the fights are the way they are).
Queen Bee, a female street kingpin who commands a squad of kung-fu crazy ho’s, teams up with Dolemite to rid the street of Willie Green and the corrupt cops he counts as cohorts. But first he has to get down to business, and get his stable built back up. Spend some time with his women, and give us plenty of gratuitous titty. The cops who set him up are back on his ass, pulling him over and trying to set him up with dope, but this time he just kicks their ass and dumps the blow on their faces. That scene is particularly entertaining, but they had a lot of trouble keeping the boom mike out of it. That’s rule #2, every time you see a microphone in the frame, take a shot.
As you can tell, Dolemite don’t take no shit, and his insults cut to the bone. Rudy Ray Moore is the biggest charm of the film. He plays it completely straight, and with the raw, amateur style, it gives the movie a Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song quality. The only time he takes a nod to his comic career is when he recites “the Signifying Monkey” after he takes his nightclub back from Willie Green. The plot is confused as hell but still watchable and fun- when Dolemite finally takes his revenge, he tears the guy’s guts out with kung fu grip. And of course the dirty cops get their comeuppance– Queen Bee sends her killer callgirls after the corrupt Mayor, and a black Fed named Blakeley (Jerry Jones, M*A*S*H*) comes out of deep cover to kick some ass. Any time you cringe at nearly seeing the flabby Mayor’s pasty ass, take a shot.
The movie advertises an All-Girl Army of Kung Fu Killers, but we only get one real good fight with them at the end. That’s about the only disappointment. I can’t wait to see the sequels The Human Tornado and Petey Wheatstraw, which I’m told are even better. RIP, Rudy Ray Moore, and thank you for leaving us this legacy. This honky will forego eating rat soup in your honor.