2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Tougher than Leather (1988)

31. THAT’S A RAP: Watch one with a rapper-turned-actor in it, even if Samuel L. Jackson does not approve.

The Washington Post said that this movie was vile, vicious, despicable, stupid, sexist, racist and horrendously made.”

Maybe they hadn’t watched the blaxploitation movies of a decade and a half before, because instead of the guys from Hollis, Queens making a Beatles style fun film, they decided to remake something like Slaughter crossed with an Italian Western and yet filled it with everyone on Def Jam and had the amazing weird brains to make Rick Rubin the racist super villain.

I’m here for all of this.

The film starts with Jam Master Jay and Run picking up D.M.C. from prison. He’s done a nine-month bid and it feels like we spent at least a few of those days with the camera as it searches the prison halls for him. Then, Jam Master Jay relates a sexual dream that ends with him getting his penis eaten.

Like I said, this isn’t the fun rap movie people probably wanted.

They go to visit their manager Russell Simmons, played by their manager Russell Simmons, who gets them and the Beastie Boys signed to a record label run by Vic Ferrante (Rubin, who directed and co-wrote this with Ric Menello, who directs Doro’s “Bad Blood” video, as well as Danzig’s “Mother,” LL Cool J’s “Goin’ Back to Cali” and the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!” and “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” He was going to make the Beastie Boys into movie stars with the film Scared Stupid, which New Line was going to pay for, but the Beasties left Def Jam and went off to build a house and make Paul’s Boutique so things worked out as they should have).

Yet before the guys can celebrate being big stars, one of their friends Runny Ray gets killed and this sends them off on a mission of vengeance. And have sex with gangster molls. And break fingers. And go see Slick Rick. And shoot people. Lots of people.

The album of the same title — Run DMC’s fourth — contains some of their best known songs like “Run’s House,” “Mary, Mary” and “I’m Not Going Out Like That,” which had the bravery to sample bands that were currently taking hip hop past what the group had started like Public Enemy and even themselves. The sessions also led to seasonal favorite “Christmas In Hollis,” which samples Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa” and used to infuriate me every time people tried to perform it at karaoke. So yeah, while the album is remembered today as a classic, it had a mixed reception back in 1988. As for the movie, well, no one talks about it today.

I am. And despite some people — Nathan Rabin, for one — claiming it ruins Run DMC for them, I kind of love it. Because these guys got to make the movie they wanted to make, even if it may not have been the right movie for their fans or their fame.

You know what? I live for Run DMC tearing apart some racist dudes at a bar. And by that, I mean that Jam Master Jay and Rev. Run are beating everyone up while Darryl McDaniels just drinks beer, eats peanuts and breaks the bartender’s wrist. They then leave the bar with Jam Master Jay launching a full bottle of booze at a gigantic mirror.

“I always wanted to do this,” he says.

I get it.

You can watch this on YouTube, because it isn’t available on DVD.

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