Mill Creek Drive-In Classics: That Guy from Harlem (1977)

Tell Big Daddy that nobody fools with The Guy from Harlem, you dig?”
— Let than be a warning to anyone who decides to mess with John Shaft, er, we mean, Al Conners

I’m just talkin’ about . . . Al Connors?

Rene Martinez, Jr. only made three blaxsploitation films, but wow, what a VHS-rental trio they were: his debut, the bike-slanted Road of Death (1973; okay, so that’s not exactly blaxploiting), and his final effort, The Six Thousand Dollar Ni**er (1978) — which aka’d as the less offensive, Super Soul Brother, and even Black Superman. Each are equally inept in all of their flubbed lines, mumbled to staccato-SHOUTED thepsin’, bad sound, exposed mic booms, clumsy soft-core sex, and Rudy Ray Moore-styled fighting awfulness: which is just how we like our blaxploitation romps to roll. You dig?

If an ex-Deep Throat actress . . . and a guy trying to pull a Rudy Ray Moore film and album combo doesn’t inspire you. . . .

In between, Martinez made this Shaft ripoff penned by his wife, Gardenia, concerned with the adventures of a rough n’ tumble, streetwise private eye named Al Connors (Loye Hawkins). Working a case in Miami, Florida, Connors is called back up to Harlem by the CIA to protect an African princess from a kidnapping plot. His assignment leads to the kidnapping of a drug kingpin’s daughter by a rival gang who wants the princess. . . .

At least I think that’s how the two stories intertwined. Yeah, we’ll go with that plot. Sorry, I was blinded by the plaid and pastel-colored suits. Those white patent leather shoes aren’t helping, either. I mean, we are dealing with a story where the CIA can’t handle the protection of a government dignitary — their job description — and contract a fourth-rate private eye. So, forget “logic,” okay?

Eh, Martinez and Loye Hawkins — like Rudy Ray Moore (Petey Wheatstraw) before them — couldn’t write, act, or direct, but they gave it a shot — with whom I think are moonlighting porn actors (especially that curly-haired blonde white guy for the “big fight” finish). Sadly, the excitement of the blaxploitation-era was over and done by the time this Martinez opus hit the drive-ins . . . to later be discovered by an April Wine tee-shirt wearing lad obsessed with ’60s biker flicks and ’70s blaxsploitation films populating the “Action” shelves of his local video emporium. Sure, you have it easier with these Mill Creek sets, but, well . . . I guess you just had to be there . . . for the days when you had to physically leave your house to rent a movie and there were no bargain box sets.

Boris Karloff and Loye Hawkins one-stop shopping!

There’s two ways to enjoy The Guy From Harlem on Tubi: the original version or its Rifftrax version. There’s no freebie streams of Road of Death, but we found a trailer on You Tube — which is all you really need, trust us. There is, however, to our celluloid chagrin, a copy of The Six Thousand Dollar Ni**er on You Tube to torture one’s self by.

More karate-inspired blaxploitation!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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