June 14: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is blacksploitation! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.
Much like the Italian western, after so many years and so many movies, the blacksploitation film needed to not simply be comedy or crime. Horror — witness Blacula, Sugar Hill and Abby, as well as Ganja and Hess, Scream Blacula Scream and Dr. Black and Mr. White — could also be made for black audiences.
Isaac “Ike” Hendrix (Glynn Turman, who is absolutely incredible in this movie) is a hard-working taxi driver and law student in New Orleans who takes a break studying for the bar and heads out with his girlfriend Joan Pringle (Christella Morgan) for an evening. He’s hypnotized at a show and immediately after, everything is different. That’s because he’s become the host for the spirit of murdered hustler J.D. Walker, changing completely from a quiet man struggling to change his life to a love machine ready to slay on the dance floor, in the bedroom and on the killing floor. The transformation is astounding as is the back story, as J.D. was once tied in with Elijah Bliss (Louis Gossett Jr.), who is now a preacher, his older brother Theotis (Fred Pinkard) and the woman they all loved.
There’s a powerful scene at the end as brother battles brother and J.D. — fully owning Ike — dances and laughs like a demon who has taken this proud holy man and city leader back to their roots as simple criminals, a microcosm of the black experience of attempting to climb out of the horrors of poverty reduced to falling back down the chasm of violence. It’s really something else.
Director Arthur Marks also made Detroit 9000, Friday Foster, Bonnie’s Kids and Bucktown. The script is by Jaison Starks, who also wrote The Fish Who Saved Pittsburgh. It also has a doctor who tells his patient that he’d probably get better if he smoked some weed, which is quite forward thinking for 1976.
There’s also the absolutely wild scene where J.D. picks up a woman at a bar — this is after he’s dominated Joan, who Ike had such a sweet and mutually giving relationship, having rough sex with her, saying “Daddy’s doing you good baby” and then beating her just to show who is in charge — and gives her “the best fucking she ever had” before her boyfriend gets home. She’s in a panic. J.D. simply says, “You better go talk to him then” before grabbing a straight razor and slashing the man’s throat with no effort at all.
Everything wraps up way too neat and clean, but who cares? Getting there has some great performances and an interesting story that had to have been an influence on later black horror like Bones.