I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Trailer Trash – Blaxploitation: We’re Going Black to the Future!

by Erin Emocling
Aug. 17, 2012

During the psychedelic seventies, blaxploitation, also spelled as blacksploitation, reigned in the film industry. Specifically and originally intended for black audience, blaxploitation expanded its popularity and appealed to interracial viewers, too. Oftentimes, blaxploitation films are characterized by ethnic slurs, soul music, black characters, and all that jazz. In this installment of Trailer Trash, we dissected six sweet, swinging film titles that will surely get you in a soulful mood!

The Thing with Two Heads (1972)

The Thing with Two Heads is a hetero-genius mixture of science fiction, comedy, and of course, blaxploitation. Ray Milland plays the role of Dr. Maxwell Kirshner, a cancer-stricken wealthy racist and a transplant surgeon who’s nearing death. He demands to perform his own experiment to himself so he could graft his head onto another human being’s body, just so he could continue his medical endeavours. Post-surgery, Dr. Kirshner becomes horridly horrified when he finds out that his head was paired to the body of Jack Moss, a huge black man who is sentenced for death penalty, played by Roosevelt Grier. A series of mishaps ensue as the titular Thing with Two Heads runs about. This film was directed by Lee Frost and special effects were done by Rick Baker.

Disco Godfather (1979)

Rudy Ray Moore was one of the hailed kings of blaxploitation. He starred in and produced 4 epic blaxploitation films, such as Dolemite (1975), The Human Tornado (1976), Petey Wheatstraw (1977), and, his most brain-melting ouvre and one of our featured trailers, Disco Godfather (1979). In this Blaxploitation/martial arts crossover, Moore played the role of Tucker Williams, a former police officer and the operator-owner of of the Blueberry Hill Disco nightclub. His nephew gets caught up with PCP and Tucker gets motivated to avenge and haunt for the drug lords and dealers. Disco Godfather, fuelled by hallucinogenic Angel Dust and disco lights, was directed by J. Robert Wagoner. Alternately known as The Avenging Disco Godfather, one of its most mesmerizing catch phrases was “Put your weight on it!

The Black Gestapo (1975)

Starring Rod Perry as General Ahmed, The Black Gestapo is a radical and violent rendition of the blaxploitation genre. In this crime film’s beginning, its vigilante protagonist forms his personal army to end the misery of the black citizens of Watts – by eradicating the white hooligans who roamed and ruled the place. The succeeding events are a hodgepodge of Caucasian gangsters being tortured and barenaked ladies strutting everywhere. The blacks are having a ballin’ blast until they abuse their authority; they begin dressing up as Nazis and they even mock their slogans. The fun doesn’t last long when the Watts community decides to revolt against them. The Black Gestapo was directed by Lee Frost and was released in 1975. Pin-up queen of the cult genre, Uschi Digard, cameo-ed in this film, too.

Savage! (1973)

Another blaxploitation classic in the 1970s, Savage!, was directed by Cirio H. Santiago. It starred James Iglehart Jim Haygood, who becomes the black and brilliant leader of a rebel army and was later given the vicious moniker, Savage. After his victorious ambush of Moncada at the beach, Savage celebrates and meets two dazzling chicks who perform in a nightcub: Lada Edmund Jr. as Vicky the Knife Thrower and Carol Speed as Amanda of the High Wire. Savage gets accused of the murder and arrested, but manages to escape out of prison. A series of action-packed exploits in the jungle stirs the entirety of this ultra-violent film reel that is Savage!.

Sugar Hill (1974)

Here is a different twist on blaxploitation – the one with flesh-devouring zombies! Sugar Hill is a horror hokum film, directed by Paul Maslansky, which centers on a young black lady nicknamed Sugar, played by Marki Bey, who seeks the help of a voodoo priestess, Mama Maitresse, so she could get her cold revenge against the hoodlums that killed her lover. Several chants and incantations later, the soul of Baron Samedi, portrayed by Don Pedro Colley, is summoned from the underworld, Sugar exchanges her soul for the power, and a famished army of zombie slaves arise. Sugar Hill was released in the theatres in 1976 and later on, it was shortened into 83 minutes running time and was shown on television, with the alternate title, The Zombies of Sugar Hill.

Trouble Man (1972)

In spite of being included in The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way), a 1978 book by Harry Medved, Michael Medved, and Randy Dreyfuss, Trouble Man is, nevertheless, worth watching. More famously known for the war film Hogan’s Heroes (1965), Ivan Dixon directed this classic. This blaxploitation crossover between streetwise action and drama stars Robert Hooks as Mr. T, a private detective who owns a billiards bar in Los Angeles. Since he has a good connection between with the cops and the thugs, he knows how to differentiate good guys from the bad. Through the course of the movie, Mr. T tries to take justice into his own hands and also becomes romantically involved with Cleo, played by Paula Kelly. Additionally, Marvin Gaye was responsible for Trouble Man’s score.

Erin, from Manila, is a marveller of non-sequitur writing, cinematic films, and analogue photography. She adores cats, the human anatomy, tattoos, and vintage finds, among otherworldly things. She recently worked as Lomography Magazine’s chief editor. She currently works as a freelance writer and contributes to online magazines like Feature Shoot, Lost at E Minor, and Network Awesome. You may also follow her on Twitter and Tumblr under the moniker heyheroin.