Monday, April 11, 2016

DOLEMITE (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Vinegar Syndrome) - The Disc That Doesn't Miss!

The Director of our featured title helmed two movies: Disco 9000 and Dolemite. While D'Urville Martin didn't exactly take to task the silver screen with his directorial efforts, he certainly played a part as an actor in Blaxploitation classics that started as early as the mid 60's (pre-Blax) and worked his way up to movies like Black Caeser, Hammer and Hell Up in Harlem not to mention playing Lionel in All in the Family, a pivotal show in addressing issues in a completely unique way for a TV audience. His legacy as a performer was adequate, even carrying his own in Dolemite as Willie Green, but it is in his effort behind the camera for this particular title that has endured in modern culture. In bringing Dolemite to the big screen, the comedy of Blaxploitation was preserved while still addressing social strife and creating the iconic character and prototype of the industrious, well-dressed, asskickin' pimp emblazoned by Rudy Ray Moore. It's a balancing act really. That's what Blaxploitation cinema was; the creation of fiction that could speak to and for folks who had been marginalized and kept out of the big business of movie-making for generations while providing maximum entertainment with laughs and the kind of "bam and pows" you'd see in the 60's camp classic TV show Batman. 

Dolemite comes to Blu-ray and DVD in a combo pack courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome this month, and we had a chance to check it out first hand. With a Blu-ray release like this, you need the transfer to be spectacular and the extras to tell the story of a movie that has been seen, as of late, as a novelty picture rather than a work comparable to Foxy Brown in terms of inspiration and innovation in the genre. You need some damn fine extras to drive the point home to an audience who looks at Rudy Ray Moore as a Halloween costume as opposed to a warrior of the people (even if his punches never seem to connect). I'm glad to say we have a disc that compliments the history of Dolemite and its creation while connecting it to time and genre and has the ability to inspire an audience to enjoy Blaxploitation for its comedy, culture and class. 

The movie itself is a series of strange action sequences thrown together to drive home our fearless hero/anti-hero, Dolemite's attempt to regain power and to exact revenge all the time being watched by the police and attacked by the vicious hierarchy of the urban crime underground. That's all well and good, but the shit to watch is in the details. Watch Dolemite use Kung Fu techniques, carefully, methodically... perhaps at a speed slower than sweat... to kick many asses without connecting a single punch or kick. You laugh every time and pretend you're the director asking for a new take to get the shot right. You don't get the second take. You're over forty years too late, and besides, this is the kind of comedy that goes down in history along with poor dubbing in Shaw Brothers movies albeit intentional with this picture.  From open to close Dolemite is packed with the kind of violence that feels like a good time. You cannot possibly take it seriously, and while that might drive away a certain hardcore audience member, the bare skin on the screen and quotable-at-level-eleven dialogue will pimp the audience member right back into their recliner. Is it flawed? It is, and I don't think by intention. Unlike other Blaxploitaiton films of the time that may have suffered from budgetary restrictions or the kind of serious brutality that  drives away a main stream audience, Dolemite embraces its budget and flaws to slapstick shadowboxing perfection. It is a softer, violent film that never really feels mean.

Vinegar Syndrome has done a superb job on the restoration and transfer from a recently discovered 35mm negative. The film looks clean and for the most part undamaged. The black levels are uncrushed with excellent color saturation, preserving the bright color palate of mid 70's filmmaking,wardrobe and furnishings. For a movie with a relatively low budget, the actual image on film is well shot and thus the detail on film is crisp. When I watch a Blu-ray looking for an indicator of quality it's the hair or the patterns in clothing. Hair and the eccentric patterns of the 70's have fine detail that can be lost in a bad transfer or by, god forbid, a restoration artist with a heavy DNR trigger finger. Dolemite's transfer preserves the fine detail in these areas nicely, especially in some of our hero-pimp's wardrobe selection. Digital noise reduction kept to a minimum and is not noticeable. 

Jay Shaw tackles the new cover art for this release. I have enjoyed his take on Cheap Thrills, The Shining and Profondo Rosso in various print releases. I'm glad to see his take on Dolemite is a far cry from the humor driven, action packed original one sheet (offered as reverse art). Lately V.S. has been using some of my favorite artists to do their new cover concepts. When's Haunt Love getting a cover? 

The extras are a well balanced list of items you'd expect to have on a Blu-ray and some unique finds. Two different aspect ratios are available. Why? Well one is dubbed the "boom mic" version, the full frame version that is, so you can see some of the things that you'd never see when cropped. The best use of this other than to get a few extras laughs out of the picture might be to create a Dolemite drinking game using the shit you'd see on the fringes. Get your Thunderbird ready. The Lady Reed Uncut featurette didn't really hold my attention unfortunately, and I would say it was the low point in the package except that it really is great to get yet another perspective on the film even if listening to her lulled me a bit. The Locations: Then & Now featurette is a slide show of images of some of the shooting locations. There's not much to it, it's brief, and I would have loved to have seen Sean Clarke of Horrors Hallowed Grounds do his quality then and now job on this film (but then there's a reason why it's HORRORS Hallowed Grounds, right?).  Definitely spend time with the making-of documentary. Enjoy it. Savor it. It's a great extra to get for this release and includes some archival interviews with Rudy Ray Moore  prior to his death in 2008. Also included is a commentary track by Rudy Ray Moore's biographer as well as trailers for Dolemite and The Human Tornado. I don't normally stress the importance of watching trailers on Blu-rays as they seem like a given, but The Human Tornado is just a damn laugh riot. 

Overall this is a solid release that upholds the mark of quality that is the Vinegar Syndrome name in transfer, restoration, extras and appearance. Over the last year, we've seen some of the bigger titles in Blaxploitation get releases on Blu-ray with big name titles like Coffy and Foxy Brown getting the Arrow Video treatment and smaller productions getting rather good DVD releases. If 2015 was Pam Grier's Blu year then 2016 is the year of Rudy Ray Moore. Vinegar Syndrome is starting with the original Dolemite but "will be bringing its outrageous 1976 sequel, THE HUMAN TORNADO to Blu-ray (May 2016), along with Moore's 1977 horror-comedy PETEY WHEATSTRAW (June 2016) and finally his 1979 absurdist classic, DISCO GODFATHER (July 2016)". That's a one, two, three, four punch from V.S. and I assure you that each one will connect with its target, your Blaxploitation loving freaks.

You can purchase DOLEMITE from Vinegar Syndrome now: ORDER NOW
Also Available from DiabolikDVD: ORDER NOW

Also consider purchasing this release as part of the April Package for maximum savings on all titles released during April: ORDER NOW

From Vinegar Syndrome:

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), the baddest pimp in town, has just been released from prison, ready to take revenge on notorious gangster Willie Green (D’Urville Martin), who set him up on a phony drug charge and stole his club, The Total Experience.

With the help of his friend Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and their band of Kung Fu fighting vixens, Dolemite takes on every “rat soup eatin’ motherf#%*er” in South Central.

Acclaimed comedian Rudy Ray Moore’s outrageously funny and action packed blaxploitation classic, makes its worldwide blu-ray debut, fully restored in 2k from a recently discovered 35mm negative and loaded with extras, including a new making-of documentary by Elijah Drenner and a historical commentary track from Moore’s biographer Mark Murray, featuring interviews with Moore as well as co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, John Kerry, cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg and more!

Directed by: D’Urville Martin
1975 / 90 minutes / Color / 1.85:1 & 1.33:1
Actors: Rudy Ray Moore, D’Urville Martin, Lady Reed, Jerry Jones

Features Include:

• Region free Blu-ray and DVD combo pack.
• All extras on both formats.
• Scanned and restored in 2k from a newly discovered 35mm negative.
• Includes two framing options: the intended 1.85:1 widescreen version and an alternate full frame ‘boom mic’ version.
• “I, Dolemite” making-of documentary.
• “Lady Reed Uncut” featurette.
• “Locations: Then & Now” featurette.
• Historical commentary track by Rudy Ray Moore’s biographer, Mark Jason Murray.
• DOLEMITE – theatrical trailer.
• THE HUMAN TORNADO – theatrical trailer.
• Original cover artwork by Jay Shaw.
• Reversible cover artwork.
• English SDH Subtitles.

*Note: Trailer Displayed Not From the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray

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