Friday, June 24, 2016

Black Samurai (1977)

Time to switch gears from White Comanche and green Pot Zombies.  Frankly, after the last couple weeks, I think I've earned this one.

Remember a couple months ago when I said I loved me some Blaxploitation?  It's time to revisit it, but let's throw a little international flair into this action flick.  It's time to kung fu kick you in the face with Jim Kelly as the Black Samurai, bitches!

There are a few stereotypes that are pretty consistent.  Blaxploitation flicks are cool as shit, and black people are pretty into kung fu movies.  So why not combine the two?  In the 70s, kung fu flicks were hugely popular thanks to the likes of Bruce Lee.  Lee's moves were rhythmic to the point that it registered with the black community - and he even featured co-stars like Jim Kelly and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  There's a great love for these films.  If you don't believe me, check out this entry from the blog "Stuff Black People Dig" to read a short blurb about Lee's importance.  So it's only natural that kung fu would be a part of Blaxploitation movies.  Even Black Dynamite had a black belt.

I'm sure there's a lot articles about the cultural reasons why this is true for black movie audiences in the 70s, but I'm kinda too lazy to really look it up.  You have Google, do it yourself because I want to watch this movie so I can tell you all about it.

What's the plot of Black Samurai, you ask?  Well, according to IMDb: "Robert Sand, agent of D.R.A.G.O.N., Defense Reserve Agency Guardian Of Nations, is playing tennis on his vacation with a beautiful black girl, when his commanding officers ask him to save a Chinese girl named Toki who happens to be Sand's girlfriend, and the daughter of a top Eastern Ambassador. The ransom for the abduction was the secret for a terrific new weapon - the freeze bomb - but the 'Warlock' behind the deed is also into the business of drug dealing and Voodoo ritual murders. The search takes him from Hong Kong to California through Miami, and plenty of action, against bad men, bad girl, and bad animals."

Holy shit...  Voodoo, bad animals, freeze bombs, warlocks.  I think this will be time well spent, my friends.


Who wouldn't trust this face?
Our movie begins in Hong Kong where obviously shady guys are following Toki, Black Samurai's girlfriend.  We learn that Toki is the daughter of an important dignitary and that's why the bad guys are after her.  While she sexy sunbathes, they kill her pool boys and some real bitchin' James Bond like opening credits start up with silhouettes of Jim Kelly and his amazing fro show him in several action poses.  All the while, the music blares some awesome 70s action music.  Also, we learn that this movie is based on a novel.  I might need to look into picking up this book.  I can't say I've ever read Blaxploitation.  I've only ever seen it.

After the credits, Black Samurai is sexy tennis playing with a foxy lady when he's interrupted by a couple honkies in suits.  They want to talk to him about what went down in Hong Kong, but when they don't tell him about that off the top, Black Samurai doesn't want to give up any of his vacation time from D.R.A.G.O.N. to entertain any ideas about this mission.  However, when these honkies show him a picture of him and Toki, they tell him this bad guy known as "The Warlock" has her.

So with his vacation over, Black Samurai flies out to the west coast and picks up his bitchin' purple convertible.  He reminisces about spending time with his Toki as motivation for his mission (and as reference for us to see they are in love).  He gets tailed by some white dudes who basically say they are going to kill him but it's much more colorful when they drop the n-word.  Black Samurai dispatches them easily though with his tricked out car's guns.  Afterwards, we see him working on his sweet ass samurai sword skills in his hotel room or bedroom of some guy's house he's crashing at or something.  He gets confronted by a thug and a midget thug.

 Now, here, we could have an amazing little moment of this tiny little henchman with a funny, somewhat squeaky, voice, and it takes hardly any time for Black Samurai to use his kung fu to overpower them and then shoot them both dead.  For a guy who is normally freaked out by midgets, I was really looking forward to this little dude being a Herve Villechaize like character from The Man with the Golden Gun since this whole thing is like a James Bond knockoff, but no.  I rarely get my way when I watch these fucking movies.

So Black Samurai kung fus his way into a party being thrown by the Warlock.  For the most part, the guys are there to watch a hooker strip and pick up non-stripping prostitutes.  Black Samurai meets a hot black lady named Synne (get it?).  She introduces him to the Warlock under the fake alias he gave her when they met, but the Warlock knows what's up.  This forces Black Samurai to take off running and escape from some goons.  He karate chops two of the goons in the nuts, and stomps one by calling him a "whitey faggot".  With each of the guys he kung fus, he says a less and less interesting one liner.  Well, okay, less interesting than "whitey faggot".  Just when you think things can't get any crazier, a couple more midgets jump out to take him on.  It's like this movie had a runaway midget budget.

Foxy Asian lady, Toki.
If you haven't yet picked up on the subtle, and not-so-subtle, clues I've dropped, this movie borrows a ton from James Bond.  The bad guy is over the top, the henchmen are almost themed in a way that we see really greasy Hispanics and midgets, and Synne is the bad girl who seems kinda taken by Black Samurai in a way that you can guess already that she might just turn against the Warlock.  That last bit was eluded to after his escape from the Warlock's goons.

What's pretty great about this movie is the nutty elements like the stereotyped goons and the little people all over the joint.  At one point, he even uses a jet pack similar to the one used in Thunderball.  However, this movie has a pretty big problem. It has a lot of missing connective tissue.  There's no real tension.  Black Samurai knows where the bad guy is and goes there.  The bad guy knows who he is and there's no cat and mouse game to it all.  Every scene either begins or ends with a fight.  It's exciting and good for a chuckle, but it kinda misses what makes Bond so cool.  The movie misses the subtlety and subtext of Bond.  But it's fun as shit to watch, though.

As each fight takes place, I notice that something Black Samurai does often is kick or punch guys in the balls.  Shit, man...  If that's all it takes to be a Samurai, I've already passed the trials to be one with how often I've racked myself.

One of the key plot points in this movie is that it's clear that someone is selling info to the Warlock.  This is because Black Samurai was immediately found out at the hooker party earlier, and he seemingly is followed everywhere he goes.  So, it's either that the Warlock has the biggest collection of goons ever to constantly follow this brotha around, or he's got some advanced knowledge where Black Samurai is at all times.  All my money for who the mole is rests on the honky that is Black Samurai's guy who gets him cars and boats and whatever else he needs for the mission.

Seriously, what's the deal with the midgets?
When Black Samurai tries to access a secret hideout for one of the Warlock's guys, yet ANOTHER midget comes swinging out of the trees to disarm Black Samurai.  He tells our hero he was sent to bring him back, but Black Samurai is having none of that.  He wants to speak only with the Warlock.  This begins a fight with black guys dressed like African cavemen because why the hell not.  It does appear the honky that I thought was betraying Black Samurai is a turncoat, but it's done at gunpoint while he's held captive and acting under duress for the Warlock.  With this information, the Warlock sets a trap for Black Samurai.

When he gets to the Warlock's home, Black Samurai sees that the Warlock's people are doing some weird African tribal dance thing in what appears to be preparation for a sacrifice.  This ceremony includes a likely hot white chick dressed as a gorilla dancing around.  Black Samurai goes inside and squares off against Chavez (the guy who led the initial kidnapping at the beginning of the movie) in Synne's bedroom. When he knocks out Chavez, he mentions to her that he doesn't think her friends like him much.  She responds with something about how she thinks of Black Samurai as her white knight.  He gets mad and says, "I'm never the WHITE knight."  Heh...  Get it?  Because he's black?

"Oh my god...  Did he just punch my bird in the dick?"
Because Synne wants to do sinful things to Black Samurai's dick, she tells him where Toki is being kept.  It must take a long time to go from one part of the compound to the tower because the scene starts at night and it's now light outside - like really light outside.  However, we've got bigger fish to fry because Black Samurai gets caught when he tries to flee with Toki.  We learn that Synne, the Warlock's high priestess, is going to carry out the execution of Black Samurai and White Guy Government Stooge.  Oh, and Toki's there too.  So maybe one or all three are gonna die or something.  Anyway, Black Samurai produces a gadget we've not yet seen in this entire movie that gets him loose from the rope used to tie him to a column.  At this point, everyone breaks out into some kung fu.  Toki fights Synne, and Black Samurai and White Guy Government Stooge fights everyone else.  Black Samurai kicks and punches more guys in the balls and more midgets come out to fight.  When things don't look so good for the Warlock, he commands his vulture to attack.  Black Samurai defeats the bird too.  Probably by punching it in the bird dick.

My favorite kill in the whole movie is when a guy jumps out and attacks Black Samurai.  The goon is clinging to Black Samurai's jacket.  Black Samurai backs the guy to the ledge and unzips his jacket causing the guy to fall off the ledge.

After Black Samurai fights the toughest of the Warlock's fighters (which mostly is a bunch of Muhammad Ali footwork, and Black Samurai calling the guy a chump, faggot, and a sissy - which is pretty funny when you hear Jim Kelly saying this because he doesn't have a super deep voice so it just sounds like Walter Payton taunting bad guys), he finally runs down the Warlock.  At this point, all we know about the Warlock is that he's a crusty old white guy.  That said, how do you think this is going to go down against Black Samurai?

Spoilers: not well.

One happy ending coming right up!
Despite being locked in a cell with a bunch of deadly rattlesnakes, Black Samurai is able to set them on fire and get out.  He finds the Warlock and punches him and knees him in the gut a few times.  He threatens to take an ax to his face, but decides to toss him into the cell with the rattlesnakes for a much worse death than having his face axed off his skull.  When the last of the Warlock's thugs approach to take on Black Samurai, White Guy Government Stooge, and Toki, Black Samurai tosses a little item at them and it explodes - presumably killing these jerks.

They all smile and walk off a job well done.

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What?  You wanted something else added to this article as a little punctuation?  I'm literally out of words for the movie.  It's not a very good movie, but it's fun as shit to watch - like all Blaxploitation flicks.  And they make you cooler when you watch them.

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