By Afonso Almeida.
Technicolour clothing and karate. That’s essentially what’s on offering with D’Urville Martin’s 1975 Dolemite. Starring Rudy Ray Moore as the titular Dolemite, the movie tells the story of a Pimp who is framed by a rival and serves 20 years in prison. When he returns to civilisation, Dolemite sets about to regain his reputation, crew and club, all in exuberant style.
There’s not much plot to detail when it comes to Dolemite. The initial set up of the film, involving two policer officers falsely arresting the titular character on drug charges is only the loose thread that holds the film together. What follows is almost a day in the life of this larger than life, karate chopping figure. We are introduced to the Dolemite girls, who need no further introduction given Dolemite’s job description, as well as an assortment of local layabouts and characters that surround his life. There seem to be very few obstacles in Dolemit’s rise back to the top, even though there is the looming presence of corrupt white police officers and a rival. Nevertheless, the film culminates in an over the top display of karate and excessive wigs.
Dolemite features a lot of the Blaxploitation genre tropes. A larger than life protagonist, boisterous supporting cast, the presence of stereotypical white oppressors and a genuine attitude of resistance and joy of life in light of these harsh circumstances. In a hilarious scene at the beginning (though the intention for comedy remains debatable) Dolemite sheds off the grey suit and tie he was issued by the prison, to don his sky blue pimp uniform, climbing aboard his Cadillac with five of the Dolemite girls, only to immediately disrobe with them. There are several moments like this that carry through the film. Light hearted, and downright funny, but nevertheless carrying a sentiment of not being subdued by the oppressing forces.
Despite the light-hearted tone and clunky dialogue (which could almost earn a comparison to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room when it comes to failed moments of earnest sentiment) the film does present an entertaining look at social issues, without being overbearing. There are references to the ramped drug culture devastating Los Angeles, the corruption of the police force, and the inability for African Americans to simply go about their lives.
Ultimately, Dolemite is simply a good time. With psychedelic outfits, cheesy dialogue, funky music and the slowest karate chops ever recorded to film, it is impossible not to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
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