Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Well, Where is this Moon? And Show Me Where I Can Find It!"

Is there anyone left who doesn't know who the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks is?  (Hint: If an image other than Richard Roundtree or Isaac Hayes enters your mind, we might have to have words.)

I believe the first Blaxploitation film I ever saw was on a Saturday morning, after cartoons were over, on some forgotten UHF channel (Oops, I may have just fessed up to my age).  It was the glorious Blacula (1972) starring the great William Marshall, and despite the goofy title was a pretty damned good vampire flick.  Over the years, much like the kung fu and Hercules movies I'd soak up, Blaxploitation became a regular part of my visual collection.  And though there are others I might find throw on more often, I still have a huge soft spot for Shaft, and even went so far as to put together a collection of all the books, including the rare final volume, The Last Shaft (1975).

Keenan Ivory Wayans gave the genre a pretty good send up in 1988's I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, which featured some of the greats of the genre who also saw new interest in their classic stylings in QT's Jackie Brown (1997) and Larry Cohen's Original Gangstas (1996) (Cohen had directed Blaxploitation classic Black Caesar in 1973).  But no one had really revisited the era itself until Michael Jai White dropped his creation Black Dynamite on us in 2009.   As hilarious as it is faithful to the source material, Black Dynamite became the little indy that could finding a quick and devoted following...and now it's returned to the little big screen with a new animated series.

Delivering laughs as consistently as the film, the series sees the return of White as our aforementioned hero, Byron Minns as Bullhorn, Tommy Davidson as Cream Corn and Kym Whitley as Honey Bee.  So far the plots have dealt with iconic 70's material centering around Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and early black porn.  The references to Blaxploitation fly fast and wild, but not catching them won't ruin your enjoyment of the series.  Titmouse, who've delivered a fine array of Adult Swim cartoons, have created a fluid, action-packed animation with character design out of the best Luke Cage comic book.  (I know a couple of people over there and have considered texting one to tell him to give any random co-worker a high-five for all the laughs.)

I don't normally follow enough TV (it's a time thing, not a snobbery thing) to give any kind of review of any series.  After the latest episode, however, I felt I had to say something.  Though strange to see a Christmas themed episode in August, this two-fer managed in equal measures the usual Blaxploitation laughs as well as a spot-on parody of conspiracy theorists' delight Capricorn One (1978). For those who don't watch enough 60's and 70's craziness, Capricorn tells the story of a group of astronauts, which includes O.J. Simpson pre-Naked Gun, who are forced to fake a Mars landing and who are subsequently forced to escape when they realize they're going to be killed to cover the hoax.  Like I said, good to know, but not essential to enjoy Black Dynamite being teamed up with a 70's era O.J. on a mission to the moon.  Now, I can't say much more without spoiling too much, but I should think that every line above this one should had you watching the episode before you even read this far.

So, in summary, if you've not been watching Black Dynamite, the animated series...or, God forbid, you haven't seen the movie, you, my friend, have a fair amount of catching up to do.

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