So, this is just advance notice — Around the 13th of this month, Shadowplay will be given over to supernatural blaxploitation films for a week. It’s been ages since we had a themed week here.
I’d seen BLACULA as a kid (b&w portable TV in bedroom, picking up a fuzzy signal from Grampian TV’s 10:30pm Friday night horror movie). It seemed… OK. I saw SHAFT’S BIG SCORE as a youngster too, and while I appreciated the nudity, the overall vibe was lost on me. Pinkish stage blood squirting onto loud suits seems to be the aesthetic of the standard urban blaxploitation vehicle.
Going back and digging deeper into this rarified sub-genre has been fascinating. I get the impression a lot of the people involved knew damn well these films were silly. But the opportunity to make / be in a film was too important to let that stop them doing a good job. That work ethic seems very different from the one governing most exploitation films. No doubt many are made by people working hard who just don’ have any talent. But a lot seem to be made without care, or without any awareness of what might make even a cheesy film slightly richer. Every supernatural blaxploiter, except the wretched BLACKENSTEIN, seems to be at least trying, and the actors are sincerely attempting to make something truthful out of the pulp nonsense they find themselves in.
There are, I’ve decided, nine such films from the seventies (I might also dip a toe into ’30s race films, or that might be a whole other viewing project, I haven’t decided yet) — a pretty small field, and just about right to cover in a week. Hope you’ll join me!
Throw away those Quantum Leap episodes — once you go BLACULA, you never go Bakula!