Cool Breezerecommended viewing

I found hairs!
★★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1972
Director: 
Barry Pollack
Starring: 
Thalamus Rasulala, Judy Pace, Jim Watkins, Pam Grier
The Setup: 
Guy gets out of prison, plans a $3 million heist.
Discussion: 

I saw the trailer for this on Afro Promo, and seeing me some mustachoied Thalamus Rasulala, perhaps the coolest-named actor ever, I had to hunt it down. I like any guy that’s named after a gland. But it seemed to me that it was out of print, so I forgot about it until it turned up in a bargain DVD joint one day, and of course I snapped it up.

A similar situation happened with Abby, which turned out to be kind of a dud, but I am happy to report that such is not the case here. This is a very sly deadpan comedy that is really quite remarkable, disguised as an average blaxploitation heist movie. And it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

We begin with Thalamus, as Sidney Lloyd James, getting out of prison. Elsewhere a black guy is getting chased by the police. A white policeman shoots and almost blows his black partner’s head off, then shrugs and says “sorry.” The black cop then takes his pick out and starts combing, saying “I almost lost my nappy.”

Thalamus shows up at on old business associate’s, kicking one of his henchmen in the groin. The henchman runs inside, saying “Some super-spaced dude wants to rap with you,” leading his boss to respond: “Stop rubbing your balls! Who is he and what does he want?” Turns out Thalamus is going to mastermind some scheme to steal $3 Million dollars in diamonds. The DVD cover makes it out that he’s stealing it from “The Man,” but I don’t think we ever find out who he’s stealing it from.

Then they call the cute little preacher, who is in the midst of lovemaking. The phone call distracts him, and as he talks his love partner rubs his dick, saying “it’s going down. It’s dying.” We then cut to an older guy with his young girlfriend, who he puts into the bath while she baby talks, saying “I wuv you.” This guy has a wheelchair-bound wife at home who we will come to later.

We then have a short appearance by Pam Grier, playing a prostitute that Thalamus uses and then kicks out. You are not long in before you realize that misogyny is ranpant in this movie, with women getting slapped around and denegrated at every turn.

Then Travis, the guy who the cops brought in at the beginning, goes home to his girlfriend, who has this massive spherical afro. He has what must be at most $1,000, but she thinks he should keep it and “just start a business or something.” Oh yeah, I’ll just start a business on my smoke break! Or something. This guy then meets the guy who he owes the money to while in church, and throws the wad of cash into the collection plate. The older thug has to watch it be taken away, unable to reach out in front of everybody and take it out.

But no worries, because the preacher of the church, the one we met losing his erection earlier, is also a top safe cracker, and he gets in on the plot. Meanwhile, the guy who’s giving Thalamus the money he needs to stage the plot, the guy with the young girlfriend, is planning to make Thalamus steal the money and then screw him out of it.

Then follow a series of very funny shakedowns, one taking place between the black cop who almost lost his nappy and a store owner, while the cop is trying on a suit. Then the guy with the young girlfriend is upbraided by his wheelchair-bound wife for his philandering. She starts bouncing her boobs in her hand, saying “You like titties? You a titty man,” before bursting out in anger, shouting “I found letters! I found pictures! I found HAIRS!”

SPOILERS > > >
Then it’s on to the heist. It comes of fairly well, but the preacher and Travis end up getting shot. There is one action scene in here that is edited in such a way that it is totally incomprehensible. I watched it a few times and it is literally impossible to know what is going on. Then we have another shakedown, this time by Thalamus, who is never so seductive as when he’s talking words of feigned friendship with a sadistic undercurrent.

From here the movie becomes truly incomprehensible. There are already a great deal of characters, as you can tell, and the whole web of who is trying to screw who just gets to be too much to follow, assuming it makes sense at all. You might be better able to follow it if you’ve seen The Asphalt Jungle, as all two comments about this movie on the IMDb say that it’s a virtual remake of that film. But then again, you don’t need to follow it to enjoy it.

The rest of the movie follows the aftermath of the heist, with the two charcaters shot. One thing you notice is that there’s a lot of black-on-black violence in this film, which was kind of surprising. Sure the whites are all racist, but it was just surprising to see a movie like this be just as or even more critical of its black characters. In this vein it is a little surprising what a cold-blooded snake Thalamus turns out to be. He’s not really the hero here, and he’s a real bastard at certain points… not more so than when he is politely dumping the friend who helped him with the heist but got shot, wherein he doesn’t give him any of the money but actually TAKES money from him! He also promises two pudgy white cops that they can have sex with the hot dancer hootchie he has been making obscene tongue gestures to, then he leaves!

In here is a comedic scene in which a white detective is going on and on about how disgusting it is that the older guy with the young girlfriend HAS a young girlfriend, but in such a way that it’s obvious that what he’s doing is detailing his own sexual fantasies about it, ending with “it’s like she’s his own daughter.” Scenes like this are very funny in a smart and sly way, but since blaxplaxploitation is usually about getting revenge or sticking it to the man [as this one ostensibly is] it takes a while to realize… this is really just a deadpan comedy, because that whole aspect works better and is more consistent than the heist.

Now, I can be pretty obtuse, but either I’m much more obtuse than I am aware of, or this movie just essentially stopped without any sort of resolution. Thalamus walks outside, a police car turns around as though to apprehend him, we have a jump-cut of his smiling face, and to credits. I guess he’s going to be caught, which would also add to the unconventionality here, as basically our heroes commit a crime and are one by one arrested or killed. Which also makes it a bit more interesting, in my book.
< < < SPOILERS END

Overall, a funny, pleasant watch. I didn’t have one of those moments of “I OWN this!” like I sometimes do with rare movies I’ve bought, but I came away ADMIRING it as a movie in a way I usually don’t. The writing and complexity and unconventionality of the story all help elevate it above the more simple movies out there. Yay, Cool Breeze!

One other thing I like about those tiny little DVD re-releasers is that they often throw odd little tidbits on their discs. This one contains two trailers for now-forgotten Fred Williamson movies, one being That Man Bolt, which positions Fred as a sort of black James Bond, and indeed the tagline is: “He’s Bonded.” Which really kind of doesn’t mean anything. There’s another trailer I can’t remember. AND, when the feature starts, one notices that the timer says 3:30. So when you rewind from that point, you get an added trailer for the movie Brainstorm, Natalie Wood’s last movie, about a man who can record brainwaves and play them for another person, which looks to follow the Altered States mold and include lots of trippy hallucinations. A used DVD of that was on its way to me as of the following day.

Should you watch it: 

Yeah, it’s really pretty good, quite amusing, and admirably unusual.