My friend and I are both into 70s disco and funk music, and we have a rule that helps guide our buying decisions: "If you see a CD with five or more shirtless black guys on the cover, buy it." This rule has served me well, as it led to my discovery of T-Connection and Instant Funk. So there I am, in the discount video store, where this DVD is $10. I was like "Hmmmm, I don't know." when a little voice inside of me said "Scott, if you see a movie called DISCO GODFATHER, for Christ's sake, BUY IT!" I did, and this turned out to be a terribly wise decision.
Trust me that there is many more hootworthy elements in this film than I could ever hope to write about. There are definitely more stunningly tacky visuals than I could ever capture. This is a movie that demands to be witnessed. I had never seen a Dolemite film, though I had heard of them, and I had no idea that this was a Dolemite film when I saw it in a discount video store about a year ago. Though actually it's a Dolemite film in name only, as Rudy Ray Moore plays another character in this one-a character who swears less.
Probably the highest highlight in this film is the opening sequence, in which Disco Godfather [hereafter DG] is introduced. Everyone is grooving to the generic, repetitive, lyric-free disco music, then DG comes out in his skin-tight pale blue lycra outfit, open to his waist. He grinds obscenely for a few minutes, then makes his way to the DJ booth, where he energetically twists knobs on his console to no audible effect. He shouts rhyming Dolemitisms to the crowd, the most frequent being exhortations to "Put your weight on it!" He repeats this directive 24 times throughout the movie. I counted.
Meanwhile, DG's nephew Bucky, a promising basketball player, is lured away from his girlfriend, who is sporting this hideously bizarre hairdo in which her fro is tied off in a frizzy ponytail hanging off one side, making her head look like a comet or something. Anyway, Bucky is lured into one of the TOP 5 PIMPMOBILES OF ALL TIME, where he consumes angel dust. He then comes back into the disco, where he proceeds to HALLUCINATE. Careful readers of my site will know that cinematic approximations of hallucinogenic drug trips are a few of my favorite things, and this film's hallucinations are pretty good in a cheesy low-budget way. Also please note, as you proceed through the movie, that the several different characters who take angel dust all seem to have the exact same hallucination. Such is the power of angel dust, I guess.
Anyway, DG [his name is Tucker, but I prefer Disco Godfather. don't you?] inquires after what Bucky has had. Only he pronounces it "Heyad." The bizarre, declarative way in which Rudy speaks is one of the bizarre pleasures of this movie, and apparently of all the Dolemite films [I have Dolemite coming tomorrow, so look for that one here soon]. Anyway, a helpful doctor tells him that Bucky has had Angel Dust, and that if DG stops by the hospital the next day he'll deliver a great deal of exposition about its effects. DG does, and we are given a tour of an asylum for angel dust users, all of whom have apparently lost their minds. One of them, we are told, roasted her baby and served it to her family. I hope it wasn't dry and stringy. They get like that if you overcook them, you know. Anyway, then this woman who is most akin to Chef's mom on South Park accosts the doctor about her daughter, another victim of the angel dust scourge, and when he suggests electroshock therapy, says: "Oh no! Ain't nobody shocking my baby!"
Meanwhile, some reporter is doing a piece on Disco Godfather, and, after viewing the gyrations of his practicing dancers, is told: "As you can see, if you want to be a member of the disco squad, you have to get funky and get down." DG shows up, and diverts the focus of the article away from his nightclub and to the menace of angel dust. The reporter, not irked at all that she came to do a piece on a nightclub scene and is being sidelined into delivering the rantings of an anti-drug crusader, acts as though the fact that this one nightclub owner is against angel dust is a "scoop," gets one tepid quote them takes off, promising to put the story "on the front page." I can see the headline now: "Some nightclub owner is really, really against angel dust." Later DG exclaims: "Somebody knows I'm out to get them." Uh. could it be because you put an article about it in the paper?
We are then treated to a performance of the disco skate dancers, featuring this one guy who I am basically in love with. He is a big mustachioed 70s hunk who chooses to wear a tank top with skin tight shorts which hug his quite fetching ass and showcase his ample basket as he is performing his deft skate dancing moves. I can just see introducing him to my parents now: "Mom, Dad, this is Duane." "And what do you do for a living, Duane?" "I'm a disco skate dancer." "Oh, is there a lot of money in that?" "No, but it's a rapidly growing field." I have NEVER forgotten the deep impression this nameless disco skate dancer made upon me when I first watched this movie a year ago, though I had incorrectly thought this scene was in Thank God It's Friday, not knowing that it was sitting on my shelf that entire time. But you know, true love finds a way. I know that the heart will go on. I also am fairly sure I caught a glimpse of the one and only skate dancer I'll ever love in the background of Roller Boogie, but I can't be sure.
I should also mention that this film contains what may be the largest amount of footage of people simply GYRATING that I have ever seen in one movie.
So anyway, then DG attends an anti-angel dust rally whose theme is "Attack the Whack." IT is supported by the all-female "Angels Against Dust," where Carol Speed is giving a speech. I can only assume that Ms. Speed, who was in Abby and The Mack, is only here [and received second billing] for her name, as she only appears in this one scene. She obviously didn't spend much time learning her lines, as she advises the group that she wants to "Whack the attack against angel dust." It's funnily realistic, as it perfectly, if unintentionally, captures the spirit of a public official who knows and cares nothing about a certain civic problem, and is on hand just to garner votes. Later, our friendly doctor says he wants to "Fight a thing that might save the lives of thousands of young people." A second later Ms. Speed is heard chanting "attack the whack" when she is obviously not speaking at all. Apparently they didn't have the budget for reshoots on this scene, as it contains the absolute most errors of any part of the movie.
And please no not miss the innovative use of animation mixed with live action to enhance certain scenes.
As the whole thing is hurtling toward its conclusion, DG goes to visit an professorial older black man who may or may not be his actual father, and who SO charmingly has "What will I do to help my people?" written on the blackboard in the background. After a while DG gets around to kicking some butt, and please note that he does literally slap a bad guy into submission. He unleashes his kung fu on several baddies, though luckily there are always kung fu-trained joggers who happen to be passing by who can help him in a pinch. I like how DG is presented as a kind of mythical father figure [and you thought Disco Godfather was just an arbitrary name], and is often presented as a sort of God-figure who watches the events of the movie transpire from a solitary other space. As this mythical father, he slaps the villains and delivers scolding parental harangues that are presented as more damning than a bullet between the eyes. It is that aspect, as well as that written "What can I do to help my people?" that give this movie an essential sweetness and earnestness that, in addition to it's off-the-chart cheesiness in absolutely every way, makes it a special addition to any video collection.
Definitely... but be sure you're in the exact right mood and ready to open yourself to this movie's charms.
DOLEMITE is the first film in this series, and is just a hair more charming and good-natured than this one, though it has less in the way of story and craftsmanship.
THE HUMAN TORNADO is the second Dolemite film, which I haven't seen yet, but looks like a real hoot.