Black Shampoo

His clientele ALL kiss and tell
Released: 
1976
Director: 
Greydon Clark
Starring: 
John Daniels, Tanya Boyd, Skip E. Lowe, Gary Allen
The Setup: 
Mr. Jonathan is a hairdresser and gigolo who runs a salon in L.A. When his receptionist gets in trouble with thugs, they abruptly fall in love and he promises to save her.
Discussion: 

This movie is nowhere near as good as I hoped it would be. I'm guessing it was made in response to Shampoo, and I was looking forward to seeing an attractive black hero in tight clothes have sex with all sorts of women. Plus, I head heard the radio ad, which includes awesome lines such as "He's not above a labor of love," "Let him give YOU a black shampoo," and the one in the title to this review [you can see the trailer-better than the movie-on Netflix's site, or the IMDb listing has a link to it]. But alas, the sex and the movie are boring, if completely steeped in wonderful 70s style, though there are just enough bizarrities to make this movie worth watching once. Maybe. If some of the touches weren't so darn distasteful.

During the opening credits Mr. Jonathan, the hairdresser in question, washes a woman's hair, which causes her to have an orgasm and for her clothes to nearly fall off. She opens his pants, and exclaims "Oh Mr. Jonathan, it IS bigger and better!" And at this point you're thinking 'Right on! This movie is going to be awesome!'

Anyway, it seems that Mr. Jonathan runs a salon where all the wealthy [mostly white] women of L.A. come to get their hair done and to hop on his enormous black cock. Meanwhile the music by Gerald Lee, which is pretty good, repeats: "Jonathan. he's a REAL man." Yes, racist myths of black male sexuality ARE firmly in place here, as every woman [and some men] are virtually drooling in public for that African-American hairdresser dong. I listened to the first 40 minutes of the director commentary [because I wanted to know, how could he possibly defend this?] and he was saying that he wanted to dare to show Mr. Jonathan as a "successful black businessman," conveniently leaving out the fact that if Jonathan wasn't whoring himself out to his customers he wouldn't HAVE a business.

Jonathan then goes to one of his clients' house, but is intercepted by her two horny daughters. They hold his hair dryer in a phallic way while making lame teasing come-ons, until he finally gives in and lets them ravish him. This doesn't last too long, however, before their mother comes out and shoos them away. Then she decides that she'll teach them a lesson by having Mr. Jonathan fuck her in front of her daughters. At this point I was like. "Am I reading Penthouse Forum? Is THAT what's going on here?" It left rather a distasteful impression, but maybe I'm just a prude.

Anyway, in Jonathan's absence some thugs came by and demanded that Brenda, the receptionist, come with them. It seems that she was the kept woman of some old white guy. She refuses, but the thugs beat up the two salon fags [more on them later], and leave. When Jonathan arrives back, Brenda explains the situation. Jonathan, who the movie has made clear has barely noticed Brenda up to that point, suddenly falls in love with her and vows to help her. Then follows a LUDICROUS love montage, the first scene of which shows then having red wine [SO romantic!] in a café that appears to be located directly in the center of a busy intersection. Then they go hiking, ride a paddleboat, sit contemplating a waterfall, stand motionlessly staring into each other's eyes. and I was like, Geez, they're sure packing a lot into that day! Me, I get some food and see a movie and then I am tired and ready to go home. Anyway, this montage is the first sense one gets that this film is needlessly protracting EVERYTHING in order to fill out its running time. which isn't even 90 minutes.

Anyway, by the time they come back the salon has been trashed [in an excruciatingly long sequence]. Brenda feels bad, and Jonathan is pissed. Brenda is so ashamed that she decides she's going to leave, and not be any further bother to Jonathan. He sees that she's gone, and assumes that she never cared. Can this relationship be saved? Of course! If you're Brenda, all the previously mentioned moral complexities can be easily washed away by simply returning, taking off all your clothes, and getting into the shower with Jonathan. The excruciatingly long disrobing sequence is followed by an excruciatingly long lovemaking sequence, in which they merely smash against one another and exchange tepid kisses. And THIS is supposed to be Mr. Jonathan's renowned lovemaking? What, is this some tantric shit or something?

Anyway, in the morning Brenda realizes that she has to go back to the white rich old man, and is visited there by Jonathan. She refuses to go with him [to protect him!], and he notices that the white guy has made her straighten her hair. Then she changes her mind AGAIN and decides that she needs to be with Jonathan, and leaves. Once she decides to return to Jonathan, her hair apparently AUTOMATICALLY reverts to its nappy state, as doesn't it take quite a few hours to straighten African-American hair? And once it's straightened, doesn't it take quite a while to return it to its nappy state? Nevertheless, it seems that Brenda's hair changes based on her moral decisions.

Now to the gay hairdressers. There is a black one and a white one, and they are as weak, swishy and effeminate as it is possible to imagine a 1976 movie would have its gay hairdressers be. They both acted so awkward that I would bet money that both are straight actors playing their approximation of what gay people must act like; they're all so thenthitive and thwithy, you know. One of them, Artie, is acting and dressed in such a bizarre way, it's as though you're watching a Muppet. Anyway, at a certain point, Artie invites Jonathan to come along with him to a GAY WESTERN BARBEQUE. And I, dear reader, was like: "FUCK YEAH! Let's go to a GAY WESTERN BARBEQUE!!!!" Because one of the pleasures of cheesy movies is just those strange scenes that capture a previously unknown subculture or scene. like the "Player's Ball" scene in The Mack. Anyway, this one wasn't as good as you'd hope, but it still did look like fun. Check out the hot bearded freak at the far right of the pic above. And around this time I thought maybe this movie wasn't going to be so bad to its gay characters. you know, Jonathan treats Artie with trust and respect, and even calls him "brother," indicating that the gays and the blacks are more allied with each other than the boring old whites, which is how I think it should be. But then a scene of shocking and downright unconscionable violence against gays occurs.

You see, the thugs come back to the salon, where they bend Artie over so his ass is in the air. Since he won't tell them Mr. Jonathan's whereabouts, they RAPE HIM WITH A HOT CURLING IRON. The main thug asks an associate to hold Artie down, and the thug says "With pleasure." Then the main baddie says "I'm gonna give you the thrill of your lifetime, faggot." Yes, I know that the film is "saying" that this is a bad thing they're doing, but I think at the same time it is inviting the audience to snicker at how the fag gets it, to laugh at the fags in general and their wanton yearning for cock, and I think the film wants the audience to think it's pretty cool the way Artie gets tortured and possibly killed. When the thug says Artie will be getting "the thrill of a lifetime," I think this expresses the exact thoughts this movie expects most members of the audience to be having. And, what can I say-it's disgusting.

So the climax happens, it ends pretty much as you'd expect, and that's about it.

Should you watch it: 

Probably not. Even if you're just watching to laugh, there are a lot better mockable blaxploitation movies out there that aren't quite so boring. I guess it depends on how drunk you are and how many friends you have with you.