Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore), the baddest pimp in town, has just been released from prison, ready to take revenge on notorious gangster Willie Green (D'Urville Martin), who set him up on a phony drug charge and stole his club, The Total Experience.
With the help of his friend Queen Bee (Lady Reed) and their band of Kung Fu fighting vixens, Dolemite takes on every "rat soup eatin' motherf#%*er" in South Central.
Acclaimed comedian Rudy Ray Moore's outrageously funny and action packed blaxploitation classic, makes its worldwide blu-ray debut, fully restored in 2k from a recently discovered 35mm negative and loaded with extras, including a new making-of documentary by Elijah Drenner and a historical commentary track from Moore's biographer Mark Murray, featuring interviews with Moore as well as co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, John Kerry, cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg and more!
“I want him out of here in 24 hours. And 23 of ‘em are already gone.”
‘Dolemite’ is a 1975 blaxploitation comedy from first time director D’Urville Martin that forever changed independent black cinema and launched the career of lowly road comedian Rudy Ray Moore into the stratosphere. Starring Rudy Moore in the title role, ‘Dolemite’ originated as a salacious pimp in his standup routines and rap toasts. After releasing two successful comedy albums using the character, Moore set his sights on a Dolemite movie. Largely self-financed and self-distributed, ‘Dolemite’ was an overnight success that quickly faded into obscurity until the VHS revolution some years later. ‘Dolemite’ surely isn’t a well made movie, but what doesn’t work is saved by Moore’s unflinching bravado as the baddest pimp in town!
The film opens on Dolemite serving 20 years in jail after arch rival Willie Green (D’Urville Martin) set him up on drug charges. Dolemite’s madam Queen Bee (Lady Reed) is trying to bargain for his release. With rising crime rates in her neighborhood she believes Dolemite can find the drug peddlers and prove his innocence. The warden agrees. Dolemite leans in, “What’s the game, warden, and whose team am I on?” When released Dolemite struts out of prison to a limo filled with ladies on his payroll who greet him with a change of clothes. Straight out of his prison garb and into a pimp suit! As quickly as he got dressed outside the limo the girls undress him inside the limo. After dispatching a gang of hitmen the opening credits roll for ‘Dolemite’. Arthur Wright’s funky music under the credits is the perfect compliment to Moore’s rhyming narration. The DTS Mono track is handling everything really well. Gunfire, Dolemite’s salacious dialogue, and the music all sound incredibly clear and well balanced. I put the remote down and enjoy this cult classic with a smile on my face!
Dolemite arrives home to his blue shag carpeted den with mirrored walls and lingerie-clad employees. While in the slammer Dolemite’s night club went under and was sold to Willie Green. “When you were doing your time, I put your girls through karate school.” Queen Bee takes this movie up 10 levels with a single line! Forced into selling their bodies to pay off Willie Green, Queen Bee got the girls trained in karate after the “Johns” weren’t paying their bills on time. Since his release crooked cops and an FBI agent have been tailing Dolemite at every turn. In one altercation the cops frame Dolemite with planted dope. We get a classic Dolemite response; “Man move over and let me pass before I have to be pullin’ these hush puppies out yo motherf*&$in’ ass.” A few punches and kicks put the cops on the pavement.
Moore’s inclusion of the karate element was a result of the popular “Shaw Brothers” kung fu films shown in grindhouses at the time. Because the films showed a minority exacting vengeance these movies resonated heavily with African Americans fighting for their civil rights. Films produced and marketed to the black audience with these themes became known as “blaxploitation”. I’d like to see ‘Dolemite’ use the lady kung fu killers more in the film. I can see Moore’s motivation to keep the fighting focused on the hero, but I think the film would’ve had more impact if the ladies were featured more.
Dolemite seeks out information from his associates. Sporting a gold felt hat with matching gold vest, Dolemite meets with “Creeper the Hamburger Pimp” in his dilapidated apartment. It’s clear that Dolemite kept the neighborhood in balance and since his incarceration Willie Green has made life difficult everyone including addicts like Creeper. Before he can tell Dolemite who killed his nephew, two dudes bust in and start shooting. Dolemite whips their asses with some of the sloppiest karate I’ve ever seen!
Queen Bee takes Dolemite to the karate studio to show him the girls in action. There is nothing like seeing a pimp in a karate studio. I push “pause” on my remote to soak it all in. “And I am gonna let them know that Dolemite is back on the scene. I’m gonna let them know that Dolemite is my name and f&^%ing up motherf&^%ers is my game.” Dolemite wants to host a party for all his associates and hope to draw in Willie’s crew in for a takeover. From here Dolemite will have to deal with more crooked cops, the FBI, and “The Big Man” who is twisting the screws hoping to see Dolemite dead.
He wasn’t SuperFly or The Mack, but Dolemite was believable. In 1975 you could see him strutting into a club or up to the counter at FatBurger. The film has that rough look you associate with real people making a home movie down the street. Combine this homebrew sensibility with sets and locations that look like Anytown, USA and you’ve got audiences hooked into an experience that isn’t covered in Hollywood gloss. Biographer Mark Murray puts it best by saying: “It’s a fun movie. It’s very entertaining. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be here some 40 years later talking about it.”
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Dolemite’ arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Vinegar Syndrome. The film is pressed onto a BD50 disc housed in a clear keepcase with a reversible artwork sleeve and DVD copy of the film. Both discs are Region Free and contain identical Special Features. The disc opens to the Vinegar Syndrome logo followed by an Exploitation.tv promo before arriving at the Main Menu. When you hear the funk you know you’ve made it!
The Blu-ray presentation is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Restored with a 2k scan from an original film negative ‘Dolemite’ has never looked better! This is the first time the 1.85:1 version has been released on home video. The film is full of rich, vibrant colors that just pop with this transfer. Though some print damage is apparent in places, these instances are brief and do not detract from the film’s overall visual presentation. Vinegar Syndrome offers up a brilliant transfer with consistent film-grain and a warm texture throughout the feature.
The DTS-HD Mono audio track on ‘Dolemite’ is quite impressive! Even with dialogue, effects, and music the mono track sounds balanced and clean. There is one instance of delayed synchronization during the night club scene and a few pops are heard during scene transitions that were edited poorly. Noticeable yes, but neither remove you from the film a great degree.
I, Dolemite (HD 24:01) (DD 2.0) This making-of featurette uses new interviews with cast and crew along with archival footage to detail Rudy Ray Moore’s career from selling records to blaxploitation icon.
Lady Reed Uncut (HD 23:14) (DD 2.0) Archival video of Lady Reed recalling her career in show business. Her remarks are totally off-the-cuff but filled with some great stories about Rudy Ray Moore and the lead up to Dolemite.
Dolemite Locations Then and Now (HD1:47) (DD 2.0) Scenes from the film intercut with footage of the location today.
Audio Commentary: Rudy Ray Moore biographer Mark Jason Murray provides an exhaustive, but dry commentary. Murray supplies audio from phone interviews with cast members throughout the commentary for this ‘Dolemite’ history lesson.
Alternate Full Frame Boom Mic Version: This 1.33:1 aspect ratio cut is lovingly regarded as the “boom mic” cut of the film due to the boom microphones protruding the frame. When cinematographer Nicholas Sternberg was shooting the film he wasn’t aware of the difference between projection and photography. This mistake added both a kitsch factor to the film as well as cementing the film’s comedic element. This Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome is the first time the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio has been seen on home video.
Dolemite - Theatrical Trailer (2:56)
The Human Tornado - Theatrical Trailer (2:45)
‘Dolemite’ is a fast paced raw comedy with outrageous characters and hilarious dialogue that you will never forget. In the words of the late Rudy Ray Moore, “I’d rather be hated for what i am than be loved for what i am not. Thank you for letting me be myself.” As a fan of obscure and forgotten films I often see truly awful movies get a Blu-ray release and wonder why something like ‘Dolemite’ never saw a respectable HD presentation. It’s wonderful to finally see it getting the restoration treatment it deserves! The transfer is absolutely gorgeous, the sound is remarkable, and the bevy of special features make for an amazing package. Vinegar Syndrome has put together the quintessential ‘Dolemite’ Blu-ray. Highly recommended.