Vinegar Syndrome continues to impress with their nice editions of fringe cinema classics like this one. They take these releases as seriously as Criterion takes theirs and hopefully people are starting to notice and associate their brand with quality genre Blu-rays. DOLEMITE is really something else. If you're experience with Blaxploitation is limited to the SHAFTs and SUPERFLYs of the world, then DOLEMITE will be a whole new deal for you. It is certainly a movie that is lacking in the polish and slickness that comes with a studio production (or even an AIP production for that matter). DOLEMITE is a shaggy and sloppy mess of a film, but it has one thing that most other films of the time don't - it has Rudy Ray Moore. Now, if you're not familiar with Moore, he is a pretty remarkable dude. He was a singer, comedian and general storytelling performer extraordinaire. He rose to some prominence after releasing some comedy albums in the early 1970s and soon followed that success with DOLEMITE in film form. He had sort of taken on the person of Dolemite in his albums so the movie is kind of a natural extension of the character (a character that Rudy Ray co-opted for himself after hearing tales of him told by a local L.A. wino).
As for the plot of the movie, it's pretty basic. Dolemite is a super-pimp who has gone up for a stretch of jail time after being set up by his arch nemesis Willie Greene. With a little help, he's able to get himself out on bail and sets out after Greene for revenge. Dolemite is a master fighter and even has a gang of karate-trained gals to back him up. Dolemite is like a low-level superhero. He is know for not only his fighting abilities, but also his cocksmanship. He's also a darned fancy dresser.
What's fun about DOLEMITE as a film is the shoddiness of the production. The fight scenes are awkward, the dialogue is mostly clunky and the editing is unique to say the least. It m makes for an almost surreal cinematic experience. Rudy Ray really carries things along though. He is an very charismatic guy and says the word "motherf*cker" better than any human in the world. When he says the word it's so forceful and powerful, it feels like a percussive, slamming force flying off of him. DOLEMITE is one of those movies where the main character's name gets said so many times that by the end you'll find that it is now inextricably caught in your brain. Dolemite himself has plenty of memorable lines in the movie that you will likely be quoting for days afterward. The theme song is a total earworm too. DOLEMITE is a film that is best watched with a group of people for greater enjoyment. If you've seen Scott Sanders' 2009 film BLACK DYNAMITE, you will certainly notice some influence from DOLEMITE (both with the main character and with the stylistic approach to the filmmaking). DOLEMITE is a fascinating and unforgettable character and because the film was made on such a low budget and with black actors and filmmakers, you really get more of a certain sense of authenticity and purity of vision than you do from higher budget studio movies from the era.
In addition to a good-looking new transfer, Vinegar Syndrome has assembled a few nice supplements for this release.
-"I, Dolemite" (24 mins) this documentary features archival footage of Rudy Ray Moore himself (who passed away in 2008), RRM Biographer Mark Jason Murray,
Murray leads the way in describing a lot of Moore's history and his early times working at the Dolphins of Hollywood Record Store, where he got his start. One thing I noticed about Rudy Ray while watching the interview footage of him was just how articulate he was as a person. The Dolemite character is so "bigger than life" and to be honest, so is Rudy Ray, but he nonetheless came off as a very thoughtful and contemplative gentlemen in this piece.
This doc was produced and edited by filmmaker Elijah Drenner (THAT GUY DICK MILLER, AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE) who does good work so it feels well put together.
- Also included is an Audio commentary from Rudy Ray Moore Biographer Mark Jason Murray. Murray obviously knows a whole lot about Rudy Ray and though some of the information here is repeated from the I, Dolemite doc, there's a whole lot of details about the production, the actors and more to be heard here. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd have DOLEMITE on Blu-ray - so having this track on top of that wherein you can actually learn stuff about Rudy Ray Moore himself (who I never knew all that much about) is a nice bonus.
-"Locations: Then and Now" - a short piece in which we see several of the locations of the film as they are today.
-"Lady Reed Uncut" Featurette.
-The movie also comes with two framing options. One offers the movie in 1.85 to 1 and another special "Boom Mic" option allows you to watch the movie in an open matte format where boom mics and other set edges are sometimes more visible.
Also, watch for more Rudy Ray Moore movies from Vinegar Syndrome in the near future (THE HUMAN TORNADO is already announced)!