Tag Archives: Blaxploitation

Movie Wisdom – Yaphet Kotto Edition

29 Nov

Yaphet Kotto is an actor in several movies that I like. Some of them are Westerns. Some of them are Action. Some of them are from the Blaxploitation genre. Through them all, Yaphet Kotto always makes an impression.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to see what wisdom we can find from the movies of Yaphet Kotto.yaphet-kotto

From 4 for Texas

A secret whispered in a coffee house is as confidential as a headline in a newspaper.

A man who’d try to con you when he has a gun held on him can’t be all bad.

You really need only a little patience and self-discipline.

From 5 Card Stud

A man don’t work, he ain’t respectable.

The funeral is for the living.

From Live and Let Die

Names is for tombstones.

From Friday Foster

You treat a person like a person.

From Brubaker

You can’t reform the system if you’re not in it.

From The Star Chamber

It turns out that right and wrong count.

From The Running Man

Don’t touch that dial!

 

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Putting the Amp Back into Vampire

24 Feb

Last year, I saw Ozzy Osbourne in concert, and, like everything about the Ozzman, the show started out strangely. As the lights went down, movie scenes were shown on a giant screen with one caveat, Ozzy was superimposed into the scenes. One had him as a blue person from Avatar. As Ozzy checked out his new body, his arms and legs were not the only giant blue appendages showing. He was also placed in a scene with the Twilight girl. As she gazed into the distance, Ozzy slipped up behind her and said, “Vampires are (a slang term for female genitalia), I am the Prince of Darkness!” And with that, Ozzy hit the stage.

Now, Ozzy Osbourne is not a great philosopher by any means, but he is correct when he states at vampires are (a slang term for female genitalia). Things such as True Twilight Blood have taken one of the great characters of folklore/literature/movies and turned him into a dream boat for teenage girls in one incarnation and one member of a creature ensemble dropped into a southern gothic tale in another. How can vampires be reduced to such a status? Well, I am here to fix this and remind people of what a vampire is really meant to be.

The following is a list of real vampires who would not be caught “living dead” in a series of books with a girl named Sookie or in a series of movies that attracts squealing girls.

Eleonore von Schwarzenberg – Everyone should have the Smithsonian Channel because it has cool documentaries like The Vampire Princess.

Bram Stoker's Inspiration?

An Austrian princess, Eleonore gained the suspicions of her people as she battled cancer. Her physical appearance and her attempts to gain better health seemed strange to the people of the early 18th Century. Rumors fed into local folklore, and soon people began whispering that she was a vampire. Upon her death, steps were taken to make sure she would not awake. Some scholars believe her story was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s writings and use the deleted opening of Dracula as the proof. It seems that the original beginning had a vampire attack at the tomb of an Austrian princess.

Nosferatu– What would happen if this guy showed up at Sookie’s house?

Sookie! Sookie! Where's my cookie?

Ok, I have to admit that I have never seen this classic silent movie, but it is high on my list of things to do. After all, it introduces the concept that vampires can be killed by sunlight. And, the director thought Max Schreck, who played Nosferatu, was so ugly that all he needed was some pointy ears and false teeth. That’s a little more realistic that what is put out there today.

Bela Lugosi– The quintessential vampire for many people, Lugosi actually played Dracula on Broadway before he ever played the role on film.

The Curse of Dracula

On playing Dracula, Bela Lugosi once said, “It’s a living, but it’s also a curse. Dracula’s curse.” Perhaps no actor has been associated with a character like Lugosi was associated with Dracula. He played the character with style and a hypnotic personality. He didn’t have fangs because he didn’t need them. Lugosi had aspects that were more deadly. Dracula, one of Lugosi’s first films, was released in 1931, and he seemed stuck playing in horror movies from that point on. In fact, he returned to the role in an attempt to make fun of it when he appeared in 1948s Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Blacula– Two genres come together as Blaxploitation meets horror. William Marshall plays an ancient African prince who is turned into a vampire by Dracula.

I'm Gonna Catch You

With a soundtrack featuring the Hues Corporation, the movie finds the vampire awakened in Los Angeles where he finds his reincarnated wife. In effect, he is played as a sympathetic figure who was a victim of the more famous Dracula. As a fan of Blaxploitation films, I have several songs from the soundtrack on my iPod and know that Blacula better be happy that he did not run into Pam Grier.

Lily Munster– Vampires are supposed to have a sex appeal that attracts their victims. That’s why we have the pop culture vampire problem of today. For my money, the sexiest vampire of all time appears in a sit-com.

Look into my eyes.

Yvonne De Carlo played Lily as a housewife trying to get through the zaniness of her husband and father. However, she also had a bit of spice because De Carlo simply couldn’t help it. Those who know her only for The Munsters have missed out on one of the sexiest and most beautiful actresses of all time. I must admit that the show never made sense to me because I never understood why she was married to Herman. Lily could have sunk her teeth into any man. (Sidenote, the Munster house sits on Wisteria Lane and is not far from the Bates Motel.)

Gary Oldman – Apparently, this is coming full circle. The list started with the princess that inspired Bram Stoker and ends with an iconic portrayal of Bram Stoker’s creation. Obviously, producers wanted everyone to know that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was based on the original work. Why else would they put Stoker’s name in the title? But, I am not honoring Stoker here. I am honoring Gary Oldman.

Nice Shades

I mean, how cool is that? Blue-tinted sunglasses. Top hat. Stick pin. He could be a ZZ Top song. But, the best part about Oldman’s version is his choice of damsels to quench his thirst. Winona Ryder is my favorite actress of all time. I’ve had a crush on her since Beetlejuice, and I am serious when I say that she can steal from me anytime. On top of having Winona hanging around, Dracula gets to have sex on a park bench with the hot redhead.

Look, I don’t know anything about Team Blonde Vampire or any of these other reincarnations, but I know one thing for sure. If I ever head to that little Louisiana town in search of Sookie, then this is the team I am taking with me.

Brains, Brawn and Beauty

5 Feb

I was reading an article about the disappointing box office performance of Haywire, a movie that I can’t explain very well because I haven’t seen it. But, the previews looked cool as a secret agent-type is double-crossed by her organization, and she has to fight her way to the top. This is typical fare for the genre, but critics gave good reviews and felt that the movie would be a hit. Apparently it wasn’t, and the article looked into the reasons why. Most felt that it was due to the fact that it was the first movie for the female lead. Perhaps they are correct, but it immediately reminded me of a conversation with some guys I eat lunch with every week . When I said that Haywire looked cool, the general reply was that it was stupid because they put a woman in a man’s role. It wouldn’t be realistic. As if anything Sylvester Stallone did was realistic.

That conversation and article made me start thinking. Do men, who are the target audience for action movies, not want to see a woman in a strong lead role? Do they want them to be eye candy as the bullets fly? Surely not. Some of the best characters have been women who could kiss a man and kick his ass just as well. I decided to list some of my favorites, which I believe handle any situation with brains, brawn and beauty.

Pam Grier as Coffy –

70s Heaven

Actually, I could pick any character played by the Queen of Blaxploitation. Friday Foster. Foxy Brown. Sheba, Baby. She was the baddest woman around. As Coffy, she is a nurse whose sister becomes addicted to heroin. For revenge, Grier goes undercover as a prostitute for King George. Along the way, she kills mobsters, drug dealers and pimps. However, she shows her true talents while fighting one of George’s women. When the woman grabs Coffy’s hair, she finds that it is filled with razor blades.

Wonder Woman as herself –

Robin, you're next.

I am not talking about the Linda Carter version. This is a tribute to the Wonder Woman from Superfriends. She’s like a patriotic dominatrix with the boots, the bustier, the metal arm bands and the rope. But, it’s not just any rope. It makes the person tied up with it tell the complete truth. Who couldn’t use a bondage instrument like that? Somehow, I got the feeling that Superman, Batman and all the rest were afraid of her. Robin (Holy Safe Word, Batman!) definitely was.

Angie Dickinson as Pepper Anderson –

Anyone named Pepper has to be hot and spicy.

I must admit that I barely remember Police Woman, but my dad always had a thing for Angie Dickinson. So, in honor of him, I am placing her on the list as Sgt. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson. She has the looks, the gun and, obviously, the brains. However, Dickinson had all of this before she ever played a cop.

Jillian Michaels as, well, Jillian Michaels –

One way or another, I will make you cry.

If I met Jillian Michaels I wouldn’t know whether shake her hand or beg her not to put me on a treadmill. She gained fame by helping people get physically healthy but affecting their emotional health at the same time. Obviously, she is a driven woman who resculpted her body and believes everyone can do the same. Robin, I don’t know what the safe word with Jillian is, but I hope it’s not pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

Deidre Hall and Judy Strangis as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl –

Look, It's Wonder Woman and that dumb jet that she thinks is invisible.

From the minds of Sid and Marty Krofft, the superhero pair fought the likes of Glitter Rock and the Empress of Evil while wearing brightly colored spandex. They operated from Electrabase and drove the Electracar. The whole point was to make fun of Batman and Robin, which wasn’t difficult in those days. All I know is that the little people in Dr. Shrinker and the people in The Land of the Lost could have definitely used the services of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.

Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura –

Not red skirt! Red alert!

Most female characters on the original Star Trek were there to walk around in short skirts and go-go boots. Nichols could do that as well as any of them, but she also played a vital role as a member of the deck crew. Kirk could not have pulled off many of his famous bluffs without Uhura as his communications officer. She was also one half of television’s first interracial kiss, even though the writers tempered it by having an alien force it upon her and the captain.

Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing –

Well J.R., it looks like you got exactly what you deserved.

Sue Ellen is not an action oriented character like the others, but she is tough nonetheless. Anyone who can stand toe-to-toe with J.R. Ewing may be the toughest person on the list. Gray brought grace and strength to a character who faced weekly travails caused by her ruthless husband. She didn’t shoot J.R., but it was probably because sister beat her to the trigger.

Sandahl Bergman as Valeria –

I'll be ok as long as they don't shoot any snake arrows.

Weilding a sword and her sexiness, Valeria fought alongside Conan the Barbarian and took his heart in the process. After being killed by a poisonous snake arrow, she continued to haunt Conan’s dreams and inspired him to decapitate James Earl Jones and destroy a cult that convinced people to wear robes, have orgies and jump to their deaths. Conan the Destroyer is a far worse movie than Conan the Barbarian, and the reason is obvious. Bergman wasn’t in it. Arnold may have become the star, but Sandahl was a better warrior.

Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium –

She can strip while balancing feathers on her head and handling an obvious phalanx symbol.

From Dusk Till Dawn finds criminals played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino heading to a Mexico tavern to meet Cheech and discuss whatever happened to Chong. Instead of running into Cheech, the pair is mesmerized by the dancing of Santanico. And, what puts her on this list? She is a stripper that moonlights as the queen of the vampire colony that they have stumbled into. With Hayek putting a new definition on vamp, this is the coolest vampire movie ever.

Princess Ariel as herself –

Thundarr, you make my hands glow.

“Demon Dogs! I’ve screwed myself again!” How many times did Thundarr the Barbarian say that? It’s a good thing he had Princess Ariel around because her sorcery got him out of many a jam. Raven hair. Ruby lips. Sparks fly from her fingertips. She could have been a song by The Eagles. Instead, she spent her days being the smart member of a trio trying to make their way through a destroyed Earth. “Lords of Light! I must be an idiot for not hooking up with you!” Thundarr said that a lot too.

There you have it. My list of female characters who have brains, brawn and beauty. Any man who doesn’t like them is plain scared.

What is the Last Song You Would Want to Hear?

8 Nov

I was driving down the interstate as my girlfriend scanned through radio stations. She loves country music, and I tolerate it. I have often theorized that my distaste for country music comes from growing up near the capital of the genre. Whatever the case, I needed to break the scanning pattern, so I asked, “What is your all time favorite song?” She really couldn’t say and asked me the same question. Typically, I couldn’t say either. However, it reminded me of something I did in high school. I would think to myself, “Self, if you were dying what’s the last song you would want to hear?” Morbid I guess, but sometimes teenagers have morbid thoughts. I can’t remember what songs I chose then, but I have some ideas of what I would choose now. In no particular order they are:

1. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan – First, it’s a great song. Second, it plays over one of the great dying scenes in cinema history. In “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid”, Slim Pickens has been gut shot. As he holds his stomach, he and his wife, played by Katy Jurado, look into each other’s eyes for the last time. She is crying, and he is in shock. This is one of my favorite movies because Sam Peckinpah, the director, shows the destruction of the frontier by killing western character actors throughout the film.

2. “Hotel California” by The Eagles – In junior high, I had one of those tapes that showed devil worshipping in popular music. Sometimes it played songs backwards to show secret messages. “Hotel California” was played forwards because it was obviously the work of Satan.  I was fascinated and fell in love with the song. It was later that I realized the devil worshipping claim was a result of religious ignorance. Despite my disappointment that the devil was not at the hotel, I can still see the story in my mind when it plays.

3. “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack – This soul classic comes from the era of Blaxploitation films. The movies are great, but the music is better. I have always loved 70s soul, and this is one of the best. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong place, wrong time and wrong skin color. Maybe I will be reincarnated as a 70s pimp.

4. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harem – This is another song that I can envision in my mind as it plays. I can’t describe it. I can only quote it.

She said there is no reason.

And the truth is plain to see

That I wandered through my playing cards,

And would not let her be

One of sixteen vestal virgins

Who were leaving for the coast.

And although my eyes were open,

They might just as well been closed.

How psychedelic is that?

5. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston – This is a story of lost love and the memories that follow. It brings to the surface the great regrets of my life. I, like numerous others, allowed a woman to walk away and have looked upon it as a mistake. When I hear this song I always substitute her name for Marianne.

6. “In My Life” by Jose Feliciano – I know. This is a Beatles song, and everybody thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t care. Jose Feliciano did it better. His voice and singing style brings the belief that it is coming from his soul. In fact, I like just about everything he’s ever done.

7. “Early Morning Rain” by Elvis Presley – Written by Gordon Lightfoot, this is one of Elvis’ least known songs. It was featured on the “Aloha from Hawaii” broadcast and has been lost in the rest of that performance. I have been fascinated by Elvis since my parents took me to a concert. I was only 7 and only remember pieces. However, we had front row seats and still recall his presence. I’ve been to Graceland numerous times and read the two-part biography by Peter Guralnick. There has to be an Elvis tune on this list, and I choose this one.

8. “Way Down Under” from the “White Lightning” soundtrack – Burt Reynolds was in his prime as a B-movie southern redneck, and his career declined when he began making more “refined” movies. This movie is one of his best, but it’s the song that struck me the most. Played over the funeral procession of the sheriff, the lyrics are great.

At the backdoor of Hell

Is an old rusty bell.

And it rings with the sound of thunder.

Way down under.

9. “Numb/Encore” by Linkin Park and Jay-Z – The only thing I can say is that this is one of the coolest songs ever. The mixture of artists makes an already great song even better. If you are going to go out, then you might as well go out in style.

So, there is my list in November 2011. It has to be completely different from my 80s list and is probably different from my future list.

I realize that very few people have read this blog so far. But, if you read this post and find it interesting, then I would be interested in seeing your list.