One of the odd paradoxes of the human condition is that troubled times seem to produce the best art. In the early 70s, as we moved away from multiple assassinations and the collapse of flower power into the second scandal-ridden Nixon administration, two amazing things came forth in the movie landscape: blaxploitation and kung fu movies. If you shy away from my lumping these two genres in with "best art", you may be at the wrong website.
There have been other parodies of blaxploitation movies, to be sure, like Keenan Ivory Wayans' I'm Gonna Git You Sucka and Undercover Brother, but like another sublime genre parody, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Black Dynamite effectively spoofs its subject by actually making a blaxploitation movie. This may seem a fine distinction, but it makes a difference. Writer/star Michael Jai White is playing "star running back Ferrante Jones" who is playing Black Dynamite, and you can see Jones' consternation when takes obviously go bad and the director doesn't yell "cut", but he goes gamely on. For once, the boom mike cameos aren't mistakes: they're carefully orchestrated. So are some pieces of amazingly bad acting (you can almost hear the director offscreen whispering "More! More of that!").
It's that dedication to re-creating the atmosphere of a rushed B-movie vibe, where the entire crew feels they are actually doing something Serious and Important that adds to the hilarity - everything that made the originals so entertaining and charming. Every main archetype from the genre is present, from a Dolemite manque to a Pam Grier righteous sister (though, sadly, the real Pam Grier tribute wound up on the cutting room foor) to White's absolutely spot-on, tone-perfect amalgam of Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly. The production design is similarly stunning.
White and writer/director Scott Sanders are also savvy enough to know that the classic "war on drug dealers" plot wouldn't support an entire spoof, and wisely wrap it up at the halfway mark; thereafter, the plot gets ever more bizarre and entertaining. A lifelong genre buff like myself couldn't help but sit there with an amazed grin on my face.
What I'm trying to say is, I liked it, and chances are, you might, too.
The menus are spare and lean; no video clips here. You are going to be tempted to mess with your color controls during Black Dynamite, but don't: in an effort to duplicate the dicey film stock of the 70s, the filmmakers chose to use 16mm color reversal film, which produces squashed blacks and makes earth tones run riot. And, it must be admitted, makes the movie look very, very authentic (and likely helped match the stock footage from the era).
The disc begins with trailers for other Sony offerings: Blood & Bone, another Michael Jai White vehicle about pit fighting (a genre which should be ripe for its own parody in a decade or so), Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, and Universal Soldier: Regeneration.
The Audio Commentary track features Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White, and Byron Minns, who shares writing credit with the first two, and plays the Dolemite clone, Bullhorn. It's a chatty affair, very helpful in pointing out the sources for various homages, and rife with on-set stories: this must have been a very fun shoot. This is followed by almost a half-hour of Deleted and Alternate Scenes, whose exclusion tightened up the movie considerably, but sadly is the only place we'll see Black Dynamite's Foxy Brown character, Mahoghany Black (Nicole Ari Parker) and her pistol-concealing afro.
Lighting the Fuse is your making-of doc, taking the movie from its origin (White was inspired by a listen to James Brown's "Superbad" on his iPod), through the production and the process of finding so much appropriate 1972-era costumes and props. There is also a video of the stars' and director's panel discussion after a Comic-Con preview showing.
The disc also allows access to those first three previews that opened the disc, an ad telling you how much you suck by not owning Blu-Ray, and trailers for the Woody Harrelson insane super hero pic Defendor, Michael Jackson's This is It, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, Transylmania, H2: Halloween Two (which is so dark I can't tell what's going on, so I'm just going to pretend it's the same as the original sequel, and ignore it) , Moon, Soul Power, Breaking Bad's third season , and Zombieland. My only complaint is that the trailer to Black Dynamite is not included, which is itself a masterful parody of blaxploitation trailers, and what caused me to seek out this disc. Oh, well, I still have it on my District 9 disc.
Dr. Freex, 2/21/2010