I am still waiting to see if I can get this awesome looking movie on DVD. I of course own the original Dolemite (on VHS!) and would really like to know how things turn out for that overweight foul mouthed karate master pimp.
Blaxploitation films really got their start in the early '70s as it dawned on young, underfunded black directors that they could make a decent profit by using (a) underpaid actors of questionable talent; (b) a script that was thrown together in five minutes during a bathroom break; (c) a total lack of special effects or set design; (d) a funky score using a liberal dose of bongo drums and scratchy guitar riffs; and (e) chicks who weren't very hot but wouldn't mind taking their shirts off. Thus, we had films like Shaft (which was actually the "Citizen Kane" of blaxploitation films), Superfly, Dolemite, Foxy Brown, Coffy, Cleopatra Jones, Black Caesar, and Blackula. With a budget of about $5,000 (filmed on the streets without permits from the city, and using "actors" who just had to show up with pimpy clothes, and clearly not very good editing equipment), these films could gross $30,000 and look great on an indie studio's balance sheet. Profit!
These films were said to be about empowerment--have a black hero save the day! Even if he is (usually in these films) a pimp, hustler, or hard core gangster (though Blackula was a vampire, so maybe that wasn't such a bad image for young black street youths to aspire to). And the white folks? It doesn't matter if the action takes place in L.A., NYC, or Ann Arbor--every single white person is slightly more racist than Hitler. Except the white chick who sleeps with the black hero, and even she's only doing it because she heard that black guys are well endowed--she'll just end up trying to sell him out, but she didn't count on Black Caesar outwitting her! (Usually she gets beaten up by the black heroine, who has street smarts and can win catfights. Oh, and if you're a guy who gets turned on by catfights? These catfights won't do anything for you. They're kind of nasty.)
Of course, we live in a glorious new era where Hollywood is all enlightened and they don't need to rely on low budget blaxploitation films to get screen time for black actors. Now we have the Wayans Brothers. Errr....maybe that's not progress....