The Human Tornado

The Human Tornado makes its predecessor, Dolemite, look like an instructional video on how to knit socks. Any slight semblance of reality the first film failed to shatter has been blown to pieces by The Human Tornado, in the same way, that Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) himself can cause a car to explode by shooting it with a shotgun from far away. Yes, this is the kind of movie where cars can explode if looked at the wrong way.

Fueled by the first movie’s financial success, this film is cockier, sillier and even more gleefully disobedient than before. It captures the same energy of a toddler who finds great satisfaction in running through a crowded area in his underwear. This new attitude is made abundantly obvious by Dolemite’s updated approach to martial arts if it can be called that. In the first film, his kung fu simply looked incompetent, like someone miming Bruce Lee from memory to scare off a mugger. In this film, his fighting stance includes jerking his neck back and forth–think of a startled flamingo–a lot of swift arm contractions and spouting copious amounts of gibberish. In fact, he looks less like a fighter and more like Steve Martin having a seizure during the King Tut routine.

“…Dolemite dodges bullets, delivers a few himself and escapes the mansion by diving off the balcony.”

But a film can’t be all fighting. Even Dolemite’s fists of foolery must sometimes rest. The story kicks off when a couple of goofy, blatantly racist, small-town cops decide to raid a party at a mansion, simply because it’s a slow day and most of the party-goers are black. As he’s knocking down doors, instilling the fear of God, Sheriff Beatty (J.B. Baron) comes across something he was not expecting. He finds his wife in bed with none other than Dolemite. Considering the sheriff’s status as a married man and a card-carrying bigot, this discovery is most troubling. What makes it worse is that his wife immediately sells out Dolemite by claiming she was being raped. Wearing nothing but a baby blue paperboy hat, Dolemite dodges bullets, delivers a few himself and escapes the mansion by diving off the balcony. This results in him rolling down a hill in the buff for quite some time. And in this moment, the potential of cinema that has long been hinted at is finally revealed.

“…kind of movie where cars can explode if looked at the wrong way…”

Fearing for his life, Dolemite skips town with a small crew, which includes a young Ernie Hudson in a turtleneck. From here, the story becomes nebulous and purely an excuse for a diversity of shenanigans to take place. These include plenty of opportunities for Dolemite to deliver some of his trademark insults (my favorite this time around has to be, “that rat soup eatin’ m**********r”). Dolemite’s also picked up a few new tricks, which includes a super jump and the power of disguise. The latter leads to the seduction of a mobster’s wife, which kicks off a fantasy sequence that would make David Lynch scratch his head. Lest the film get too highbrow at this point, the sequence concludes with a visual gag of Dolemite pleasing the mobster’s wife so vigorously that the entire house begins to collapse under the pressure (at one point, electrical wires are sparking on Dolemite’s back).

The Human Tornado is basically a variety show. Spliced into the plot are stand-up routines, belly dancers, fire swallowers and musicians. This format fits the Dolemite character perfectly, as it keeps the film within the appropriate context: anything goes for entertainment. As a matter of fact, there’s a regard for the audience that isn’t apparent in most movies, which seem to exist for their own self-worth and invite others to admire them from afar. When Rudy Ray Moore is rolling down a hill naked, he’s not doing it for himself.  

The Human Tornado (1976) Directed by Cliff Roquemore. Written by Jerry Jones, based on a character by Rudy Ray Moore. Starring Rudy Ray Moore, Lady Reed, Jimmy Lynch, Glorya de Lani, Howard Jackson, Java, J.B. Baron, James Cromartie, Jerry Jones, Ed Montgomery, Herb Graham, Ernie Hudson.

7 out of 10

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