In the ancient halls of film protagonists, Dolemite stands alone. He’s a full-time pimp, part-time poet and a black belt in the Elvis school of karate. But to truly understand Dolemite, you need only to watch the first 15 minutes of his movie, aptly titled Dolemite, because no other title could do his story justice. He gets out of jail and is greeted by the “Dolemite Girls,” who bring him a baby blue suit to change into. He takes an absurd amount time to strip off his jail-provided suit and put on his new one right in front of the guards. He finally throws the old suit at a guard and says, “take these cheap m***********s and wipe your ass with them.” Then, as soon as he gets in his Cadillac and rides away, he tears off the suit he just so meticulously put on to be with his many adoring women.
Moments such as these are what make Dolemite a great time, and a jewel of the Blaxploitation genre, quite unlike the painfully dull Blackenstein. The story might have the narrative depth of a nutrition label and sock puppets have delivered more believable performances than those of the main cast, but this is part of the appeal—the contagious, flamboyant rejection of cinematic standards. Like so much of the output of the late-sixties and early to mid-seventies, it feels like a giant middle finger—not a rebuke of anything specific, but of all things.
“…Dolemite stands alone. He’s a full-time pimp, part-time poet and a black belt in the Elvis school of karate.”
While the story itself is hardly the main attraction, I suppose it bears mentioning. Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) is let out of jail for a specific purpose. His side of town has been taken over by big-time drug dealer, Willie Green (D’Urville Martin, also the director), who has turned the area into a miniature war zone. The local authorities are having trouble policing the area, so someone decides to unleash the great and powerful Dolemite, in the hopes that he may restore balance to the streets. This plan is more than inspired, for not only is “f*****’ up m***********s” Dolemite’s game, but every one of his prostitutes has been trained in Kung-Fu.
A large part of the film’s entertainment value can be attributed to its producer and star, Rudy Ray Moore. Moore was a comedian who originally came up with the character of Dolemite for his act, but, in spite of this, he never plays the character as a goof. Dolemite truly believes that he’s an invincible, badass philosopher king, and this unshakable confidence is the better joke. Even the defiant, fully enunciated way he hurls expletives is hilarious. Perhaps, the best example of this, and possibly Dolemite’s best piece of advice, is, “[I]f you see a ghost, cut the m**********r.” That’s something to take with you.
Not every movie needs to move you or make you reconsider everything you once thought was true. There can be movies that feature a superpimp who mows down enemies without aiming, knocks peoples’ lights out without making physical contact and, in his downtime, recites epic poems to adoring crowds—and all while wearing an outfit that’s a mix between Al Capone, a ventriloquist dummy, and a newborn baby. Even with its amateurish presentation and off-kilter action, Dolemite is far more fun than a good many of the high-stakes, high-budget films that the big studios roll out every month or so. Personality goes a long way.
Dolemite (1975) Directed by D’Urville Martin. Written by Jerry Jones. Starring Rudy Ray Moore, D’Urville Martin, Jerry Jones, Lady Reed, Hy Pyke, Vainus Rackstraw, Wesley Gale, John Kerry, Cardella Di Milo.
8 out of 10