Monday, April 23, 2007

Hide Yo’ Mommas! Big Brotha is Comin’!

Picture the scene: I’m walking down a darkened street late one night. A man jumps from the shadows wielding a large samurai sword. In one deft movement, almost faster than I can see, the blade whips through the air before resting gently across my neck. The man gives me a choice. Describe the perfect movie using no more than two words, or I’ll lose my head. Would I start sweating in fear? Would I uncontrollably soil myself? No, I would not. Because I know the answer. Don’t even have to think about it. The words hover in the air just ripe for the picking. Describe the perfect movie with two words? Shit, I can do that right now.

Truck Turner

I wish I could just reach through my monitor right now and place a copy of the DVD in the hands of each and every one of you. But I can’t. So this will have to do.

But first, a little piece of potentially apocryphal movie trivia: Apparently, when Isaac Hayes was approached by Gordon Parks to score Shaft, Hayes tried to use the opportunity to convince Parks that he should also be cast in the title role. Well, we all know that didn’t happen. But a few years down the line, Hayes got the chance to be the leading man in his own blaxploitation movie.

So why is Truck Turner (or, as I like to call it, “Isaac Hayes IS Truck Turner!”) so awe-inspiringly bad-ass? There are so, so many reasons. Here are just a few:

Isaac Hayes. He might not be the best actor in the world, but the man has presence. He just looks phenomenal, whether he is striding purposefully across a roof wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and a shoulder holster, or coated in sweat as he throws down in a barroom brawl.

Yaphet Kotto chewing the scenery as only he can in his barely-intelligible but utterly compelling growl.

Nichelle Nichols, obliterating every single lingering memory of the ladylike Lt. Uhura with her bold, brassy and foul-mouthed turn as the ruthless and icy madam Dorinda.

It’s subversive. The idea of the Blaxploitation Male Icon hinged on the slick, handsome, indestructible, immaculately-dressed and irresistible-to-women template, as personified by Richard Roundtree in Shaft, Ron O’Neal in Superfly and Fred Williamson in Black Caesar. Truck Turner spins that idea around and presents us with a man who, when we first meet him, is forced to dress for the day in a shirt that his cat has just pissed all over. He is fiercely devoted to his shop-lifting girlfriend, and lives a slovenly life littered with beer cans and junk food. Mack "Truck" Turner is a total slob, and he is still one cool motherfucker, proving that clothes don’t always make the man.

An almost continuous stream of car chases and shootouts, executed with a level of wit and invention that excuse the budgetary constraints, in particular the hospital gunfight and the Pursuit of the Pimpmobile!

The music. Of course! It’s Isaac Hayes doing what he does best. As far as I’m concerned, the music of Truck Turner is just as good as the music from Shaft and, from me, that ain’t no faint praise.

It’s funny. Genuine laugh-out-loud moments, which were a scarcity in most of the more serious and stern revenge-motivated action-oriented blaxploitation movies of the era. Special mention here goes to the sight of cocaine being sprinkled into the coffin at the Pimp Funeral as a sign of respect.

I don’t know what else I can say. I fucking love it. All I can do now is present you with the original trailer which blasts more action, laughs and funk into its brief running time than most full-length action movies. Those guys at AIP sure knew how to market a movie. And if you don’t love what you see in this trailer, then YOU HAVE NO SOUL!

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