- Directed by D’Urville Martin
- April 26, 1975
- Post updated November 11, 2022 and November 11, 2022
As part of a deal to take on local crime, a pimp is released from prison to take on his nemesis.
I went into Dolemite knowing virtually nothing about it other than the plot in broad strokes and that a well-regarded movie starring Eddie Murphy had been made about the making of this particular film. And you know something? Despite its flaws it is a very good movie. And It starts with a ludicrously bad plot.
Dolomite (Rudy Ray Moore) is in prison, framed by his rival Willie Green (D’Urville Martin), for a crime he did not commit. Queen Bee (Lady Reed) convinces the governor and the warden to pardon Dolomite so he can bring down the man that framed him as well as a group of corrupt officials in the city. During the course of the movie Dolomite also fights to get back his club The Total Experience. Priorities and all…
By and large everyone involved with this film had very little to absolutely no experience in filmmaking. You cannot miss that when watching. Rudy Ray Moore and friends had a vision that they wanted to bring to life but had no knowledge of how to do it and it shows. From what I understand the only one with any real filmmaking experience was the director D’Urville Martin and I read somewhere he was so upset by everyone else’s lack of experience that once filming was done, he bolted.
Normally a movie done by the inexperienced tends to be a bad movie. Real bad in all the wrong ways. The general ineptitude doesn’t create anything good but rather creates something completely unwatchable. Dolemite pulls off a magic act and manages to defy that.
Perhaps because nobody really knew what they were doing, nobody outshined anybody. They were all on an equal footing. The lack of experience hid the lack of experience and it all evened itself out. Somehow this movie overcomes what would otherwise be a weakness and turns it into a strength that has propelled Dolemite into the realm of being a classic of not only blaxploitation comedy but of film.
There is a kind of charm that you can’t deny. This movie has a weird and clunky goofiness that was probably not intended by anyone involved. You just can’t fake what they put up there. This gives it an oddball charm that pulls you in. Rudy Ray Moore was probably going for something a little lighter than most but what ended up on screen probably was not what was exactly envisioned.
Some of the charm comes from the goofs that were left in. The first was when they were showing the frame-up of Dolemite. Dolemite kicks one of the arresting detectives in the chest and that detective falls to the side and into the open car trunk rather than straight back. That was some physics defying kung fu there to be sure. I’m not sure if that was intentionally comedic or just a result of the low budget and inexperience that permeated this production. Regardless it was funny.
Another is towards the end of the film. Dolemite is in a hospital room having been gravely injured. FBI Agent Blakely (Jerry Jones who wrote the screenplay) who has been lurking around and knows why our hero is out despite no real indication he should know is in the room and they are discussing the situation. It is clear that for a moment the actor completely forgets his lines. He draws a complete blank that is very obvious. You can’t miss it yet no one decided to do a second take while filming. And to be honest the moment is truly hilarious. You can’t help but laugh.
And yet those scenes and more work in Dolemite. Honestly none of the goofs or errors matter. This movie is as much a love letter to blaxploitation film as it is a parody of it because of them. The acting is awkward. I don’t think anybody would ever accuse Moore of being a great thespian. His acting has all the passion and complexity of someone being forced to read a book out loud. Then again that could be said for a majority of the cast. They all give their best effort. That is clear but they had no or very little acting ability.
Despite its flaws Dolemite has a style all its own. The story is entertaining and ridiculously over-the-top. And weird. And that is a good thing. We need more weirdness like this. Movies would be better for it. Treat yourself and watch this movie. It will make its way into my Blu-ray player again. That is a guarantee.