Friday, July 05, 2013

Watch This and Grab the World by the Asshole

A few months ago I had received some movies from a guy who downloaded the files on a drive for me. There was one title I didn't recognize. After I looked it up I learned it was a 1975 Blaxsploitation movie about a pimp who drives a custom-paint jobbed orange Rolls Royce, and that copies of the movie on home video are virtually non-existent (a local video store has an old bootleg VHS, and an inscription that says, "Samuel L. Jackson's favorite Blaxsploitation movie!").

I hesitated watching the movie because Blu-ray and a city that shows and cares about movies makes it hard for me to watch low-res shoddy transfers, if I can help it (often I can't, i.e. Warhol's films). Thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse there was a screening of The Candy Tangerine Man (1975, Matt Cimber) projected in 35mm.

Style is what this movie has going for it.

The genre is Blaxploitation Crime. Blaxploitation isn't really a genre because, like Film Noir, it's more of a feeling, an attitude, and hopefully, acknowledged to be historic. I date Noir from '41-'58. I think Blaxploitation is probably somewhere around the 70s.

I haven't done adequate critical work to call myself knowledgeable about Blaxploitation movies. I grew up watching Dolemite, but that's about it. I do like a movie called Emma Mae (1976, Jamaa Fanaka) that I saw fairly recently. That was some of the best Blaxploitation because of the way that it used real locations and non-professionally trained actors to evoke a vérité Compton.

But The Candy Tangerine Man doesn't transcend any of its low budget limitations in any significant way. Style does go a long way though. The star of the film is John Daniels, who plays The Baron. The Baron is a pimp, but in this film he's glorified and heroic.

Something about the score really stood out. It's so slow. It creates a constant sense of foreboding because of its menacing slow nature, but this also compliments The Baron--he's slow and menacing. The Baron is an anomaly in this film because every other character whines in obnoxious high registers except him. And everyone else are two-dimensional stereotypes but him.

This milieu is so rich. The Candy Tangerine Man doesn't come anywhere near having the verisimilitude of Iceberg Slim's masterpiece 1967 novel "Mama Black Widow," but it does cover the same turf (procuring and prostituting as run by Black people in a metropolitan US city). There is a scene where a rival pimp challenges The Baron: "I ain't into the slave trade," which seems like a pretty hefty accusation, but The Baron (and the movie) let this comment slide.

The big twist in this movie is that The Baron has a beautiful wife, child and home in the suburbs that he visits by day, and who are unaware of his alter ego's profession. So if one were to look at the morals (I'm not gonna dare attempt to say racial politics) this movie upholds, it is clear that it sees the pimp as industrious and prestigious rather than exploitative or immoral. And why not? I like seeing movies from alternate viewpoints, and the rare movies where crime does pay are always  fun.


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