The second and least of the Dolemite trilogy makes its way to Blu this month.
Moore’s far more ridiculous, far less urban sequel to the L.A. ghetto based Dolemite, the Human Tornado brings in a new director (Cliff Roquemore), pal Jimmy Lynch (who’d hang in there throughout the remainder of Moore’s film career) and an up and coming Ernie Hudson, but still falls flat on its face by comparison with either its no budget predecessor or it’s low rent successor. Whatever its merits in isolation, the fact remains: if you’re going to pass on one of the Dolemite trilogy, this is the one to skip.
With a bigger budget feel, a ridiculous misappropriation of the contemporaneous urban kung fu craze, a whole lot more comedy and a lot less neighborhood shenanigans and “doing the dozens”, this is Moore’s attempt to make a legitimate, mainstream blaxploitation film…something he was clearly not suited for or capable of doing.
Despite kicking off with another Moore stage show (complete with full soul combo and a female contortionist!), this one goes into weird-for-Moore territory right off the bat, with his pulling a benefit for a boys home at a rich man’s estate (with a side of gigolo action from a paying white female).
When the presence of the numerous black attendees is noticed by a pair of hillbilly cracker types (because rich folks and hicks always hang together, right?), the local sheriff (who looks a fuck of a lot like Kenny Rogers!) busts in and sets the overweight, totally naked Dolemite on the lam.
After a fairly unexciting police chase which winds up with our heroes blowing up their own getaway car and hitching a ride back to L.A. with a mincing queen, Dolemite and friends wind up trying to save Queen Bee’s club from the mob, who’ve decided they want in on the profits.
Seriously, that’s the entire plot.
The karate…or what passes for it, is presented undercranked throughout, there’s a lot more ersatz “action” (a shotgun toting Moore more or less fills the first half hour) and there are a LOT more TV sitcom-style goofy sound effects to underscore the jokes and goofy situations.
Moore still makes sure to include a few stage show inserts periodically throughout the running time and has just as much if not more sex than last time around, but the film is ultimately a VERY different animal from the more likeable, low rent auteurism of Dolemite or Petey Wheatstraw.
In the end, despite its unjustified reputation in recent years, The Human Tornado is little more than a half-assed slapstick variant of, say, Slaughter by way of Black Belt Jones. That noted, the damning truth is that the film fails miserably at every element that makes that sort of blaxploiter work in the first place, while losing the very underground oddness of the sort of straight outta the ghetto picture the others in its trilogy, alongside the likes of Space is the Place, Abar Black Superman, the film in release as “Super Soul Brother” (whose original title was a bit more on the nose) or the Warhawk Tanzania films represent.
Look, you can’t blame Roquemore and company for trying to elevate Moore out of the low rent ghetto he both occupies and represents, but no one in good conscience can honestly claim that the operation was a success.
Xenon’s DVD runs 1:36:24, with the same location tour with Rudy Ray Moore as seen on Dolemite. Their picture looks fine for a standard def transfer of a film of its vintage, with only a slightly dark hue to the color palette and light damage at reel changes to its deficit.
Vinegar Syndrome’s print runs a nearly identical 1:36:17, retaining the light print damage and suffused by digital grain in the brighter outdoor scenes but drawing from a far richer and brighter palette on the color spectrum.
In place of the Moore location tour, you get a 17m chat with writer Jerry Jones, cinematographer Nicholas Von Sternberg, stars Jimmy Lynch and Ernie Hudson and Roquemore’s sons Rokki and Bryan.
There’s also a commentary track with Jimmy Lynch for those interested in such, and an audio only interview with director Cliff Roquemore and guest star martial artist Howard Jackson (yes, they actually hired a real martial artist on this one…not that you’d notice from the horrible, undercranked moves on display!)
For some unknown reason, they’ve also included the German dubbed variant “Der Bastard” (1:24:34)…don’t ask me. Some may find it funny to hear Moore and friends intoning in guttural Teutonic tones, with the occasional “motherfucker” spicing up the mix…but this one’s lost on me.
For diehard fans of Rudy Ray Moore who’ve missed either of the Xenon releases of the Dolemite trilogy or who really want to upgrade the picture somewhat to Blu (and grab an extra interview or two along the way), this will probably be a welcome addition to their library of DVD to Blu upgrades (a practice that tends to be lost on me in the first place, excepting corrections of “edited” or “clothed” prints – hello, BCI Eclipse and a few of your Naschy titles…).
But for those of us who already had these films, this one’s a decided shrug of the shoulders, particularly given that this is by far the least of the three canon Dolemite films (and the less said about Disco Godfather and the middle aged Moore “comeback films”, the better).