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Matt Cimber returns with one of his blaxploitation efforts, namely The Candy Tangerine Man.

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After a 4m introduction where Cimber claims the film was based on an acquaintance who “could have been a CEO” despite being a pimp and hustler with a 3rd grade education (!), we’re introduced to “the Baron” (John Daniels of Black Shampoo).

He’s got a cold heart, but manages to keep his “bitches” dedicated and outwitting some especially stupid cops (George “Buck” Flower, here under his Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama pseudo of C.D. La Fleur, and Richard Kennedy of Roberta Findlay-associated Invasion of the Blood Farmers) whose great idea of a wiretap is to send in a drag queen as a prospective “new girl”).

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He goes around in a tricked out Rolls Royce (complete with machine guns by the headlights!), hangs at a Wonder Bread bag-looking club called “the Institute of Oral Love” (!), juggles an ostensibly “normal” life in the suburbs with a pretty (if nagging) wife (Marva Farmer), kids and nosy Alice Ghostley-style white neighbor, and…well, that’s pretty much it, other than some rival lowlifes who want in on his territory (ho hum…you’ve seen it all before, and better done at that).

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Marilyn Joi (Blazing Stewardesses, Black Samurai) also appears, as does the very obviously Chinese Feng Lan Linn, as a “Mexican” hooker who he threatens out of town (!). There’s a bit of nastiness ala Black Shampoo, where he sticks a thug’s hand down the garbage disposal and flips the switch, but there’s not a hell of a lot to say about this one overall.

Despite being a lifelong fan of the blaxploitation genre from the usual suspects on down to the lowest rent, most ridiculous iterations thereof, one subset of the genre that never resonated with me was the “pimp as (anti)hero”.

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Whether you’re talking genre touchpoints like Superfly (which is only saved by its amazing Curtis Mayfield soundtrack) or bottom end detritus like The Mack (with its hilarious “pimp awards” fantasy) or Sesame Street regular Roscoe Orman’s Willie Dynamite, the tropes are pretty much all of a piece: slick hustler “trying to make his way up” as some ersatz “ghetto hero”, while navigating close calls with rivals, street people, mobsters and the police.

They generally come to a bad end, but never seem to “learn their lesson” regardless, and the films (and associated directors) disingenuously position themselves as some bizarre social commentary on the difficulty of making one’s way within, and impossibility of making one’s way out of, the ghetto. They’re as phony as a 2 dollar bill, and only half as entertaining.

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So what is one to make of The Candy Tangerine Man?

Well, the soundtrack (by “Smoke”) is fair enough, if unspectacular by comparison to many of its funkier, more soulful rivals in the genre.  Daniels is even colder and less likeable than he was in Black Shampoo and…well, once again, that’s about it.

I recall this title as being a bit hard to find prior to this, as it never made its way into the collection till now, but I can’t say it was any real revelation to finally lay eyes on.

Vinegar Syndrome delivers a decent restoration with occasional eye popping color (most shots of his Rolls really stand out), but it’s a well worn if not ratty print, with regular running lines, speckling, pops on the sound end and print damage. Consider it a Something Weird transfer, given as good a restoration as possible given the film’s vintage and presumed rarity.

The bottom line is, if you like this one, you should absolutely LOVE just about everything else ever released in the genre…it’s definitely one of the lesser titles among the hundreds contained therein, with an unrelentingly grim tone hardly enlivened by a few weird tonal shifts to unfunny “comedy” and touches of unerotic T&A.

It is what it is, but is far more likely to appeal to dedicated fans of films like the aforementioned The Mack and Willie Dynamite than the typical blaxploitation audience (who’ll probably find it just as ho-hum if not somewhat distasteful by comparison).

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Next up, we get another of Cimber’s forays into the blaxploitation arena, the comparatively far more enjoyable Lady Cocoa.

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Starring the unlikely heroine of chanteuse and Vegas regular Lola Folana (also of the ugly Lee Marvin/Richard Burton/Cameron Mitchell/OJ Simpson/Luciana Paluzzi/Linda Evans all-star vehicle The Klansman) alongside football greats Gene Washington (San Francisco 49ers, also of Black Gunn and The Black 6) and Mean Joe Greene (Pittsburgh Steelers, also of Twisted Brain/Horror High and The Black 6). The Witch Who Came from the Sea herself, Millie Perkins, also appears, as do the aforementioned duo of Flowers and Kennedy.

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This one’s more of a proto-Bodyguard, with Folana as a “gangsta bitch” in the witness protection program scheduled to testify against her mobster boyfriend, who’s obviously out to take her down before she can. It’s a hell of a lot more likeable than The Candy Tangerine Man, though it’s been out on public domain discs many a time before.

Surprisingly, the soundtrack is actually a bit of a step down from that of Smoke, despite bringing onboard Luchi DeJesus, Black Belt Jones co-composer and composer of such genre standbys as the Jim Brown starring Slaughter, Arthur Marks’ Detroit 9000 and his Pam Grier vehicle Friday Foster, and finally telefilm/series Get Christie Love.

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Folana’s a real diva (in fact, she’s fucking obnoxious, but not bad looking for that), and while Greene barely appears onscreen, Washington offers a sort of more well built Lionel Richie lookalike as her police escort cum bodyguard.  Cimber once again displays his weird thing for drag queens (there’s one involved in a shootout in the casino crapper), and there’s even a cold, wintry feel going on throughout, which offers more atmosphere than usual.

The transfer is similar to that of Candy Tangerine Man, though the print seems to have weathered the vagaries of time far better than that of the former picture: there are still running lines here and there and instances of grain or print damage and the overall look of the print is a tad washed out, but the film is far more colorful and can be said to be worthy of at least HD if not Blu treatment (something its co-feature can by no means boast of).

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While there’s no question that Folana’s kind of hard to take (and trust me, that’s the understatement of the decade), she’s certainly easy on the eyes, and even offers a sex scene that’s surprisingly risque for someone of her provenance to be delivering – the lady kinda gets into it for a few shots there. Washington’s stiff but likeable enough, and there’s plenty of snowy outdoors backdrop and casino setting to deliver the eye candy alongside Folana herself.   It succeeds in pretty much every respect its co-feature fails at.

Fans are sure to come flocking to this double feature for the heretofore unreleased (or at least hard to find) ostensible lead of Candy Tangerine Man, but what value there is to be found is centered entirely on its bottom billed partner Lady Cocoa (which also comes with director commentary for those so inclined).

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