5.20.2011

Three Honkies: Slaughter (Starrett, 1972)

With a purposeful neglect of story beyond the basics of "Rip Torn and Rip Torn's friends are trying to kill Jim Brown and Jim Brown's friends", 1972's "Slaughter" almost goes to show that with enough soulful funk and righteous attitude you don't need so bothersome an element as a story to give the post-"Sweetback", post-"Shaft" crowds what they craved. Once, however, the energy surge has worn from the capturing opening title sequence (accompanied by Billy Preston's title theme, also heard in brief more recently in the oddly punctuative Hugo Stiglitz interlude of "Inglourious Basterds"), we realize just how little there is to "Slaughter" and we begin, rapidly, to grow bored.

Once again, the white villains' racist remarks come forced, with little motive beyond riling up black audience members. Jim Brown endures these comments, knowing he'll soon be giving their speakers what they've got coming (with the help of frequently utilized yet seldom effective distorted lens effects), and he does a suitable job - the camera does like him - but I greatly prefer his turn in the same year's more folky and relevant "Black Gunn" (co-starring Martin Landau as a villainous car salesman).

Director Jack Starrett went on to head up what was to be the first capitalization on both the Black Power movement and second-wave feminism, "Cleopatra Jones" (which, also bland, barely gets by on a few poppy moments and Bernie Casey's Bernie Caseyness), but the picture was beat to its own punch by its original, cast-aside producer, Larry Gordon, and director Jack Hill with the fast-tracked yet vastly superior icon of soul cinema that made Pam Grier a star, "Coffy".

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