Cooley High is a 1975 American film based upon the real high school located on the near north side of Chicago produced and released by American International Pictures and written by Eric Monte (co-creator of Good Times). The film, set in 1964 Chicago, Illinois, stars Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and features a soundtrack made up primarily of 1960s Motown hits.
The film is considered a classic of black cinema, and its soundtrack featured a new Motown recording, G.C. Cameron’s hit single “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”. That song was covered in 1991 by Motown act Boyz II Men on the group’s first LP, named Cooleyhighharmony in honor of this film.
The story explores the adventures and relationships of Leroy “Preach” Jackson (Turman) and Richard “Cochise” Morris (Hilton-Jacobs), two black high school students at Edwin G. Cooley High School, in Chicago, during the 1960s whose carefree lives take a turn for the worse through several twists of fate, including violent carjacking friends, drugs, failing grades, and girls.
Preach and Cochise, two best friends, decide to cut class and go to the zoo, despite the fact that Preach has missed an entire week of school, much to the chagrin of his history teacher, Mr. Mason (Garrett Morris). Nevertheless, they gather their other friends, Pooter and Tyrone, and play hookey. On their way back, Pooter is hit with gorilla feces, Cochise teaches some young new “turkeys” how to shoot a basketball, and they meet their friend Dorothy at a diner called Martha’s, where she invites them to a quarter party, while Preach slips inside to gamble with his other friends, Stone and Robert. Cochise, knowing that Martha will throw him out for gambling, warns him, just as cute girl Brenda (Cynthia Davis) tries to get past them to get to the washroom. After she leaves to get Martha, Leroy makes a dollar bet with Richard that he will sleep with Brenda before they break up. Martha then comes with a large butcher knife, threatening Jackson and throwing him out of her shop.
At Dorothy’s quarter party, Tyrone flirts with Dorothy to grant the guys access to the quarter party without paying her. At the party, Pooter tries to flirt with some other girls, but they all flock to Richard instead, leaving him alone. Leroy finds and tries to serenade Brenda with poetry. Outside, Cochise flirts with and kisses a girl during a slow dance in the dark. However, hotheaded Damon, a classmate, sees him kissing the girl, who turns out to be Loretta Brown, Damon’s girlfriend.
Later, Preach, Pooter, Tyrone, and Morris are singing and drinking wine on a street corner.
Stone and Robert pull up in a Cadillac, and Preach and Cochise go along with them for a ride as they are eager to smoke with them. Preach claims to have excellent driving experience, and the others allow him to take the wheel. At an intersection, the group gets scared next to a police car, and they pull away, causing the squad car to give chase. The chase ends when they evade the police in a mostly empty warehouse, and then gently crash into the back of another vehicle. Everyone runs away from the car.
At school the next day, before their important history test, Preach and Cochise are taken out of Mr. Mason’s class on a warrant for their arrest relating to grand theft, auto.
Mr. Mason talks to the police, convincing them to go easier on his students, while Stone and Robert who have worse criminal records are not spared. When they eventually get out of jail, they seek vengeance on Preach and Cochise, perceiving them to be snitches.
When Stone and Robert get released, they go searching for Preach and Cochise and end up beating Cochise to death. Preach visits his grave after the ceremony once everyone has left and pours some wine on his grave and reads one of his poems out loud. After that Preach says good-bye and heads off to Hollywood and becomes a screenwriter.
SUPERFLY (1972) – While unfairly pigeonholed as a blaxploitation movie Superfly is in reality a monumentally overlooked classic of American gangster films.
Some of the blame for the lack of respect accorded this cinematic masterpiece comes from the outrageous movie posters that make it look like standard blaxploitation fare to modern film viewers. In reality Superfly pioneered some of the story elements that other blaxploitation flicks would turn into laughable cliches with their incessant repetition.
Another obstacle to celluloid respectability is the title, which became synonymous with the lead character, played masterfully by Ron O’Neal. Actually, O’Neal’s character is named Youngblood Priest. “Superfly” was the adjective used to describe the high quality of the cocaine Priest pushed to his customers, as in the line of dialogue “Priest, you sell some superfly shit!”
And yes, cocaine is indeed the drug our protagonist deals in his New York ghetto territory, even though it wasn’t until the 1980′s that this particular drug became a media darling. Superfly gained notoriety even before its release because of the NAACP pressuring the studio to change the ending to have Youngblood Priest get killed. The organization did not want a cocaine pusher to emerge triumphant at movie’s end, fearing that would send the wrong message. (I’m really tired of political and religious organizations getting in the way of art by obsessing over how people may view it)
The NAACP proved it hadn’t really understood the script. Ron O’Neal’s character was not a one- dimensional figure like the “heroic” pimps of other early blaxploitation films. His Youngblood Priest is a complex, talented man whom the viewer can easily believe would have gravitated to a much more constructive life if not for the wretched poverty and merciless violence of the ghetto environment he was born into. Priest himself clearly finds no romance in his gangster lifestyle. O’Neal’s portrayal convinces us that it was purely a matter of survival for Priest in the usual “eat or be eaten” scenario.
The audience therefore sympathizes with Priest in his obsessive quest for one really big score so he can afford to escape the life he clearly loathes. Significantly, his white girlfriend wants him to continue his criminal ways. She doesn’t really love him, but just gets vicarious thrills from sharing his outlaw lifestyle. His black girlfriend, played by Shiela Frazier, does love him and encourages him to find a way out of the ghetto for both of them, though neither of them delude themselves about the nature of Priest’s business.
Frazier and O’Neal share a wordless scene that will haunt you forever after you see it. Director Gordon Parks frames a shot with the two African Americans’ faces staring longingly at the camera while pressed up against iron bars, invoking images of both slavery and prison, but as the camera pulls back we see that the two aren’t incarcerated. Instead the bars are part of a gate surrounding an expensive house, and in this case the figurative “bars” are blocking the young couple from the finer things in life. I literally cried the first time I saw that scene. It is perfectly rendered and is despairingly beautiful.
Throw in as much action as The Godfather featured and the iconic soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield and I rest my case that Superfly belongs alongside the greatest American gangster films ever made.
The Mack is a 1973 blaxploitation film starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor. Although the movie was produced during the era of such blaxploitation movies as Dolemite, its producers do not label it a true blaxploitation picture. They believe it to be a social commentary, according to Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, a documentary about the making of the film, which can be found on the DVD edition. The movie is set in Oakland, California and was the biggest-grossing blaxploitation film of its time. Its soundtrack was recorded by Motown artist Willie Hutch.
Oakland, California 1967: John “Goldie” Mickens, (Max Julien) a small-time black drug dealer and his friend Slim (Richard Pryor) are in the middle of a shootout in a salvage yard after being set up during a botched drug deal. Realizing that they’re outgunned, Goldie orders Slim to flee the salvage yard. Goldie crashes his car as he attempts to escape and is apprehended by Hank (Don Gordon) and Jed (William Watson), two corrupt, racist white police detectives. Goldie is tried in court and sentenced to five years in the California State Penitentiary. In prison Goldie almost becomes stir crazy and struggles to maintain his sanity.
Five years later, in 1972 Goldie is released from prison and returns to Oakland on a charter bus. He immediately goes into a pool hall where he’s reunited with his mentor The Blind Man (Paul Harris),[disambiguation needed] an aging street hustler and pimp. The Blind Man decides to help Goldie get back on his feet by turning him on to pimping and gives him his first lessons on being a successful pimp: “A pimp is only as good as his product, and his product is women. Now you’ve got to go out there and get the best ones you can find. And you’ve got to work them broads like nobody’s ever worked them before. And never forget: anybody can control a woman’s body, you see, but the key is to control her mind.”
After meeting with the Blind Man, Goldie goes to a nightclub where he bumps into Lulu (Carol Speed), a childhood girlfriend who is now a prostitute. Lulu tells Goldie that, because she’s an “outlaw” (a prostitute who doesn’t have a pimp), that she is constantly antagonized by pimps who are trying to force her to “choose” (choose a pimp to run her). Lulu pleads with Goldie to become her pimp and, although initially hesitant, he accepts. As Goldie leaves the bar he’s met by Hank and Jed, who harass and intimidate him. Goldie then goes to the apartment of his humble and deeply religious mother (Juanita Moore) who pleads with Goldie to go to church with her and to abandon his criminal ways. In their conversation it’s revealed that the Mickens family relocated to California from Alabama after Goldie’s father was murdered. Goldie rejects his mother’s pleas, reasoning that he has to face “the man” the only way that he knows how to. Goldie then heads to a meeting where his younger brother Olinga (Roger E. Mosley), a Black Nationalist, is giving a speech about creating a “Black America Within But Without White America”. The two brothers reunite and Goldie informs Olinga that he’s going to get his life together, not disclosing to Olinga that he’s decided to become a pimp, something that he knows Olinga strongly disapproves of.
As Goldie sits in a barber shop he overhears the conversations of several pimps, including the cocky and boisterous Pretty Tony (Dick Anthony Williams) and Frank Ward, the real-life pimp who the film is based on. Goldie begins soaking up the attitude and mentality of a pimp and immediately develops a cold-hearted attitude. This is displayed in the following scene in Lulu’s apartment where, after having sex with Lulu and reminiscing on their difficult childhoods, Goldie coldy moves Lulu’s arm off of him and struts to a mirror to look at himself.
After being fronted money by the Blind Man in order to get started out Goldie begins pimping, with Lulu as his “bottom bitch” (a pimp’s #1 prostitute who is also put in charge of other prostitutes in a pimp’s stable) and Slim as his partner in crime . A montage set to the film’s theme song show Goldie’s rapid success as a pimp, recruiting several prostitutes including Chico (Kai Hernandez), a loud and sassy prostitute, and Diane (Sandra Brown) a young white woman from a wealthy family who becomes Goldie’s favorite hooker. Goldie moves his mother out of her tenement apartment and into an upscale condominium. Goldie teaches his prostitutes how to rob clients and shoplift from expensive department stores. Goldie maintains his sway over the young women by brainwashing them, giving them speeches at a makeshift theater where he tells them what he requires of them as they watch an eleborate film display.
As Goldie’s rise to success becomes evident he’s confronted with several antagonists. The first is a black gambler who intends to rob Goldie. Goldie and Slim accost the man at gunpoint, lock him in the trunk of Goldie’s 1971 Cadillac Eldorado, filling the trunk with rats and drive around Oakland with the man screaming in the trunk as the rodents eat away at him before finally dropping him off in front of a hospital. The second antagonist is the Fat Man (George Murdock), a white heroin kingpin who Goldie worked for before going to prison. The Fat Man is jealous of Goldie’s success and wants Goldie to return to work for him in order to control him. Additionally The Fat Man is angered because Olinga and his group have abducted several black drug dealers under the Fat Man’s employ in order to turn them into Black Nationalists and to stop them from selling drugs in the black community. Hank and Jed are also angered by Olinga’s interferrence with their drug racket and routinely brutalize and harass Goldie in an attempt to get Olinga to stop.
Goldie and Olinga argue with one another about their activities. Olinga tries to get Goldie to see that pimping black women is no better than drug dealing, as both crimes involve exploiting black people. Goldie tells Olinga that he’ll support him in ridding the ghetto of the drug dealers, but tells Olinga not to send his group after Goldie. Olinga asserts that, in order to fix the ghetto, they have to get rid of the drug dealers and the pimps at the same time. After Hank and Jed murder Sgt. Duncan (Lee Duncan), a black police detective who confronted the pair about their illegal activities, they unsuccessfully try to pin the murder on Goldie and Slim, even going so far as trying to force Goldie and Slim to run away from them at gunpoint so that the detectives can shoot them and claim that they attempted to evade arrest. It is at this point that Goldie begins to contemplate his lifestyle and it’s inevitable consequences.
Goldie, along with Slim, Lulu and Diane, attend the Players Ball, an annual gala event highlighting Bay Area pimps. During the festivities the Fat Man once again attempts to force Goldie into working for him. Goldie once again refuses and lambasts the Fat Man for being so greedy that he’s even willing to sell drugs to children. Goldie celebrates with Slim, Lulu and Diane and is awarded “Mack of the Year” at the Player’s Ball. The scene then cuts to several days later as Goldie finds Diane dead in a hotel room. When Goldie examines her corpse he notices needle marks on her arm and realizes that she’s been killed by the Fat Man as a way to get back at Goldie. Goldie meets with the Fat Man in a vacant lot. The Fat Man intends to have his henchman kill Goldie, however the attempt on Goldie’s life is thwarted when Slim, disguised as a homeless man playing an accordion, kills the Fat Man’s bodyguards. Goldie, Slim and several of their associates then subdue the Fat Man and kill him by injecting him with battery acid.
While gambling at an after hours spot, Goldie and Pretty Tony get into an argument after Pretty Tony’s top hooker, China Doll (Annazette Chase), humiliates Pretty Tony by leaving him and “choosing” Goldie in front of the other hustlers at the crap table. Pretty Tony threatens Goldie, telling him “You’re gonna wish you was never born, nigga!” and leaves. Later an unidentified man knocks on Goldie’s mother’s door, announcing himself as “A friend of Goldie’s”. When Goldie’s mother answers the door the man points a gun at her. Goldie visits his mother at the hospital. She has been severely beaten by the assailant and is unconscious. She awakens to find Goldie at her bedside, who lies to her and tells her that the doctor says she will be alright. Broken-hearted and disappointed, she looks away from Goldie and slips into death.
Goldie and Slim track down Pretty Tony. After a brief shootout they chase Pretty Tony into an abandoned warehouse. Pretty Tony stabs Slim with his cane sword, but only causes a minor injury. Goldie and Slim hold Pretty Tony at gunpoint while Goldie forces Pretty Tony to stab himself in the buttocks repeatedly with the sword as payback for stabbing Slim. Goldie and Slim then bind Pretty Tony to a chair and gag him with a stick of dynamite, then leave as a helpless Pretty Tony is blown through a warehouse window when the explosives detonate. Hank and Jed arrive to investigate the murder.
At their mother’s funeral Olinga tells a grief-stricken Goldie that he’s “brought death to their house” because of his criminal activities and that, because of this, he’s going to help Goldie get revenge against the people responsible for their mother’s murder. Outside of the funeral home the Blind Man informs Goldie that someone’s put a contract out on his life. Slim and several of their friends help Goldie evade the would-be hitmen by disguising themselves as movers and getting Goldie out of his condominium as the hitmen arrive to kill him. Goldie and Slim split up to meet at a rendezvous point. When Goldie arrives at the rendezvous point he finds an accordion with Slim’s blood on it. Hank and Jed appear with their guns drawn on Goldie and confirm that they’ve killed Slim. The detectives then reveal that they, not Pretty Tony, killed his mother. As they do so Olinga appears from the inside of a vacant building and strangles Jed to death as Goldie disarms a distracted Hank. Hank attempts to plead for his life by claiming that he and Goldie are the same and that Goldie would have done the same thing to Hank. Goldie kills Hank execution-style as Olinga watches. Goldie walks over to Hank and Jed’s car and finds Chico sitting in the backseat. Chico, resentful of Goldie’s favorable treatment of Diane over her, revealed to the corrupt cops the addresses of Goldie and his mother. Goldie contemplates shooting Chico, but relents. He throws some pocket change at her and walks away. Realizing that Oakland is now too dangerous for him to remain there, Goldie hugs Olinga goodbye and boards a charter bus leaving the city the same way he came.
Willie Dynamite is a 1974 blaxploitation film starring Roscoe Orman, Diana Sands, Thalmus Rasulala, and Joyce Walker. The eponymous Willie Dynamite is a pimp in NYC who strives to be number one in the city. As he is trying to become the top pimp, a social worker is trying to change his ways for the better.
Willie Dynamite is a fancy pimp that has his girls working in business conventions attracting the many businessmen that need a break from work. The film starts with the girls walking into the Business International Association convention where all eyes are turned on to the girls. Willie has seven women working the night, all dressed up with vibrant outfits. Many men take the girls to their hotel rooms and even the police are paying to have fun. Willie is first seen driving his “pimped” purple Cadillac on the streets of New York. The front license plate engraves the first part of his nickname, “Willie”, while the back license plate engraves the second part, “Dynamite”. Willie goes to the hotel to collect payment from his girls.
Pashen is the newest hooker in the line of Willie. He gets mad at her for producing less than expected. Willie compares his business of hookers to that of a production line: “Seven girls out there, every ten minutes, one comes off the production line, like that…This is a business baby, a production line, and just like GM, Ford, Chrysler, Willie’s comin’ through.” He then explains his dreams of being number one, the top pimp in the city of New York. Bell, the current number one pimp, holds a pimp counsel, and explains that the heat is rising on them, meaning the police are cracking down on prostitution activities within the city. Bell proposes an idea that each pimp get his own turf to run instead of the pimps competing for territory. Everyone is for the idea except Willie. He argues that the new idea would hurt his business. He compares his women to the animals of the jungle, having the need to roam free and conquer all that can be controlled.
Later, Willie soon learns that Pashen, the new girl, has been sent to jail. Cora, a social worker, comes and visits Pashen in jail. She tries to educate Pashen on the dangers of being a prostitute. Cora encourages Pashen to change her life, to become a model and get paid for it. Pashen, naïve, dislikes the idea and believes she can make more money as a hooker for Willie. Willie then comes to post bail and rescue Pashen. Cora makes an unexpected visit to Willie’s while he is away and tells the girls they are being ripped off from Willie. They ponder the thought as she leaves the room. When Willie comes back, he learns that Pashen has gone to jail again and the girls are reluctant to work. Willie threatens to put them in shape if they decide to not work. Cora visits the jail and tries to persuade Pashen to change again. Pashen argues that she makes a lot of money and she feels like she is somebody important when she is working. Cora then reveals that she was once a prostitute on the streets. She then sneaks in to Willie’s place to find evidence of bank accounts that can prove his dirty doings. The evidence she took would not be able to hold in court.
Pashen finally decides to pursue modeling. She takes a photo opportunity and gets paid. She tries to tell Willie that she wants out, but he tells her of dreams and hopes that she can’t refuse. Willie goes to the hotel convention, finding that his territory has been compromised and that his head hooker, Honey, has been killed after a territorial battle. His life is spiraling down as he finds all his bank accounts have been frozen and are under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service. Two detectives chase down Willie through New York. Willie’s seven hookers are sent to jail after the hotel riot and they cannot post bail. They are sent to a women’s detention center for holding. While in the detention center, Pashen’s face gets cut, and she gets traumatized by her loss of beauty. When Willie returns home, he is met by Bell and his men, and things get out of hand when Bell wishes for Willie to quit the game. Later Willie is caught by the two detectives for possession of narcotics. Willie is let off for evidence without a warrant. In the end, Willie thinks back on past events after his mother dies, leaves his car for good, and is seen walking happily on the streets.
THREE THE HARD WAY (1974) – This movie is sometimes confused with Five The Hard Way, the bad biker film that was also released under the title Sidehackers. Three The Hard Way, directed by Superfly‘s Gordon Parks, features the Holy Trinity of blaxploitation action – Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Jim Kelly, as no-nonsense heroes battling Neo- Nazis intent on exterminating all black people in the United States.
The bit of pseudo- science the movie uses to provide credibility for that ambitious scheme is that the Neo- Nazis have perfected a poison that functions in a similar manner to sickle- cell anemia. The poison can be planted in the drinking water of major cities but only black people will fall victim to it. Members of other races drinking the poisoned water will be just fine. The hatemongers have designated Washington DC, Los Angeles and Detroit as their first targets.
The villains perfected their poison via a Dr Mengele- style mad scientist who used African Americans as human guinea pigs. Those experiments took place in a Georgia compound the filmmakers specifically designed to be a haunting combo of a southern plantation and a Nazi death camp. Chillingly effective visuals.
One of the unfortunate black men being experimented on by the Neo- Nazis escapes the concentration camp at the beginning of the film and gets word to Jim Brown’s character, who rounds up our other two stars and takes action. A nice bit of trivia is that one of the necking teenagers the escapee stumbles upon is played by a young Corbin Bernsen, who was related to the producer of this flick.
The only thing keeping this film from absolute pulp action perfection is the absence of Pam Grier. She’d have been perfect in the role played by Jeanne Bell (of TNT Jackson fame), the leader of the three female bikers (shades of Darktown Strutters) who aid our heroes at a crucial point in the film.
The Black Godfather is a blaxploitation film released in 1974. It was written and directed by John Evans, and stars Rod Perry, Don Chastain, Diane Sommerfield and Jimmy Witherspoon.
J.J. (Rod Perry), a rising star in the black crime scene, is in the process of consolidating his power over the neighborhood. One of the only remaining obstacles is the white heroin cartel that is understandably reluctant to abandon such a lucrative market. Tensions rise, and an explosive confrontation is the result.