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Site created 12/15/97.


reviews added: 2/5/01



Todd Doogan is... the DVD Fanboy DVD Fanboy reviews MGM's Soul Cinema DVDs

reviews by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits
(a.k.a. DVD Fanboy)
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

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Truck Turner

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Truck Turner
1974 (2000) - American International Pictures (MGM)

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/D+

Specs and Features:

91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


Annie: "You could have brought me some flowers."

Turner: "I got some beer."

Mack "Truck" Turner is a skip tracer - a modern day bounty hunter who always gets his man. If you jump bail, expect Truck Turner to be on your ass quicker than white on rice. Back in his glory days, he was a pro football player, but now he picks up bail jumpers for 50 bucks a pop. The day before his old lady is due to get out of jail, Turner gets an offer of $1000 to bring in Richard Leroy Johnson (a.k.a. Gator), a nefarious killer pimp that will shoot a mailman if he gets too close to his crib.

Gator's a well-hidden thug, but Turner has no trouble tracking him down through some of his girls. But what Truck doesn't know is, he's heading right into the middle of a major pimp civil war between Gator and a rising crime lord named Harvard Blue. And when Truck and his jive-talking partner Jerry Barnes get involved, things go from bad to bad as a mo-fo. As if that wasn't enough, once Truck brings Gator in, Gator's madam Dorinda swears revenge on Truck. The hunter turns hunted when she lays down all of Gator's stable of girls for the man who brings Turner down. And the man who wants 'em most is Harvard Blue.

Truck Turner isn't the best of what MGM is re-christening Soul Cinema, but it has its charms. Issac Hayes as Truck is tough, sensitive and sexy all at the same time. Plus, he's got a wicked sense of humor. Actually, the overall feel of the film is more action film than blaxpoitation. It's raw in spots, and the production values could have been a bit better, but what are you gonna do? Can't whip a classic too hard, can ya? On the positive side, there's some really good acting in here from Yaphet Kotto as Blue. Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols as Dorinda is especially exciting. Plus, you have to give this flick extra points for having one of the best "Player of the Year" funeral services ever to be captured on film. And it's all done seriously, which makes it that much more special.

The anamorphic transfer is incredibly clean considering the age of the film and the genre. All the colors are natural, and light and shadow detail is also pretty solid. There are some spots of heavy grain, but it seems like a film stock issue and nothing more. Sound is laid down in a crisp 2.0 mono track, with a light but non-distracting hiss. The dialogue sounds damn good for what it is, and there's some full sounding gun blasts. Issac Hayes' score (although not quite Shaft caliber) is also well presented here.

The extras are pretty minimal... and that is to say pretty non-existent. There's a trailer and menu screens but that's it. No notes, cast and crew info and not even an insert, which kinda sucks. But I guess if MGM is going to be pumping out 50 discs a month, as promised, we should expect cost cutting somewhere.

Truck Turner




Slaughter

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Slaughter
1972 (2000) - American International Pictures/Orion (MGM)

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/D+

Specs and Features:

94 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


"You know what they say about these dudes? They all got rhythm."

Slaughter (Big Jim Brown) is an ex-Green Beret war hero and, as the writer from "Black Is" magazine points out, he's also black. It's a shocker, I know. The film opens with his parents being killed in a car bombing and Slaughter immediately picking up the pieces and trying to figure out why. First, he stops off at family friend Jenny's house, but she's knocked off during the questioning. She lives long enough to give him a name: "Felice" (pronounced Phil-ee-chey). Then it's back to his pad for some rest before he kills half the world's population. It's there where Slaughter finds that "Black Is" reporter hiding in his bathroom. After she's almost killed, and then gets naked trying to get his "scoop", she finds her naked ass in the hall. After all... a man does need his rest and Slaughter's had a pretty busy day.

The next morning, it's off to the airport where Slaughter caps the man he thinks killed his father. But it turns out he iced the wrong dude, so he chases a plane down, smashes it with his car and shoots at the real bad guy - an unidentifiable Rip Torn - missing him several times. Then, and only then, is he picked up by the cops and that's that. And guess what... all this happens in the first 12 minutes. This is an hour and a half-long flick, what the hell else can they pack into this flick? Well, let's see... as it turns out the U.S. Treasury Department wants the same people that Slaughter's after, so they coerce him into working with them. Slaughter has no problem going undercover to get his man. So it's off to South America for some fun, sun and bloody revenge - the Slaughter way.

Slaughter features some really dated set-ups, stiff acting and horrifying dialogue. But it does have Jim Brown, who is one bad mutha. Brown has a lot of charm and charisma, and he's always interesting to watch. This is a guy that has the right walk, the right stare and the right sexual bravura to carry anything off. I like him. Add to that the fact that this is a non-stop action fest from start to finish, and you have a flick that's not half bad. Slaughter will please even the hardest fan of exploitation films.

Impressively enough, Slaughter is presented in anamorphic widescreen on DVD, with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Too bad it doesn't look that great. The opening credits are marred by edge enhancement and muddled detail. You can hardly read the credits at all. But the black backgrounds are quite solid with no artifacts or grain to be found. Go figure. Then, when the film opens on Slaughter's parents getting assassinated, you see something I couldn't explain if I wanted to. The image slants and curves in. Like you're projecting the film onto a curved surface. Right after that, when we cut to Slaughter in the hospital, everything goes to the way it's supposed to look. It's very odd, but considering how some of the later action shots look, this may have been done for aesthetic reasons. The rest of the film, in terms of transfer, looks just okay, with slight flashing across the screen, moments of light artifacting and drained colors throughout. There's some print artifacts (dust, scratches, etc...) that litter the screen occasionally, and overall detail is soft. It's certainly not the best looking film in the Soul Cinema collection, but it'll do.

The audio on this disc is another simple 2.0 mono track, with little detail and decent sounding dialogue. It does the job, but that's about all. There's also a trailer (a really bad looking one at that) and nothing else.

Slaughter may not be deserving of a special edition, but at least most of the other films in this collection have a nice transfer to side track the lack of extras.

Slaughter




Slaughter's Big Ripoff

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Slaughter's Big Ripoff
1973 (2000) - American International Pictures/Orion (MGM)

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/D+

Specs and Features:

94 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


"Hey all you jive hustlers, you stone foxes, you mean dudes... watch out, 'cause Slaughter's back in town."

So all the shit Slaughter stirred up in the last film is startling to settle down, and the Mob once again wants Slaughter dead. How would you even go about killing the baddest Cat that ever walked the Earth? Well, first you hop in a plane and pull a "fly-by" as Slaughter picnics with his old friends. That's when he's at his most susceptible, really - eating an egg samich and drinking sweet tea. But remember this - if you shoot at Slaughter, you'd better kill him. And if you accidentally kill people Slaughter loves, then you best run and hide. 'Cause once his ass gets pissed, ain't nothing gonna calm a brother down. Anyway, you can guess how well the fly-by goes. And so, with his revenge on once again, Slaughter recruits a fast-talking pimp (with a heart of gold, of course) and finds another good-natured detective to help in his plan to take down the Mob from the inside.

I have to say, historically and even structurally, this sequel is a much better film than the original all the way around. You have Jim Brown acting all mean and sexy, Richard Williams as Creole the pimp, Ed FRICKIN' McMahon as a Mr. Big-type Mafia boss and character actor Brock Peters (you may remember him as Tom Robinson from To Kill a Mockingbird) playing hard-ass police detective Reynolds. On top of that, we get a score performed by James Brown and his band. The action is swift, the carnage is hot and Slaughter is hard as hell. Plus, line after line of this film is quotable. This is a cult classic that more people should recognize.

The anamorphic picture on this DVD is nice... not great, but nice. The image isn't as stable as I'd like, with a bit too much grain and some color density loss. Chapter 4 is riddled with source problems. But, considering the age of the film and the fact that it's been passed around from distributor to distributor, it looks good. Plus, it's anamorphic for christsake. The sound is another simple 2-channel mono track, that is serviceable and does the job. Tack on a fun-as-hell trailer, and you have an okay disc that every genre fan should own. Slaughter's Big Ripoff kicks major ass.

Slaughter's Big Ripoff




Black Mama, White Mama

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Black Mama, White Mama
1973 (2000) - American International Pictures (MGM)

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/D+

Specs and Features:

86 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


"A thousand nights without a man, a thousand reasons to kill. Women in chains."

Okay, take The Defiant Ones, any film by Sergio Leone and The Big Bird Cage, and mash 'em all up. This is what you'll get. And that's nothing to scoff at. Originally titled Women in Chains, Black Mama, White Mama is one of those films so bad that it's really, really good.

Pam Grier (who else) is Lee Daniels. She's doing hard time on an island prison camp for a parking ticket. Yeah, right. That's what SHE says at least. Truth be told, this mama is a tough-talking prostitute with a heart of cold steel. Cuffed and chained on her left is Karen Brent, a guerilla terrorist who's willing to do whatever it takes to survive, including shacking up with the evil lipstick matron Densmore. Lee and Karen are locked together when they're transferred to a maximum security zone called The City for questioning (seems Karen's high up in the chain of command with the revolution). But when a group of guerillas storm the convoy, the pair run free. Everything would be fine, except Karen's on a timetable. She has to get ammunition her people need for freedom. Lee, on the other hand, has $40,000 that she stole from her drug dealing pimp hidden on the opposite side of the island... and that's where she needs to go. So now they're chained, and they're being hunted by the law, the man and a gang of ruthless criminals. Oh, the problems of chained criminals. If they don't hate each other, they've conflicting schedules to deal with or killer pimps on their ass.

There's a lot of cheesy fun in this film. You have plenty of nudity, bad dialogue and secondary character dubbing that's so obvious it's scary. There's a lot of good stuff here... but there's not one thing blaxpoitation about this film aside from the title. This is a "Women in Prison", film tried and true. There's no shame in that at all, but calling this Soul Cinema is wrong. But oh well... what are ya going to do? And Grier is just awful in this, almost as if this was her first acting gig (which it wasn't). The only "problem" with the film, really, is that it's never clear where in the world they are, or what this island is revolting from. The supporting cast looks Japanese, Filipino and Mexican. The characters mutter in Spanish and Italian. And Sid Haig plays a cowboy/pimp/farmer who gets involved mid-way through the film. I guess all that matters very little, especially when you consider that Jonathan Demme (yes, that Demme) came up with the idea for this film when he fell asleep on the couch while watching The Defiant Ones. He thought it would be funny if the characters were in drag, a la Some Like It Hot - almost as inspired as Merv Griffin coming up with game show ideas on the can.

The transfer on this DVD is done up as anamorphic, at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It looks pretty good, but shows some damage and age. There's a couple of "cigarette burns" here and there and a few print tears, but the colors are good, with strong blacks and fair line detail. You'll also spot some fading and areas of heavy grain, but these are again attributable to the source print being used. Audio is 2-channel mono with strong dialogue. You hear what you need to, but it's not too impressive. Extras include nothing more than the original theatrical trailer. Bah.

Black Mama, White Mama



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