Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Birthday Jim Kelly

 "The Cool Master of King-Fu and Karate !"

Tagline from BLACK SAMURAI 1977

     A very special birthday wish and remembrance needs to go out today for Jim Kelly who was born on this day in 1946. In a decade that spawned more then it's share of cinema bad-asses, Jim Kelly was one of the 70's baddest.
    Winner of many karate championships, he became the first African American martial arts movie star and initially rose to prominence as Williams in the Bruce Lee classic ENTER THE DRAGON from 1973. In 1974 he starred as the title character in BLACK BELT JONES, kicked ass alongside Fred Williamson and Jim Brown in Gordon Park's THREE THE HARD WAY and appeared  with Joe Don Baker in GOLDEN NEEDLES. In 1977 there was Al Adamson's BLACK SAMURAI and the blacksploitation western TAKE A HARD RIDE FROM 1975.
    At 6' 2" with his trademark afro and sideburns he made a striking presence in his films and was able to convey an aura "don't mess with me" attitude without saying a word.
    He would later become a professional tennis player and passed away in 2013 much too young  from cancer at the age of 67.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

DILLINGER 1973 on Blu


     More Warren Oates on Blu-ray (always a good thing !) as Arrow has just unleashed John Milius's bullet spraying 1973 period crime drama DILLINGER on a BD/DVD combo pack. Featuring an outstanding lead performance by the great & god-like Oates (who looks uncannily like the historical Dillinger) along with a cast of character actors that should bring a smile to fans of cinema including Geoffrey Lewis, Harry Dean Stanton, Steve Kanaly, John P. Ryan, John Martino, Roy Jenson & Frank McRae. Michelle Phillips and Cloris Leachman round out the female leads with John Ford & Sam Peckinpah favorite Ben Johnson playing Melvin Purvis and a young Richard Dreyfuss showing up as Baby Face Nelson.

    Shot in Arizona and Oklahoma, Milius (in his directorial debut) shows a wonderful eye for period detail and makes great use of existing locations that evoke the classic FSA photographs of depression era America. Milius stages several brutal and bloody shoot-outs with victims twitching after being riddled with bullets. Unlike BONNIE AND CLYDE (which it sometimes as been compared to) that channeled French New Wave, Milius invokes John Ford's Americana and being a huge firearms aficionado (much like Peckinpah in his films) he strives for realism in the film's gun play as we see the recoil of the guns in the actors hands and the unflinching effect bullets have tearing into a human body.
    Even though it's titled DILLINGER a significant portion of the screenplay (by Milius) revolves around Johnson's Pervis character and his pursuit of various criminals of the same era and although Milius plays very fast and loose with historical fact it all works together beautifully. A natty Geoffrey Lewis is especially wonderful as John Dillinger's right hand man Harry Peirpont.
   Arrow's disc beautifully captures the dusty look of the film which was shot mostly in muted colors that replicate the dust bowl look of rural 1930's America, along with a nice punchy mono soundtrack (wait till you hear those shotguns !). Also included is an informative commentary by author Stephen Prince, interviews with cinematographer Jules Brenner, producer Lawrence Gordon and composer Berry De Vorzon along with a trailer and still gallery.

 All the above screen caps are from the Arrow Blu-Ray