After Netflix made a high-quality feature about Rudy Ray Moore, Amazon cheaply snapped up his movies in an act of opportunism worthy of the man himself.
The original Dolemite movie stars Moore as the eponymous pimp released from prison and seeking revenge on the man who set him up: Willie Green (D’Urville Martin), a one-man self-preservation society. Moore throws philandering priests and karate prostitutes in with the usual blaxploitation business of funky music and pimp costumes, incorporating some of the dirty poetry from the comedy albums with which Moore made his name. For all its violence it never feels as sleazy as some of the genre, since it takes the side of those resisting police violence; a movie for underdogs by underdogs.
Chiefly though, Dolemite benefits from the irresistible force of Moore’s personality. Despite his background in comedy, it’s Moore’s earnest delivery of lines like “Dolemite is my name, and fuckin’ up motherfuckers is my game!” that makes his film so charming. He also plays up the comedy of the blaxploitation trope of making your protagonist a sex god, as Dolemite is overweight and wears his trousers unfathomably high up (the absence of belts in prison being the film’s most realistic aspect). This is filmmaking without vanity, a rejection of social standards as well as cinematic ones.
Watching this 1975 micro-budgeter after Dolemite Is My Name confirms the accuracy of Netflix’s recreations and Eddie Murphy’s performance, but offers little clarity over Snoop Dogg’s involvement. And like listening to the Terminator 3 commentary before seeing the film, you’d be forgiven for watching the Murphy movie and assuming Dolemite is far worse than it is. The dialogue is occasionally out of sync, the continuity virtually non-existent and the less said about the fight scenes the better, but it still looks superior to the following decade’s Superman III. The result is fun, funky and often downright feverish.