Friday, December 26, 2008

Marjoe Gortner/Ozploitation reviews MUFF 2008


[Notes for Melbourne Underground Film Festival catalogue, October 2008]

“Bad, But Not Evil”: The Cinematic Rise And Fall of Marjoe Gortner

Marjoe Gortner: former child evangelist turned hippy, acid freak and Seventies B-movie phenomenon following the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary Marjoe (1972). The name – his parents’ amalgam of Mary and Joseph - may not be familiar these days but in his salad days he was a flash from above, even hitting the charts with a solo album “Bad, But Not Evil”, capitalizing on his post-Baptist notoriety. Translating his pulpit persona into an idiosyncratic acting style, he had a promising start in TV movies and the drive-in hit Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw (1976). Then his career hit a string of box-office disasters (The Food Of The Gods [1976], Viva Knievel! [1977]), culminating in Marjoe’s greatest failure, his own production of the stage play When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder starring his soon-to-be-ex-wife Candy Clark. Following a handful of B film roles in the Eighties (Mausoleum [1983], Hellhole [1985]), he all but disappeared from cinema and TV screens, and was last seen sponsoring charity golf tornaments. But afficianados of forgotten cinema are left with an astonishing legacy of a wide-eyed Marjoe’s eccentric performances both on and off the pulpit - “bad”, sometimes, but even in the most abominable of his cinematic turkeys never uninteresting, and once seen, certainly not forgettable.


(dirs. Sarah Kernochan & Howard Smith, 1972)

Majoe Gortner

A fully-ordained preacher aged four (or so his Pentecostal parents claimed), Marjoe would leave the Church in his teens for a years-long sex and LSD binge that left him broke and willing to go on the fire-and-brimstone circuit one more time – with a camera crew following him through every back door and painful childhood memory. With his charisma and showmanship honed through a huckster’s lifetime of manipulation, Marjoe uses the cinema screen as his confessional booth: stories of an emotionally abusive mother who would beat sermons into him until memorized, the con-artist tricks of the evangelical trade, and even the fact he never once believed in God. As an expose on religious tent shows it’s essential; as a real-life character study – and what a character! - it’s flawless.

Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw

(dir. Mark L. Lester, 1976)

Marjoe Gortner, Lynda Carter, Jesse Vint, Merrie Lynn Ross, Belinda Balaski

Genius White Trash exploitation with all your key Seventies drive-in essentials: rednecks and rubes, guns, bloodshed, freaks and hippies versus the Pigs, and a topless Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter as Bobbie Jo, a carhop waitress and would-be country singer teaming up with an arrogant young hustler Lyle Wheeler (Marjoe) who fancies himself as a modern Billy The Kid. From then on it’s Thelma And Louise done right (or Bonnie And Clyde gone horribly wrong!) as they’re joined by Bobbie’s friend Essie (Balaski), sister Pearl (Ross) and Pearl's psychotic boyfriend Slick (Vint) on their crime spree through New Mexico. Cute, nasty, and oh-so-cheap and tacky!

Viva Knievel!

(dir. Gordon Douglas, 1977)

Evel Knievel, Gene Kelly, Lauren Hutton, Red Buttons, Leslie Nielsen, Cameron Mitchell, Dabney Coleman, Marjoe Gortner

Grotesque all-“star” vanity project courtesy of an incognito Irwin Allen, and possibly his greatest filmic disaster epic ever. Real-life daredevil Evel Knievel plays himself: Stunt Pony extraordinaire , ladies’ man, faith healer ("You’re the reason I’m walking, Evel!") and target for a drug syndicate who plan to ship back $50 million in cocaine… inside Evel’s dead body! Marjoe here plays eighth or ninth banana yet still shines in the pivotal role of Jessie, Evel’s young protégé who yearns for Evel’s limelight – and thus makes him the weak link in Evel’s chain of command. The ever-moralizing Evel gives the greatest “Just Say No” speech EVER (“Your bodies are like a fuel tank…”) amidst cunning stunts that’ll make your wig flip. Two words: Pure Evel.

When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?

(dir. Milton Katselas, 1979)

Candy Clark Marjoe Gortner, Lee Grant, Hal Linden, Peter Firth

Based on Mark Medoff’s award-winning play, it’s clear critics and audiences alike weren’t ready for the sheer train-wreck of Marjoe’s torturous yet utterly mesmerizing performance as Teddy (Gortner), an ex-‘Nam veteran turned long haired drug dealer and foaming-at-the-mouth sociopath, breaks down – in every sense of those words – in a small town. He proceeds to terrorize a diner filled with locals and out-of-towners, and through an elaborate performance bordering on Theatre of the Absurd, strips each emotionally frail character – the city intellectuals, sanctimonious bumkins, a would-be Jimmy Dean and even Teddy’s partner-in-crime (Clark) herself - back to the basest of their motivations. The message, hammered home with the subtlety of a concrete enema, is this: we’re all doomed. Thus endeth the lesson.

Ozploitation Retrospective

Next of Kin

(dir. Tony Williams, 1982)

Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charles McCallum

An unfairly forgotten gem from the early 80s slasher mania, set in an isolated Gothic retirement home in which something evil lurks. Linda (Jackie Kerin) returns to her sleepy country town to take over her late mother’s position at Montclare and rekindles an old flame with local boy Barney (a youngish John Jarratt). As the “accidental” deaths of her elderly charges stack up around her, New Zealand director Williams deftly switches tone from a slow-burning Old Dark House chiller to explosive psycho thriller, with a blood-drenched expressionist finale and Goblin-esque score worthy of prime Argento.

Wake In Fright

(dir. Ted Kotcheff, 1971)

Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay, Jack Thompson, John Meillon

Outback guignol with the Australian landscape as a monster from the Id or existential Hell, take your pick. Little seen since the early Seventies, Wake In Fright is a journey into darkness for a slightly effete schoolteacher (Gary Bond) waylaid in a small sweatstain of a country town. Once the obliging townsfolk and the endless supply of alcohol erode his civilized veneer he becomes seemingly trapped forever in the seventh layer of Dante’s Inferno, peopled with such grotesqueries as the perverse whiskey doctor (Donald Pleasence), Jack Thompson as a beer-crazed roo shooter, and the iconic Chips Rafferty as the unsettlingly benign ersatz Sheriff. Unnerving beyond belief, and perhaps Australian Cinema’s greatest undiscovered classic.


(dir. John D Lamond, 1979)

Glory Annen, Christopher Milne, Joni Flynn, John Michael Howson.

Beautifully shot tale of a young convent-schooled teenage girl (Glory Annen) and her sexual awakening in Hong Kong. For once Aussie smut cinema has created a genuinely erotic reworking of vaseline-lensed glossy Euro softcore decadence a la Emmanuelle. One of the best known of all Aussie sex films overseas due to its universal theme, the pulling power of cult star Annen, and its classy veneer due to the amazing production values squeezed out of its micro-budget by exploitation genius Lamond (Australia After Dark, Pacific Banana).

The Man From Hong Kong

(dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1975)

Jimmy Yu Wang, George Lazenby, Roger Ward, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rebecca Gilling

The unlikely pairing of Village Roadshow and martial arts studio Golden Harvest produced Australia's only true blue kung fu flick. Imported kung fu superstar "Jimmy" Wang Yu plays a Hong Kong cop out to bust Bondian supervillain (and former James Bond) George Lazenby in a flurry of flying fists and tough guy theatrics. From the film's opening chopathon atop Ayers Rock to its window-shattering finale, expatriate action specialist Brian Trenchard-Smith keeps tongue firmly in cheek whilst wringing remarkably straight-faced performances from Rebecca Gilling, Frank Thring, a young Sammo Hung and Mad Max's Roger Ward and Hugh Keays-Byrne.

Cosy Cool

(dir. Gary Young, 1977)

Gary Young, John Wilson, Laurie Moran, Richard Allen, Pam Jackman, Sharlene Webb

Astoundingly Z-grade DIY biker home movie starring producer/director Young as frustrated country lad Cosy Cool and John Wilson as his best mate (and self-confessed “space cadet”) Gracious Grytt who blow their car show prize money on a freedom bike ride and cavort around with two young playthings, only to be framed by a town of rednecks for their ritual murder. The final massacre involving real-life Commancheros linked the film forever with the Fathers Day Massacre in 1984, in which cast member Foggy and Wilson’s then-girlfriend were killed; the film should be remembered instead as a bizarre time capsule of biker culture circa 1975, with the most wretched production values possible and endlessly, deliriously quotable dialogue (“Negative waves! Negative waves!”).

Ozploitation article/reviews BIFF 2008

OZPLOITATION! Knockers, Shockers and the Coming (and Coming Again) of the R Certificate

[Ozploitation Retrospective notes for Brisbane International Film Festival catalogue, July 2008]

The Australian film industry in the Seventies was like Janus, the two headed Hell Hound emerging out of the barren, Menzies-stained cultural wastleland. One shiny, perfectly manicured head was called Art - everyone said they loved Art, forever patting his head and saying "What a good boy. Have another bowl of Chabilis." The second head was called Artless, who smelt like damp carpet and was forever licking his balls in public. Yet despite his appalling lack of social grace, you can't help but fall in love with Artless. It just takes a while to get his unique fragrance out of the cushions.

Quentin Tarantino loves Artless too. During his 2003 publicity tour for Kill Bill, his love letter to Seventies kung fu movies, Quentin raved to blank-faced Australian journalists about his favourite Aussie filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith. Blank. The director of The Man From Hong Kong? Still blank. "But he's made a lot of films..."

In Not Quite Hollywood, Tarantino is finally given the floor to enthuse at length on what he coins "Ozploitation", a cathartic squall of cinematic excesses reflecting the drive-in explosion in America from a few years before. For a good decade following the early Seventies our screens saw sex and blood, druggery and thuggery, kung fu kicks, music, more sex and vicarious thrills nestling uncomfortably next to pinafores and period prattling. For every Hanging Rock there was a Hanging Cock, and during that brief, seemingly forgotten and arguably Golden Age we were a miniature colonial outpost version of B-king Roger Corman's genre sausage factory New World, until the demise of the drive ins and rise of home video changed the B film market worldwide.

And good riddance, some would say. For those fascist aesthetes who pass judgment on a film's cultural importance with bourgeois buzzwords like "significant" and "profound", Ozploitation is the steady drip that won't go away. Gleefully un-PC and revelling in their own shock tactics and gratuitous, cartoonish nudity and violence, the most despised of all genres - sex, horror, action, biker and kung fu movies - were also among the top-grossing Australian films of the decade. One could argue sex films helped bankroll a bona fide film industry:

Tim Burstall's success of fourwalling his first commercial feature Stork in 1971 led Roadshow to bankroll Burstall's Hexagon Productions and Alvin Purple (1971), the first homegrown sex comedy under the new R certificate, and the first legitimate hit for the emerging "New Australian Cinema". It's like the Mafia underwriting cheques for the Kennedy campaigns, but with less gunfire. And yet the debt to Alvin Purple is hardly mentioned, and never in polite company. In a country which canonizes its pioneers, cinema strangely pays little heed to its own trailblazers.

Only a few years before, it was considered a joke to call yourself an Australian filmmaker. The Lucky Ones could make a fortune in advertising rather than slave in our version of Poverty Row making formulaic product for television's unblinking Third Eye. Suddenly it seemed most of us woke up from our sanitized Anglophile daydream: to the naked ear there was an instant audience more than willing to pay to hear Sailor Talk with an "Orstraylian" accent. Then there was (is?) our primordial fixation on SMUT. Senator Don Chipp's aggressive campaign to introduce the R Certificate coincided with the tide of cultural and sexual liberation washing over the dry continent, and within a year the brittle, oppressive wowserism of the Menzies-era thought police was becoming a glaring anachronism. Which is not to say it atrophied and blew away. Richard Franklin's filmmaking career was almost crushed by a well-orchestrated campaign by the Festival of Light objecting to his R-rated yet thoroughly innocuous comedy The True Story Of Eskimo Nell (1975), and he resorted to a nom-de-plume for his second, more salacious offering Fantasm (1976). Franklin's producer Anthony Ginnane was to become a pariah himself amongst the cultural elite, whose oddly parochial protectionist attitudes towards importing actors or exporting Australian films overseas were in stark contast with Ginnane's foaming-at-the-mouth internationist approach. To this day, Ginnane's ability to second-guess audience trends and to sell his "despicable" genre films to the world makes him one of the country's most victorious Sleazy Riders.

Predictably, too much of a good thing left Aussie audiences bloated and jaded, and looking for new thrills. Between Alvin... and its 1974 sequel Alvin Rides Again, the public's fascination for seeing sex on screen faded, only to be replaced by action and horror. Exit Alvin and Petersen; enter Stone, Mad Max, and a slew of cheap-and-nasties inspired by the success of cheap, nasty horror hits from overseas. Genre movies followed the Corman model, reflecting the simple carnal desires of their drive-in demographic: there were car films (High Rolling, FJ Holden, Oz) and biker films (Stone, Cosy Cool, Mad Max), all with blaring Oz Rock soundtracks. Some films even straddled the arbitrary divide between art and exploitation (the brilliant Hitchcock-inspired Long Weekend, for example) and, not surprisingly, do it with style and chutzpah. A few filmmakers like Burstall and Franklin were able to able to scale the walls out of the Exploitation Ghetto, but only just. On the other side of the wall, there existed master showmen with no pretenses towards making "art" - John D. Lamond, Australia's own Russ Meyer, had earlier devised the ad campaigns for Roadshow's controversial hits like A Clockwork Orange and Emmanuelle, then used his canny ballyhoo skills for his own nefarious ends: Felicity, Australia After Dark, The ABC Of Love And Sex Australia Style...

And yet, even at their most repellent and exploitative, Australian B-films are well-crafted, belying their pitifully low budgets, and have an exceedingly liberal dose of self-awareness that's irresistible. Remember Janus the two headed Wonder Dog? It's still the same creature; the two heads are merely that arbitrary divide between Art and Artless, and ultimately are both needed for the creature to exist. Please keep this in mind when the Artless part is dry humping your leg and his breath smells like the death of fun itself.

Alvin Purple (1973)

A knowing satire on the Swinging Seventies and the Permissive Society, Alvin Purple uses the classic English sex comedy model of a hapless, clumsy innocent who becomes an inadvertent sex symbol, gigolo and porn star! Despite its "sex film" tag it was a smash and has an enduring popularity due to its good-natured humour and Burstall's quirky direction, Brian Cadd's hit film score, and an assured supporting cast loaded with familiar TV and film faces. Then there's the endearing Alvin himself, Graeme Blundell, whose portrayal as the Vegemite-smeared Candide is as iconic as the brown stuff itself.

Friday 1st August 2008 9:10pm, The Regent 1

Patrick (1978)

Australia's response to the ESP horrors of Carrie and The Fury has a glass-eyed patient, shocked into a coma by the death of his mother, unleashing a Pandora's Box of destruction from his hospital bed. A sympathetic nurse and Patrick's doctor (Sir Robert Helpmann) uncover Patrick's traumatic past, and suspect there's an endless well of evil behind the vacant stare. Australian horror's first international breakthrough is a suprisingly effective and highly stylized exercise in tension, due to to Richard Franklin's sure hand and a layered script by Everett de Roche.

Saturday 2nd August 2008 8:30pm, The Regent 1

The Man From Hong Kong (1974)

The unlikely pairing of Village Roadshow and martial arts studio Golden Harvest produced Australia's only true blue kung fu flick. Imported kung fu superstar "Jimmy" Wang Yu plays a Hong Kong cop out to bust Bondian supervillain (and former James Bond) George Lazenby in a flurry of flying fists and tough guy theatrics. From the film's opening chopathon atop Ayers Rock to its window-shattering finale, expatriate action specialist Brian Trenchard-Smith keeps tongue firmly in cheek whilst wringing remarkably straight-faced performances from Rebecca Gilling, Frank Thring, a young Sammo Hung and Mad Max's Roger Ward and Hugh Keays-Byrne.

Sunday 3rd August 2008 9:00pm, The Regent 1

Turkey Shoot (1982)

Purist, trashy, joyously exploitative drive-in fodder set in a "futuristic" jungle prison where detainees slated for brainwashing are subjected to endless all-girl showers and torture sequences, then forced to participate in a deadly man-hunt in the North Queensland jungle. Trenchard-Smith's hyper-ludicrous hybrid of The Big Doll House, 1984 and The Most Dangerous Game was blasted by critics as the lowpoint of Australian cinema to date. Which is true, and proudly so; only now can its bleak, jet-black humour, prolific gore and imaginative genre-splicing place this disreputable chancre of a film as a true classic of Australian B cinema.

Sunday 3rd August 2008 11:10pm, The Regent 1

Stone (1974)

One-shot auteur Sandy Harbutt wrote, directed and starred in Aussie bikerdom's uncompromising counter culture classic. An idealistic young cop dons the denims of biker gang the Gravediggers to uncover a serial killer in their midst; as Stone descends deeper into their culture he finds, between the knife fights, skinny-dipping and psychedelics, the meaning of the term Honour Among Thieves. Harbutt's sympathies clearly lie with the outlaws, a stance at odds with the biker genre's usual conservatism and faux morality. Stripped of Mad Max's futurist trappings, Stone thus stands alone as a compelling, not to mention career-killing mix of kitsch and conviction.

Wednesday 6th August 2008 9:30pm, The Regent 1

The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie (1972)

Bruce Beresford's technically rough, hilarious bad-taste ode to the wide-eyed and obnoxious Fosters-soaked Aussie abroad rips Barry Humphries' character from the pages of Private Eye and brings him to life in all his technicolour triumph, as he tears a swathe through English politeness along with his pre-Dame Auntie Edna (Humphries again, in one of three roles). As Bazza, Barry Crocker - yes, THE Barry Crocker - has the big chin, the potty mouth and glaring anachronistic "Strine" lingo, and the blissful lack of self-awareness that nail the script's satiric swipes at all and sundry. With cameos from Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, and various other "pommie bastards".

Thursday 7th August 2008 9:30pm, The Regent 1

Long Weekend (1978)

Nature turns nasty in an underrated and, until recently, forgotten masterpiece of terror. Everett de Roche's remarkable two-character script pits a self-absorbed and relentlessly bickering city couple on a relationship-repairing beach retreat against an increasingly hostile, almost supernatural environment: birds swoop, the usually docile kangaroos slash and claw, and the reappearance of a dugong shot by Hardgreaves as target practice is harbinger of a fate which, to de Roche's credit, is never explained. Dark, suspenseful, ambiguous, and utterly enthralling, and hardly suprisingly, is due for a remake.

Friday 8th August 2008 10:50pm, The Regent 1

Post-seminar photo: Dani Haig, me, Brian Trenchard-Smith & Antony I. Ginnane

"Ozploitation" Seminar

In conjunction with our retrospective focus, this panel will explore the history of Australian genre cinema and the industrial conditions which led to cult classics like Alvin Purple, Patrick and Turkey Shoot making it to the big screen.

Guests: Brian Trenchard-Smith (director, Man From Hong Kong/Turkey Shoot), Alan Finney (actor, Alvin Purple), Mark Hartley (director, Not Quite Hollywood), Antony Ginnane (producer, Patrick & Turkey Shoot)

Chair: Andrew Leavold

Saturday 2nd August 2008, 12pm GoMA Cinema A

Grindhouse review

GRINDHOUSE 101 article

[Originally published in Rave Magazine (April 2008) Brisbane, Australia]

What is a "Grindhouse" exactly? It's the ghetto version of the drive-in, a rundown inner-city roach motel showing third-run chop sockeys and Italian cannibal films, the kind of place you might get an anonymous blowjob or a switchblade in the eye during a double bill of 2069 A Sex Odyssey and Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman. If you peer closely through the accumulated nicotine grease and tumbleweeds of discarded tissues, you might even recognize the same place your parents took you to the premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ten years earlier. Steer clear of the uncovered beer and just stick to the popcorn – lord knows, it will stick to you.

Most of us from the Video Generation missed out on the Grindhouse experience, a dubious pleasure firmly rooted (ahem) in the libidinous Seventies which disappeared around the same time as Betamax. Not so the teenaged B-culture vulture Quentin Tarantino, who claims to have spent most of the early Eighties in similar shit-pits devouring the collected works of Lucio Fulci and Cirio Santiago. We're talking the lowest of the low-rent genres: Nazi sexploitation (Ilsa She Wolf Of The SS), amputee revenge epics (Crippled Masters, The Amazing Mr No Legs), The Sinful Dwarf, Avenging Disco Godfather. No taboo, no limit of bad taste, no exploitative hook was left unexplored. God bless the Sick, Sick Seventies.

Not content with reinventing the modern noir thriller, Tarantino continues Kill Bill's concerted program of genre appropriation (post-modern terminology for outright thievery) by crafting his ultimate tribute to the Seventies B-grade double bill. Now restored to its original format after its collapse at the US box office and subsequent poor faring as stand-alone features, Grindhouse pairs Planet Terror and Death Proof, along with a selection of faked trailers (Werewolf Women Of The SS to name just one) proudly under its deliberately rain-stained banner.

For all its numerous faults, Grindhouse is still a grandiose one-fingered gesture to the homogeny of mall-bound irritainment. At worst it's grotesquely self-indulgent and oversteps the staying power and genre savvy of its usually forgiving audience. To his credit, Tarantino's partner-in-crime Robert Rodriguez hits every mark in Planet Terror, a rapid machine-gun edit of a hundred apocalyptic undead shockers with some wildly imaginative flourishes. Tarantino's Death Proof, on the other hand, doesn't work as an exploitation OR Tarantino flick, and for all its annoying references to Vanishing Point and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, he's forgotten the rules of what makes a great B film. Instead it's a two-act movie that gets bog-heavy in dialogue while looking for its third act.

The core problem with Grindhouse is simple. You can't make Outsider Art on an Apple Mac, and you certainly can't give two rich kids $50 million and expect them to conjure up the magic of a film made on one hundredth the budget. If I was Harvey Weinstein - just give me a few hundred more cheeseburgers and I'm almost there - I'd hand them half a million each and a few thousand feet of mouldering 35mm stock, send Tarantino to the Philippines and Rodriguez back to Mexico, and let them get down and dirty in their self-dug trenches. THEN, and only then, will my respect for them as filmmakers return in full.

Grindhouse cinema is, by its very definition, cheap and nasty. The latter you can fake; cheapness is something that exists in a film's very soul, and no amount of post-production effects can reproduce it. More significantly, no media hype nor gratuitous name dropping can make such a disreputable, grubby and inherently unacceptable genre "cool". To evoke the name Grindhouse is like pouring boiling oil on a rat's nest: you may not like the look and smell of what comes bubbling back out.

Rudy Ray Moore: The Dolemite Collection reviews

RUDY RAY MOORE The Dolemite Collection reviews

[Originally published in Empire magazine (May 2008) Sydney, Australia]

"Dolemite is my name, and fuckin' up motherfuckers is my game!"

Until recently, comedian Rudy Ray Moore was Black America’s best kept secret. While his foul-mouthed contemporaries Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor managed to seep into milktoast USA, Rudy didn't, and remained for most of his career on the segregated chitlin' circuit, only registering on Whitey’s radar once Hip-Hop Royalty acknowledged him as the Godfather of Rap.

And for good reason. Moore’s elaborate rhymes are modern rap’s forerunners and ghetto comedy at its purest: protracted boasting and roasting peppered with “niggers”, “cocksuckers” and “motherfuckers”, ceaselessly one-upping Whitey and high steppin' yellows amidst a torrent of almost incomprehensible ghettolingus. After piddling success as an R&B singer, Rudy self-financed a string of X-rated party LPs in the early Seventies which in turn bankrolled Dolemite (1975), the first in a series of Rudy Ray Moore party films released in May as “The Dolemite Collection”.

Technically the roughest of Rudy’s films, Dolemite is also the uneasiest mix of black action and Rudy’s unique proletizing, with the ever-present boom mike hanging like a third leg from the top of the frame. Busted out of jail to take on the dope and gun running in the ghettos, Dolemite (Moore) heads back to his pimpdom to find his club's been snatched by arch-rival Willie Green. Luckily his madam Queen Bee has trained his girls in martial arts - at the Chuck Norris School of Karate, I kid you not – and a war erupts just in time to redefine the term "kung faux" forever.

As an action film it's an abject failure. As a rare kind of Outsider Cinema it’s a different beast altogether, testament to Rudy's imaginative penny-pinching and savant genius. Thanks to his comedy albums as a fertile source for material, every line is a gem, a giddy string of profanities equally and infinitely quotable (Hamburger Pimp: "I'm so bad I kick my own ass twice a day!").

Rudy’s follow-up The Human Tornado (1976) or, more correctly, "The Human Tar-NAYduh!" starts off appropriately on stage with Rudy doing what he does best: beating a live audience (and us) over the head with a string of expletives. Within minutes he’s rhyming naked on the run and heads to LA where Queen Bee's gone legit, running a successful club to the horror of local mob boss Cavaletti, who locks two of her girls in his torture chamber and forces her to pimp for his rival club. Dolemite unleashes hell accompanied by even more aggravated mugging and playing up the absurdity of his persona, with the grunts, grimaces and Three Stooges goofs sped up for surreal effect.

As much as I adore the original Dolemite, this is undoubtedly Rudy's masterpiece. It’s like he’s slipped something in our drinks: colours are brighter, the “motherfuckers” are louder, the ghetto-honed charicatures are painted in broader strokes. It’s Rudy in hyperdrive, trading the naïve charm and disarming incompetence of Dolemite for an intense awareness of what pushes his black audience’s buttons, and the sight of Rudy as a black buck seducing the cow-chested Mrs Cavaletti literally brings the house down!

The nuttiness is kicked up a notch in the tale of Petey Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son In Law (1977), a stand-up comedian dragged to Hell and forced to agree to marry the Devil's daughter - an unsightly lass we all have the misfortune to witness. Once back, Petey thinks he can cheat ol’ Lou and exploit his new devilish powers along with his trademark "kung fool" to battle an army of polystyrene-horned demons. Paradise Lost it ain’t, yet despite the running watermelon gags and the sight of Petey as an eight year pimp-in-training emerging from his mamma’s belly, it resembles – for Rudy, at least – a real movie.

Having taken his Dolemite schtick as far as he could, Rudy aims for social commentary in 1979’s Disco Godfather, a PG-rated crusade against PCP featuring Moore as Tucker Williams, a rhymin’ MC at an all-black Roller Disco, yelling his "put your WEGHT on it!" mantra in more figure-hugging polyester shirts than ever. Visiting his nephew in a psych ward full of Angel Dust casualties, Tucker launches a campaign to “attack the wack”, and locks horns with gangster Sweetmeat who doses Tucker through a gas mask with hallucinatorily hamfisted results.

Existing in the cracks between Saturday Night Fever, Reefer Madness and an after-school TV special, Disco Godfather piles on its bug-eyed freakiness – drug-fried zombies cooking their chill'un, limbless basketball players fighting witches with samurai swords – with so much po-faced conviction that, despite its garish fashion and acting bordering on (and occasionally passing into) hysteria, it’s nowhere near as fun as it sounds. It’s a slightly downbeat note to mark the end of Rudy’s decade-long reign as the Bad Motor Scooter; for all their technical shortcomings, “The Dolemite Collection” has more soul than a hundred Harlem restaurants, more grind in their behind. And I KNOW you can dig it.

EXTRAS: Each disc has the same trailers, radio spots, an unimaginative text-based Dolemite Trivia, and Rudy's camcorder tour of locations around his neighbourhood. In other words, as poverty-stricken as Rudy's first production.