A nerve-shattering…brain-battering…mind-splattering one-man disaster!
GOD BLESS RUDY RAY MOORE. There is currently no other performer out there who can create such excitement, good will, and entertainment value with just a move, a look, or a word (albeit a curse word). While most comedians age like runny cheese, Rudy's "flava" remains fantastic, and fascinating. In the history of Blaxsploitation, he has no equal. You can argue for Richard Roundtree, or Fred Williamson, or even Jim Brown, but when push comes to pusher man, no one got it more right on and righteously than Mr. Dolemite himself. The Human Tornado, Moore's second feature film, ranks as one of his, if not his best, films. Not taking itself as serious as his debut, Dolemite, and bordering the cartoon quagmire that would he would later exploit in Petey Wheatstraw and Disco Godfather, Tornado is Moore's Magnum 40 opus, a non-stop action packed, kung fu fighting laugh riot. Virtually forgotten in these uptight and politically sensitive times, Moore's body of work deserves wider recognition for laying the foundation for much of the comedy coming out of the African American and urban community over the last five decades.
Facts of the Case
Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) is a hard living, fun loving pimp daddy who beds the ladies and never asks questions later. Caught sans pants with a redneck sheriff's horny honey, Dolemite and his crew make a mad dash for the border. On their way to Los Angeles, Dolemite works nightclubs, doing his standup act (which we view long, hilarious sequences of). He eventually makes his way to L.A., home of Queen Bee's ultra happening nightspot and total experience. Queen and the girls put on the kind of show, complete with out of sync badly choreographed dancers and space suited funk bands, that made the 1970s cabaret scene what it obviously is not today. It's the most popular jive joint in town. And this really irks Mr. Cavaletti, a milquetoast mob manager who can't stomach the notion of having any competition for his watery drinks and flimsy floorshow. He kidnaps the club's most popular girls and forces Queen into white slavery, hustling her and the rest of the lovely ladies for his slimy friends.
This sends Dolemite into a vengeance-minded frenzy. Calling in favors, and exploring all options, he learns that Cavaletti's wife is a perverted young thing that prefers "dark meat" at Thanksgiving, if you catch my drift. Dolemite, disguised as an erotic art salesman (!), seduces Mrs. Cavaletti (who has ONE HYSTERICAL dream sequence about African American Atlases shifting her sands) and through the fine art of sexual release, discovers where the kidnapping hideout is. Mindful that saving his girls will only prolong, not end, the torment by the mob, Dolemite sets up a double fronted assault. When Cavaletti calls in Queen and the girls, Dolemite makes sure his gang acts as caterers so they can dish out some whoop ass along with the Swedish meatballs. In the meantime, Dolemite heads to the secret hide out alone to face the multitude of henchmen. What follows is a non-stop barrage of karate chops, judo kicks, tae kwan do, and kung fu grips. In the end, it's the one man sexual wrecking machine that must settle all scores, including one with the cuckolded hillbilly lawman that is still looking for a little hangman's justice.
Frankly, any description of this movie does not do it justice. From the bizarre sexual fantasy sequence of Mrs. Cavaletti, to the stage show at Queen Bee's, your jaw will be on the floor so often you should place the kettle corn next to your feet. Moore is, without a doubt, a pitiful actor, but he is a true star, a magnificent presence that pulls off the bad line readings and awkward emotional missteps by the sheer force and the overall magnetism of his personality. All the fun he is having making, shaking and baking this movie comes across on the screen and one can't help but feel it. His broad smile, his twinkling eyes, and his outrageous fashion sense create an infectious delight that compels you to watch, consume, and love. So what if there are continuity problems and the editing seems to have been done by an unemployed butcher, this is still a movie that, once you've seen it, you will never forget. Even through the gaffes and glitches, the pure comic magic of Rudy Ray Moore shines through.
This is not to say that The Human Tornado is hilarious or classic because it's so incompetent. Technical goofs here are the result of budgetary limits, but there was truly no limit to Rudy Ray's imagination. Everything, from fight scene to sex act, is filtered through his fun loving and audience pleasing sensibility. Nothing is done here for the sake of anyone or anything other than the entertainment of his fans. While more mainstream creators of urban exploitation were focusing on grit and grime, drugs, and death, Moore wanted his viewers to laugh, first and foremost, to be so amused by what they were seeing that they could, and would, ignore the less than professional level in the filmmaking. Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and the Chrises (Rock and Tucker) can all claim some mantle in the hallowed halls of blue humor, but it was Rudy Ray Moore that first understood and milked the connection between foul and funny. He produced his own "party records" and used this money to finance his film career. And the rest is history. Unfortunately, history is where he and his fantastic films have stayed. Many people outside of the African American community couldn't place Rudy Ray Moore, and even fewer could recite anything about him or his career. Hopefully, with the current re-release of all of his work on DVD, there will be the appropriate recognition of his place in the history of Blaxsploitation and comedy.
Now, while it is true that Moore made films to speak to the people, the culture, and the society he knew best, this is also not to say that someone who is white, middleclass and wouldn't know a chitlin from Chick-fil-a can't enjoy this film. Moore is hilarious, and his films cover all the entertainment bases. Don't like the off-color humor? Here comes a fight scene to cheer you up. Find sexy women in outlandish '70s fashion kicking the crap out of people ridiculous? Here comes a song or a revue sequence for your aesthetic enjoyment? Think that the atonal wailing of a wannabe Jennifer Holiday is like listening to a vocalizing cat on fire? Well, here's Rudy Ray in his birthday suit, jumping off cliffs and down onto the ladies. He surrounds himself with actors of differing quality, from the earlier emoting of a young (and very scene chewy) Ernie Hudson, to the non-actor line monotony of Jack Kelly, who plays the only police captain in the world who seems intimidated by the notion of having to actually solve crimes. Moore also knows that a small helping of sex and violence help make the movie more profitable. The Human Tornado indeed contains very racy sex scenes between a decidedly paunchy Moore and Gloriya De Lani as Hurricane Annie.
But it's the fight scenes that provide the most delirious pleasure. Moore is obviously from the Elvis school of showman martial arts training. He's got his defensive moves and his power noises down to a hilariously sweet science. But when he starts to flail those arms and kick those feet, watch out! Or more specifically, watch CLOSELY, since it may not be Rudy you're seeing. Though he will deny it to this day, one would swear that the uncoordinated and buffoonish Moore is not the smooth, well-trained butt kicker he becomes during the fights. One minute he looks like he can barely walk erect, the next he is flippin' and flyin' and spinnin' and grinnin'. It's the same with his gang of kung fu fighting females. There needs to be a new category of self defense techniques invented when talking about the fisticuff skills of Dolemite's ladies. Call it "choreographed, poorly executed, slow motion butt whooping." Sure, these women punch, pop, and pulverize their male (and occasionally, female) attackers. But they do so as if they are being handed the moves via fax, hoping the next one gets to them before their opponent attempts to defend themselves.
The Human Tornado and Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite are, indeed, relics of their time, like Sean Connery's James Bond or Dean Martin's Matt Helm. They function, not only as artifacts, but also as archeology. Captured on the screen, for all to witness are the styles, the sounds, and the social history of African America circa 1974. More than any other comedian or filmmaker, Moore was directly connected to his audience, holding a mirror up to them and reflecting their life, their styles, and their dreams. He steeps his character and his films in the language, the art, and the fashion of the times. This does mean, of course, that some of the material is very dated. But it is fascinatingly and entertainingly dated. Political correctness is shown the door in favor of loose morals, hard liquor, and good old-fashioned brawling. Women wear short skirts and low cut tops and the men like it that way. People offended by raw language, and even rougher depictions of street life, should steer clear. You will not hear, or see, so many "mofos" in your life. It's no wonder that Moore and his work pop up so frequently in the current rap scene. He started it, more or less.
The presentation offered here is first rate. Moore has controlled his catalog of films, and has made sure to preserve them well. The new DVD presentation (as part of the Dolemite Collection, though it can be bought separately) is a marked improvement over the original version of the DVD. While only offered in a full screen presentation, the images are solid, with minimal grain and scratches. Sound wise, there are some shortcomings. Some of the music was obviously mastered too loudly, so you get distortion and harshness in many of the club scenes. Still, in general, the two-channel Dolby Surround is good. Previous versions of The Human Tornado contained a shoddy amount of extras (some trailers and posters), but the current re-release contains a trivia game (for true RRM buffs only) and a wonderful guided tour, shot on video, of Mr. Moore revisiting locations for many of his films. While the quality of the direct to video image and sound is hit or miss (you may need a hearing aid to catch his soft spoken narration), the tour is a wonderful and insightful look at the man as he is now, and the clear devotion and love he had for the work he created and the loyalty of his fans.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Okay, let's face it. This is some amateurish stuff. Sets look like they were built out of balsa wood and carpet swatches. The dialogue is simplistic and crude. The N word, the B word, the F word and every modification and formulation of same are used here. It is not that its part of the dialogue, in most instances it IS the dialogue. Characterization runs the three dimensional gamut from black bad ass to white evil slime ball, with multi-racial bimbo thrown in for good measure. There are multiple continuity and timing errors. Roger Ebert once wrote that you could tell when a film is intellectually bankrupt when it uses tricks like reverse, slow, and fast motion to extract drama and/or comedy. Well, Rudy and company use all these techniques and more. So often in fact, you'll swear the film got lost at the developers and huge doses of Benny Hill were mistakenly added in. And, let's face it, the African Americans depicted here are not anything close to politically correct (as stated before) or even remotely recognizable in 2002. Some may even venture so far as to say that this is a very racist film, oddly enough, created by the very people that it ridicules and undermines.
Life is full of wonderful, undiscovered treasures. You stumble across some money in an old pair of pants, or a drawer. A particular song you love comes on the radio just when you needed or wanted it to. Someone you've been thinking about calls you. Add to this list discovering the work of Rudy Ray Moore, and witnessing the comic wonder that is The Human Tornado. Sure, there are better comedies, more intense action films, and even better examples of Blaxsploitation filmmaking. But when it comes right down to it, nothing out there will, guaranteed, put you in as wonderful a mood as this film. It should be prescribed for people with acute depression as a cure. It is nearly impossible not to be entertained, or fall in love with, this brave, brilliant, and boldly bawdy brother. When the history of black cinema is written, and the cream of the crop determined, here's hoping that the twisted intellect and addictive geniality of Mr. Moore and his gang of happy hustlers get the recognition they deserve. If not, there'll be some Hell to pay, baby. Dolemite is indeed BACK on the scene!
Rudy Ray Moore is OUT OF SIGHT, and the court finds him and his film not guilty. Xenon Entertainment is given "props" by "da judge" for keeping the legacy of Rudy and Dolemite alive.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Xenon Entertainment Group
• Original 1970s Radio Spots
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