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Case Number 23616: Small Claims Court

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The Slams

Warner Bros. // 1973 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // April 3rd, 2012

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All Rise...

A plate of bad clams gave Appellate Judge Tom Becker the Slams.

The Charge

JIM BROWN goes over the wall
to flash with a million $ stash.

The Case

Huh?

I'll translate.

Everybody's favorite Blaxploitation hero, JIM BROWN, stars as Hook, a street-smart criminal. Along with two other baddies, Hook pulls off a $1.5 million heist from the MOB. While the heist itself—which consists of locking some mobsters in a tin structure and pumping it full of cyanide gas—has an uncomfortable genocide vibe about it, it's nonetheless effective: Hook and his cohorts get a briefcase full of cash and a second, bonus briefcase full of heroin. Upstanding outlaw that he is, Hook wants no part of the heroin, but he's not above mowing down his compatriots in a shoot-out that leaves them dead and him wounded.

Hook dumps the dope in the ocean—much to the delight of surf junkies everywhere—and hides the cash. Though wounded, he tries to escape in the shot-up crime van, but crashes into a police car. Bummer; he ends up doing one-to-five in the state pen, or as it's colloquially known, The Slams.

Word travels fast in a small pen, so everyone knows about Hook's crime, and EVERYONE—from the warden to the guards to the fish big and little—want a piece of his action. For most of them, that means the hidden cash, though a fetching con whose nickname is "Golden Mouth" seems to want something more. Hook just laughs off the come-hither looks and focuses on the more pressing stuff—like the machinations of an imprisoned kingpin named Capiello (Frank DeKova, who played Chief Wild Eagle of the Hekawis on F Troop) and his enforcer, the towering and sadistic Glover (Ted Cassidy, Poor Pretty Eddie).

While the inside is just a terrible maze of intrigues, shankings, and buggery, Hook has a couple of friends on the outside. There's his lady, Iris (Judy Pace, Brian's Song), a gorgeous and successful newscaster, though why a newscaster would be involved with a criminal like Hook is a question that—oh, wait…it's JIM BROWN. Never mind…

Hook's other over-the-wall friend is not-so-gorgeous but highly successful pimp and drug dealer Jackson Barney (Paul E. Harris, The Mack), a man so cool, he has a big car with a personalized license plate that says "IM HEP."

Further complicating this already simmering stew: the place where Hook hid the cash is set to be demolished—long before our man is up for parole! Looks like a Great Escape is going to have to happen—but will Hook live long enough to flash with the stash and have a bash with the cash?

The Slams was the third film for director Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused) and his first that wasn't for Roger Corman's New World company. Although it's an MGM product, there was still a Corman on board—Roger's brother Gene served as producer.

The film has the look and feel of the typical AIP production, and boasts early work by people who went on to pretty impressive careers, including art director Jack Fisk (There Will Be Blood, Days of Heaven), cinematographer Andrew Davis (who went on to direct The Fugitive and Under Siege), and sound engineer William B. Kaplan (Back to the Future, The Polar Express).

Of course, The Slams is hardly representative of anyone's finest work, but then, no one sees a movie like this for its artistry. This is a wildly violent and ludicrous bit of drive-in fodder—the prison setting makes it tough to sandwich in too much female nudity, though an orgy at Jackson Barney's place kinda fills the bill—and JIM BROWN is in his butt-kicking, monotone-line-delivering prime. Brown had a great run of cheesy action films in the early '70s, with Slaughter his signature role. The Slams moves along at a nice clip with just enough inane story—including a prison break facilitated by a rigged-up Port-a-Potty—to keep its head above water.

The disc from Warner Archive is serviceable: pretty good image and sound, a trailer as the lone supplement.

The Verdict

Gruesome yet silly, The Slams is a perfectly fine time waster. Jim Brown really was a pretty great action hero, and he's always worth catching.

Unlike the hard nuts behind the big walls, The Slams is not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Action
• Blaxploitation
• Crime
• Drama
• Exploitation

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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