Willie Dynamite, 1974.
Directed by Gilbert Moses.
Starring Roscoe Orman, Diana Sands, Thalmas Rasulala, Joyce Walker, George Murdock, and Juanita Brown.
Willie Dynamite is the flashiest pimp in New York with all the glitz and glamour that the high life can offer. But can a tough social worker help change his mercenary ways?
Less well known than Blaxploitation big hitters such as Shaft and Superfly, Willie Dynamite is nevertheless well worth checking out for anyone looking for some classic 70’s pimp action street level cinema. With all the garish and wild gangster outfits, sweet funk and soul sounds and deadpan humour associated with the genre, this is an entertaining romp through urban grit laced with a jewel encrusted edge.
Following the titular lead as he prowls around the city dressed in the finest threads that prostitution can buy, the film is an interesting mix of social commentary and crime action. The story largely concerns itself with something of a moral battle, taking a principled stand on Willie’s mercenary lifestyle and showing the better way out. The truth is that despite his high rolling deals and fantastic clothes, the lead pimp is quite a sad case. He hits the top and then rock bottom and finds he has no friends and little purpose. The fact that the film showcases all of this in fairly serious style without overly glamourising is somewhat surprising, but it does so with a real panache and confidence that becomes transfixing.
Enticing and packing a real punch in a velvet glove, Willie Dynamite is an entertainingly raw slice of 70’s street opera. Never shying away from the uglier side of criminal life, this is a film that documents life on the edge in all its lustre, from the sparkling gold of Willie’s waistcoat trim to the scarlet red of blood falling to the curb.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
Original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Kiss My Baad Asss, a guide to blaxploitation hosted by actor and musician Ice-T, and featuring interviews with Richard Roundtree, Melvin van Peebles, Isaac Hayes and others
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
First pressing only: Fully illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Cullen Gallagher
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.