Archive for December, 2010

"Santa's Slay" DVD Cover

Let’s wrap up our little Batshit-Crazy-Santas review series with a look at the 2005 straight-to-DVD “starring” vehicle for ex-wrestler Bill Goldberg, Santa’s Slay, shall we? Glad you agree.

So, yeah, here’s the straight dirt on Jolly Old St. Nick — he’s really a demon, got it? in fact, truth be told he’s not just any garden-variety demon, he’s the son of the Great Horned One, good ol’ Lucifer himself! Okay, so you could already have guessed as much.  Nobody’s that fucking cheerful out of the goodness of their heart, it just ain’t natural. He’s an unlucky demon, though, in that he lost a bet to an angel and had to go around being nice for the next 1,000 years. Time’s just about up, though, and this Christmas is the Christmas that Santa gets to revert back to his old ways and pay back the human race — with interest!

Teenage schmuck Nicholas (Douglas Smith, who’s absolute cardboard and represents the weakest link in this movie’s casting) lives amidst a family of typically nauseating Christmas-lovers (even his girlfriend, future Lost beauty Emilie de Ravin seems to enjoy the “festive” season), with one notable exception : his curmudgeonly old grandpa (the late, great Robert Culp, who I guess it’s fair to refer to here as a Christmas-horror veteran since he also featured in Silent Night, Deadly Night 3), who for some mysterious reason knows the truth about the jolly fat man and shares it with his grandson. It might be too little, too late though, since (again, for reasons initially unexplained) Santa’s set his newly-evil sights squarely on Nicholas and intends to make him and his family the first victims of his new campaign of sadistic evil!

I’m not much for the whole wrestlers-turned-actors thing, but Goldberg’s casting as the wicked Santa here was definitely a stroke of genius — he tackles the role with absolute relish and looks to be having the time of his life. Culp is fantastic as always as grandpa (sporting an uncharacteristic five o’clock shadow here), and Fran (The Nanny) Drescher ,  Dave Thomas of Mackenzie Brothers fame, and the always-solid Saul Rubinek turn in fun   performance in smaller roles, as well.  the direction from David Steiman (who also wrote the screenplay) is unremarkable in any sort of stylistic sense, but certainly workmanlike and highly competent. My only gripe with this flick is that some of the CGI looks pretty dated (and was probably even substandard for its time), but apart from that this is a fun, original, slapstick-ish Christmas horror-comedy.

Santa’s Slay is available on DVD from Lionsgate and features a nice selection of extras including a full-length commentary track and some behind-the-scenes-type stuff. The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks great and the 5.1 surround-sound mix is very nicely done, as well.

If foul-mouthed children, even-fouler-mouthed old ladies, a flying bison, a gaggle of strippers, a demonic St. Nick out for revenge, jokes about caulk, and a cinematic salute to the sport of curling sound like your cup of tea, look no further — you’ll not only enjoy the hell out of Santa’s Slay, it will become a new holiday tradition in your home.

"Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 : The Toy Maker" Poster

And we wrap up the Silent Night, Deadly Night series in 1991, when Brian Yuzna returns (this time in the producer’s chair, with co-writer Martin Kitrosser directing) to again take the series in a seriously different direction.

This time around, Christmas is central to the story, which makes fora welcome change from the last installment, and the psycho-in-a-Santa-suit theme is back as well (sort of, it’s not really central to things, as you’ll see), but there any similarities to what has gone before end. Let me just whet your appetite for this flick by saying this much — it starts with a killer toy making mincemeat of some hapless stepdad and ends with a dickless robot humping away at the erstwhile heroine of the story and screaming “I love you mommy!!!!!!!”

Interested yet? I figured you would be, you sick fuck (takes one to know one). In between all that we’ve got a pretty bizarre little story, too — the dead guy’s stepkid, Derek, is understandably traumatized due to having witnessed his replacement father’s murder, and to cheer him up, his clueless mother, Sarah, offers to buy him a toy. She’s not just taking him to any toy store, though, she’s taking him to Joe Petto’s shop. Petto is something of an anachronism — in a world filled with Cabbage Patch Dolls and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, he still makes the toys he sells himself, in the workshop in the back of his store. Problem is, Petto’s gone off the deep end and is building toys specifically designed to kill their owners (namely, children) — there’s just one hitch : grown-ups seem to be stumbling across all his toys first and getting the deadly surprises he’s actually intended for the tots. Joe’s got an (apparently) unwitting accomplice in all this mayhem, too — his (again, apparently) teenage son, Pino, who doesn’t seem to age —

Okay, it’s painfully obvious what we’ve got going on here — a psycho version of Pinocchio. And while that’s a fun enough idea in and of itself, it’s the casting that makes this straight-to-video curiosity really stand out. First off, we’ve got a visibly autistic guy named Brian Bremer playing Pino. It’s hard to tell if he even knows what he’s really doing here. And as if that’s not enough, portraying his “dad,” Joe Petto, is none other than old-time Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney! Now, Rooney is scary enough in the film’s less lurid scenes, but as the full extent of his depravity becomes known (alcoholic, abusive father, child killer — you know the drill), he really pulls out all the stops and delivers a performance that is, if this doesn’t sound too contradictory, blood-curdlingly hilarious. And just to digress here for a brief moment, it’s worth considering that Rooney is one of the celebrities who was so shocked and appalled — just shocked and appalled, I tell you! — by the first Silent Night film that he added his voice to the coterie of busybodies who eventually succeeded in getting it pulled from theaters prematurely. I guess their money’s as good as anyone’s, though, and seeing how Rooney’s got something like eight or nine ex-wives to pay, he’s more than willing to put his high-and-mighty principles aside when the rubber hits the road.

There are a couple of tangential links to the series’ fourth cinematic chapter on hand here — Neith Hunter is back as Sarah, this time in a much-reduced role (she’s just shown as being the mom of a teenage kid), and Clint Howard returns as Ricky, who’s apparently moved up a bit in the world given that he’s no longer homeless and has a gig as one of Santa’s helpers at a local mall. That’s about it as far as connections to anything that’s happened previously, though, until Rooney/Petto puts on a Santa costume for his crazed finale, thus establishing a thematic link with the franchise’s beginnings (and given that this installment proved to be the end of the series, that ends up bookending things rather nicely).

On the technical front, Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 : The Toy Maker is, once again, available as part of the three-DVD Silent Night, Deadly Night Collection from Lionsgate. The digitally-remastered full-frame transfer again looks very nice, the Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is perfectly acceptable, and there are no extras included on the disc to speak of. Don’t let the bare-bones presentation scare you off from seeing this one, though —The Toy Maker isn’t the cream of the SNDN crop (that would be part 3), but it’s definitely the most surreal of the bunch, and your humble host recommends it very highly indeed.

"Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 : Initiation" Poster

And now we go way off the rails. Which is not necessarily such a bad thing. Into the Silent Night, Deadly Night picture comes one Brian Yuzna, best known for producing cult horror favorites like Re-Animator, but by no means a slouch as a director himself. Figuring (quite rightly) that the whole Billy/Ricky -as-killer-Santa thing had run out of gas, the producers of the now straight-to-video Silent Night series figured that Yuzna could give their flagging franchise a shot in the arm, and that he certainly did, even if the end result was, shall we say, mixed at best.

Look, I’m not going to kid you here — 1990’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 : Initiation isn’t a very good movie. Storywise, it’s a bit of a mess, and that’s me being polite. The acting takes OTT to ludicrous extremes. And the Christmas connection is tenuous at best (indeed, you could just as easily have set this story around Halloween, thanksgiving, Easter, or even the 4th of July). However, I’m willing to give Yuzna and co. points for trying something different here.

The first thing you need to know is that this movie has nothing to do with the previous three — the whole sordid history of the brothers Caldwell is just that, history. The Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise at this point is just a label for DTV Christmas-themed (again, in this case only vaguely) horror films. Our story this time revolves around an intrepid young reporter named Kim (Neith Hunter) who is investigating a bizarre death that occurs around Christmastime (and that’s the extent of the holiday connection here — told you it was shaky at best). A woman on fire leapt to her death from the top of a building and our gal Kim wants answers, damnit! The answers she finds, though, just lead to more questions —

First she learns that the woman dies from spontaneous internal combustion. Don’t see that every day. Then she learns that the mystery lady had something to do with a modern-day ultra-feminist (to put it kindly) cult dedicated to the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. Then she meets the cult’s beautitful leader, Fima (Maud Adams of Octopussy fame). Then she learns the cult has selected her to become the host for a reincarnated Isis, and she’s gonna be their new queen!

Oh, and along the way we’ve got giant maggots and the one and only Clint Howard as a guy named Ricky (not Caldwell and nothing to do with the first three flicks) in a comically evil scenery-chewing turn as a lecherous creep helping the ladies out.

Look, this isn’t Yuzna’s finest hour by any stretch, but it’s okay. It’s hard not not like, at least on some level, any movie with Clint Howard and giant maggots. But it’s a confused, jumbled mess of a film, even if it has its heart in the right place. It was certainly time (heck, well past time) for the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise as a whole to move in a new direction. I’m just not sure this was the way to go.

Again, as with the last flick, this one’s available on DVD as part of Lionsgate’s three-disc Silent Night, Deadly Night Collection. There are no extras whatsoever but the digitally remastered full-frame transfer and 2.o Dolby stereo sound are both of very solid quality.

And so the post-Santa-slasher chapter of the saga begins on a bizarre and unique, if uneven, front. In a way this movie is almost a reverse image of part three — that was a standard, even dull, flick approached with competence and consummate professionalism. This was an attempt to do something utterly, weirdly different that fails in the execution. On to the next (and last) movie in the series, then, where weird is only the beginning!

"Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 : Better Watch Out!" Poster

So, now we move ahead on our little Silent Night, Deadly Night journey to 1989, and we’re full-boom into the video age. The drive-ins and exploitation grindhouses that were the bread-and-butter outlets for the first two flicks are dying out, and the cheap stuff is headed straight to VHS. The partnership behind Silent Night Productions has morphed into an outfit called Quiet Films and the “powers” that be there figure it’s a good time for another Silent Night flick because, hell, that’s all they’ve got, and so begins this chapter of the —- uhhhmmmm — odyssey (I guess).

This time, though, they made one seriously shrewd move — bringing in veteran B-movie hand Monte (Cockfighter) Hellman to direct the next adventure in the life of Ricky Caldwell. Yes, Folks, Ricky survived a bullet to the head, and has been kept alive in a comatose state by sorta-mad scientist Dr. Newbury (Richard Beymer, who later go on to stay as Ben Horne in Twin Peaks). Furthermore, while under the good doctor’s psychiatric “care,” Ricky (now wearing a brain case that you truly have to see to believe) has developed a kind of Esp link-thingie with another one of the doc’s patients, a blind young clairvoyant named Laura. And when Laura leaves the hospital to visit her grandmother on Christmas in the company of her brother Chris (Eric DaRe, who would also go on to appear on  Twin Peaks, as the psychotic Leo) and his girlfriend Jerri (Laura Harring, billend here as Laura Herring, best known for her co-starring turn in Mulholland Drive — what is this, a David Lynch recruitment drive or something?), Ricky decides now would be a good time to bust out of the hospital, follow her, and kill anyone who stands between him and his psychically-linked lady love.

If all of this sounds a bit ambitious for a Silent Night, Deadly Night flick, rest assured that it is — but, weirdly enough, this is the slowest, talkiest, most leisurely film of the bunch. Some folks even find it downright boring, since it’s pretty low on the body-count scale and relatively bloodless until the end. But those people just don’t know a good thing when they see it.

First off, we’ve gotta take circumstances into account here. Hellman was dissatisfied with the first script he got and pitched the whole thing out with two weeks to go, opting to start over from scratch with the help of co-writer Steven Gaydos. Smart move number one. Smart move number two was Hellman recruiting his old friend, Hollywood veteran Robert Culp, to play Lt. Connely, the cop who’s tracking Ricky along with Dr. Newbury. Since a good third or more of the film is just these two guys driving around talking, it helps to have two very good actors delivering the dialogue, and watching Beymer and Culp riffing off each each other almost free-form is a real treat. You get the very real sense that Hellman just told them to make up the dialogue as they went along.

On the minus side of the ledger, the suspense factor here is totally non-existent. You know they’re gonna get to the scene too late since Hellman cuts in the “action” in the cop car with scenes of what’s going down concurrently at Grandma’s house (which is on an orange farm, by the way). The only question is who’s gonna live and who’s gonna die once the doctor and the policeman show up. But I’m not going to get too overly critical here — after all, this is a movie where a killer wearing a clear plastic dome over his brain stalks a chick with ESP in the middle of a bunch of oranges, what’s there to really complain about?

Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 ; Better Watch Out! is a professional, workmanlike effort delivered in the midst of circumstances where none was expected or, for that matter, even really needed. the same amount of people (not many) were gonna rent this thing no matter what. To see Hellman, Culp, et. al. refusing to mail it in and actually insisting on earning their paychecks is a rare delight in the middle of a horror franchise that seemingly had run entirely out of gas after the first one.  The end result is hardly the most interesting entry into the series — that’s yet to come — but certainly the best made, and one I recommend heartily.

Silent Night, Deadly Night parts 3, 4 and 5 are available in the Silent Night, Deadly Night Collection 3-disc DVD set from Lionsgate. Extras are non-existent, but, as with the first two, the digitally remastered full-frame (it was a DTV flicfk, after all) and 2.0 Dolby stereo sound are nicely done. The set on the whole is hardly a bad purchase.

Don’t expect thrills, chills, or even much by way of (blood)spills here, but do expect a surprisingly imaginative and competent flick — where not a lot happens. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms (and I suppose it does, in a way, unless you’re a Woody Allen fan), you’ll just have to see it to know what I mean.

"Silet Night, Deadly Night Part 2" Movie Poster

So, I’m not sure what happened, but in 1987 a couple of the executive producers who retained the rights to the whole Silent Night, Deadly Night concept (and I use that term loosely) decided the initial controversy had blown over safely enough to the point where now a sequel was not only possible, but flat-out desirable, so they formed e a one-off partnership called “Silent Night Releasing” and set about hustling up $250,00 to make a quick, cheap sequel to a film nobody was exactly clamoring to see a sequel for . And sure enough, it did, in fact, turn out to be a good thing that this particular horror property was vaulted into “franchise” territory. But not because of this one.

Even for slasher junkies and horror completists out there, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is a tough slog. A very tough slog. First off we’re introduced to one Ricky Caldwell, brother of Billy (who funnily enough wasn’t mentioned in the first movie). Ricky’s 18 now and he’s headed out into the world after spending the last few years in a mental hospital. Ricky grew up in the same Catholic orphanage as his brother, but his elder sibling’s crime spree as a psycho Santa, and his subsequent murder, sent Ricky over the brink. But he’s cured now. Maybe.

Well, of course not. If he were, in fact, cured, we wouldn’t have much of a movie here, now would we?  And as it is, we don’t have much of a movie anyway.

Now, if you liked the first Silent Night, Deadly Night flick, you might like the first half of this one — that’s because damn near the first 45 minutes of this movie’s just-shy-of-90-minutes runtime is a flashback to the previous movie! I mean, I know they had to refresh the audience’s memory a bit because it had been a few years, but come on. the thing is, though, that flashback stuff is the best thing on offer here, because after it’s all done, all you’ve got is Ricky deciding pretty quickly to don the Santa suit and start killing. He kills some folks, and utilizies some Christmas-themed props, like a string of tree lights, in doing so, and then he gets shot by the cops.

Seriously. That’s it. End of story. This movie’s an (extremely) extended recap of the first flick topped off with less than 40 minutes of by-the-numbers slasher carnage. His ultimate target, as with his brother, is the cruel Mother Superior. There’s absolutely, positively nothing new here. The director was some guy named Lee harry who’s primarily worked as a B-movie and TV show editor. He brings even less style to the proceedings than Charles Sellier did to the first one. And, as with the first one, there are no “stars” worth mentioning (okay, you could argue that Linnea Quigley’s appearance in the first flick would have been worth at least a mention on my part, but come on — sew as in every horror movie back then).

As I mentioned in the previous review, this is available on DVD from Anchor Bay on a twin bill with its cinematic progenitor, and the anamorphic widescreen picture and mono sound are both nice. The only extra’s the trailer. It’s also available as a stand-alone release from the fine folks at Flesh Wound Video, complete with a commentary, so it must have had an “official” solo release somewhere in the world at some point, but not here in good ol’ Region 1.

I wish there was more worth saying about this movie, I really do, because I’m covering them all and should really go into detail, shouldn’t I? But in all seriousness, I already have. I’ve told you everything you need to know about Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 — there’s literally nothing more to say about it (or at least nothing interesting, at any rate). You can skip it as long as you know, going into the third installment, that we’re dealing with Ricky, not Billy, from here on out.

And that about wraps things up here (hell, no “about” is even necessary, that really does wrap things up here, completely and entirely). Let’s move on to the next one, shall we?

"Silent Night, Deadly Night" Movie Poster

Well, I guess first off the bat let me wish a very happy holiday season, whatever your celebration(s) of choice may be, to any and all TFG readers out there. I apologize for having been absent the past few weeks, but a spate of computer troubles finally convinced Mr. and Mrs. Trash Film that it was time to retire our seven-year-old laptop and go out and treat ourselves to a shiny new one as our Christmas gift from us to us, and so I as I sit here writing this I’m on our brand-spanking-new HP Pavilion model whatever-the-fuck-it’s-called-for-$1,000 laptop computer that so far we’re very pleased with. It’s got all the bells and whistles you could ever need and even more that you absolutely never will, and so the movie reviews should continue on here, barring my occasional bouts of laziness, well into the foreseeable future. But enough of this technical stuff, on with the show!

The time of year being what it is and all, I figured it’s as opportune an occasion as any to take a look back at that seminal Santa-slasher series from the 1980s/early 90s, the much-maligned -at-the-time-but-needless-to-say-cult-favorite-these-days Silent Night, Deadly Night opus. We’ll start at the beginning, as is the norm, and work our way up (or down, depending on the trajectory you see these films as having taken) from there.

Take your mind back, if you will (and if you were there) to Christmas, 1984. While big-budget holiday blockbusters like Beverly Hills Cop, 2010, and Dune ruled at the box office, a little horror flick from the nascent-at-the-time TriStar studio with a budget of around $750,000 got the yokels so riled up (thanks in large part to its lurid TV advertising campaign that scared the living shit out of little kids across the country with its depiction of an axe-wielding Santa) that it garnered picket lines at hundreds of theaters nationwide, spurred a national boycott of TriStar’s parent company, Mitsubishi, and eventually engendered a heated campaign of “concerned” parents demanding it be pulled immediately from distribution (a campaign that, shamefully, some Hollywood “A-listers” even signed onto, but more on that when we get to Part 5). After its first week in wide release, a good number of the movie houses it was playing at pulled the flick voluntarily, and after two weeks, the studio buckled under the pressure and yanked it from distribution altogether, immediately recalling all prints. the do-gooders had won — but not before TriStar netted a healthy $2.5 million take on their baby, no doubt assisted in large part due to the controversy itself, which got plenty of people up off their sofas (and their asses) and out to the theater to see if all the fuss was really warranted.

It wasn’t, of course — Silent Night, Deadly Night is pretty much a run-of-the-mill slasher as far as the blood-‘n-guts quotient is concerned, the only notable difference here is that instead of wearing a Halloween costume, a clown suit, or a hockey mask, our erstwhile killer is adorned in a Santa suit.There’s nothing particularly stylish or even different here, either — director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. was a veteran, primarily, of TV specials and movies of the week, and more often than not serves as producer rather than director (he’s given us such notable television masterpieces as The Capture of Grizzly Adams and George W. Bush : Faith In The White House). So It’s not like we’re looking at a particularly visionary take on the whole psycho-killer thing here.

The plot is as by-the-numbers as the direction, as well. Little Billy goes to visit his grandpa who suffers from dementia one Christmas eve, grandpa warns him that Santa Claus is evil, and sure enough, on the way home, the family station wagon breaks down and some drunken guy in a Santa suit kills his dad and rapes and kills his mom while little Billy silently watches on, cowering in the back seat, unnoticed by the inebriated St. Nick. Billy is then sent to a Catholic orphanage where he has a shitty childhood and is tormented by the sadistic Mother Superior who beats him for things like, you know, spying through the door keyhole on one of the pretty young nuns getting fucked by her boyfriend.

When it’s time to go out into the world at age 18, Billy lands a gig as a general menial laborer/stockroom schmuck at a store called Ira’s Toys, where he develops a crush on a cute cashier girl who’s also being pursued by the store owner’s yuppie-in-training college-age son, etc. Then Christmas happens, and when the hired St. Nick calls in sick, Billy is forced, despite his rather obvious reservations, to don the red-and-white gear and beard, and after hours, at the store Christmas party, Billy, still in the Santa suit despite the fact his mind is cracking under the strain, gets a few drinks in him, grabs an axe, and soon Ira’s Toys is going to be needing a whole new staff. Except Ir’s not doing any hiring because he’s dead, too.

Billy then ventures forth into the Christmas eve — ummmm  —- night (sorry, I realize that’s technically redundant), kills some teenagers partying and making out in a house while their parents are away (and points here for a genuinely cool impaling-by-deer-antlers scene), and then makes his way to the orphanage where he was brutalized and traumatized (or, to put it more politely, “raised”) as a boy to exact his ultimate revenge on the Mother superior and all her ilk. The little fact that they happen to be handing out toys to the orphans when he shows up isn’t gonna stop him, either — Billy’s out for blood!

So there you have it. Like I said, nothing new under the sun here. But that doesn’t mean that Silent Night, Deadly Night isn’t an effective slasher flick — truth be told it is. It’s just not an original one in the same sense that 1980’s Christmas Evil, which we took a look at here at TFG at about this same time last year, was. It’s  certainly solid and entertaining and well worth your time, to be sure. in short, you’ll get a kick out of it.But you’re also going to be left seriously wondering what all the fuss was about.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is available on DVD from Anchor Bay in a couple of different versions, either as a stand-alone release or paired up on a double-bill with Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. Both feature nicely-done anamorphic widescreen digitally-remastered transfers and mono audio tracks, and both are extremely sparse on the extras front — the trailer’s in there and that’s about it, barring a text history on the stand-alone version. the double-feature edition would normally be the way to go here, but as it’s out of print and sells on Amazon marketplace for about $80 minimum, you might want to go with the “solo” disc. Or, hell, you might just want to rent it.

At the end of the day, Silent Night, Deadly Night is, above all else, a triumph of marketing. if it weren’t for the TV ads with the killer Santa, this movie never would have garnered the buzz it did, never would have been prematurely pulled from theaters, and never would have made a couple million bucks and spawned a franchise. The Moral Majority-types who acted as its opponents were, in reality, its best friends. the studio couldn’t have asked for better free publicity. And frankly the whole sordidly entertaining episode just goes to show the hypocrisy of the part-time zealots out there — throw movie after movie filled to the brim with violent and sensationalistic brutality out there and no one says a word. But put the violently sensationalistic brutal killer in a Santa costume, and force parents all over to explain to their kids that there’s no such thing as Jolly Old St. Nicholas before they’re good and ready to, and suddenly everybody’s up in arms. They say that every society gets the villain it deserves, but frankly, even though we’ve already had real-life bogeymen like Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Henry Lee Lucas, Richard Ramirez, etc., I don’t think the wretchedly hypocritical, conveniently self-righteous American public has received the kind of amazingly evil, dark-mirror-image-of-itself villain it truly deserves quite yet. When whoever that may be does, in fact, emerge and truly terrorizes American society on a core level — when somebody comes forward and gives us a taste of our own wretched medicine, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. Merry Christmas, everyone.

"Black Dynamite" Movie Poster

First off, unlike the other flicks we’ve looked at in the little “Modern Grindhouse Classics” series I’ve had going on and off here at TFG, Black Dynamite isn’t so much a thematic or stylistic heir to 1970s-era exploitation cinema so much as it’s a straight-up spoof on it. But it’s a spoof that hits all the right notes and clearly understands not just what made the genre it’s sending up, in this case blaxploitation, so ridiculous, but what made it work, and what made it so damn cool, as well.

Largely the brainchild of co-screenwriter and star Michael Jai White (who’s gotta be on steroids), this 2009 pretty-much-straight-to-DVD feature (it’s gotten a bit of theatrical play on the midnight movie circuit) is a spoof with soul, and it’s clear from the outset that both White and director Scott Sanders have an intuitive understanding of what blaxploitation is all about, and while it’s certainly irreverent, it’s never downright disrespectful, and it’s clear this is truly a labor of love.

White plays the titular Black Dynamite (that’s the only name he goes by,  even at age 15), a bad-ass ex-Viet Nam vet and ex-secret agent who’s gotten tired of working for The Man and now protects the neighborhood on his own as a kung fu private eye.  He kicks ass, takes names, scores with all the ladies — you know the drill. But when The Man kills his only brother, who he had pledged to protect on his mother’s deathbed, starts dealing heroin to the local orphanage, and pumps some funky malt liquor into the neighborhood, he’s gotta fight back, even if the chain of corruption leads all the way to the top — and it does!

Everything you want is here — intentionally flubbed lines, repetitious dialogue, absurd Curtis Mayfield-style soundtrack music that not only gives a concise run-down of the plot but even goes so far as to lay out certain scenes in specific detail, kick-ass kung fu moves, authentic (if purposely exaggerated) 1970s clothing and hairstyles, smokin’ hot babes — and if you’re the type to watch out for cameos, be on the lookout for Arsenio Hall and Brian McKnight.

The action leads from the mean streets to Kung Fu Island all the way to the White (as in honky) House itself,and I’m sorry, but if you can’t get a laugh out of Black Dynamite getting in a martial arts showdown with a surprisingly spry (but ultimately, of course, doomed) Tricky Dick himself, while making time with Pat Nixon on the side, then you’re just plain no fun.

This movie is everything I’m Gonna Git You Sucka hoped it would be and then some, with the key notable difference being that the primary influence on the main character is more Jim Kelly than Jim Brown, and more of the jokes actually work. I’ve also seen some reviewers liken this to a kind of black Austin Powers, but whereas those movies sucked and this one doesn’t, I’m not so sure that the comparison is really all that valid.

What more do you want, people? A pimp named Mo Bitches? He’s in here. A bad-ass sultry ghetto fox named Mahogany Black? She’s here, too. Incompetent white cops and tough-but- good-hearted sidekicks? Check and check. Simply put, Black Dynamite doesn’t miss a beat.

The DVD release from Sony is solid, too, with the pristine anamorphic widescreen picture quality you’d expect from a new release, paired with a terrific 5.1-channel surround soundtrack, and a boatload of extras including the theatrical trailer, a “making-of” featurette tht covers pretty much all the bases, a panel discussion from Comic Con 2009 featuring all the principal players in front of and behind the camera, and a terrific feature-length commentary track with White, Sanders, et. al. So give it a look ASAP — in the spirit of Black Dynamite itself your humble reviewer refuses to pass up on any line that’s too obvious, so I’ll just close by saying this is one dymo-mite! flick.