Rare Screening of Blaxploitation Classic 'Slaughter's Big Rip-Off' in Chicago (Some Backstory...)
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Rare Screening of Blaxploitation Classic 'Slaughter's Big Rip-Off' in Chicago (Some Backstory...)

Slaughter's Big Rip-OffI’ve said it a 100 times before on this site that I love blaxploitation movies.

They are the films that made me for, better or worse (and mainly for

worse). Nothing can beat watching strong, virile, masculine black men going up against deranged racist

villains and laying them to waste. Can’t get enough of it!

And when it

comes to the glory that once was the blaxploitation genre, I’ve always felt that

American International’s 1973 "Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off," toplined by Jim Brown, is

one of true great movies of the genre. It was a somewhat rushed sequel to the

successful "Slaughter," which came out the previous year, in which the hero

ventures to Mexico to track down and kill the gangsters who killed his parents.

However "Big

Rip-Off" is one of those rare sequels that’s actually better than the original.

It is a dazzling, violent and chaotic film about a world gone mad. After taking

revenge on the gangsters who killed his parents in the first film, Slaughter now

finds himself in the cross-hairs of a vicious crime lord (played by the very

unlikely Ed McMahon of the old "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson") who’s out to

kill him as a favor to the surviving gangsters Slaughter didn’t wipe out in the

first film. With a climax that clearly inspired the bloody final confrontation

in Tarantino’s "Django Unchained," "Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off" is blaxploitation

cinema in full bloom (In another "tip of the hat" Don Stroud who plays McMahon’s hit man in "Rip-Off" also appears in "Django" as one of the racists rednecks in the film).

A

lot of credit for the success of the film goes to the long-time Hollywood

veteran director Gordon Douglas who knew how to put a film together and who, as

film critic and MoMA film curator Dave Kehr once said of him, "did more with less than any other director" that he could think of.

In fact "Rip-Off," which Douglas made in his late 60’s, was his next to last feature film

after a career literally spanning 4 decades, starting in 1935 by directing studio

comedy shorts that were shown between feature film double features. Moving up from low budget "B" movies to "A" list major Hollywood features, Douglas directed

every type of genre film you can think of – romance, musicals, comedies, action, detective, westerns and even sci-fi – and worked with almost every

major Hollywood star including Gregory peck, Frank Sinatra (several times; even as Sinatra was notoriously difficult to

work with), Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley and even Laurel and hardy.

And "Slaughter" was the second time Douglas had directed Jim Brown; the pair also worked together in 1964, in the blistering nihilistic western "Rio Conchos" for Fox, with

Brown in his first film role, playing a U.S. Army cavalry soldier.

Now a rare screening of "Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off" will take place at Chicago’s Black Cinema House this Sunday Feb. 7th. In addition, after

the screening, a discussion of film and

the genre will be led by Gerald Butters, author of the new book "From Sweetback

to Super Fly: Race & Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop."

In the books, Professor Butters, who teaches in the Masters

of Liberal Studies graduate program at Northwestern University, describes the

explosion of blaxploitation film in early 1970s Chicago. Films like "Slaughter’s

Big Rip-Off" changed the dynamics of who attended motion picture theaters in the

Loop, and led many Loop theaters to gain a reputation, in a seemingly short

amount of time, as “black spaces.” But not all black Chicagoans

were happy with the genre, claiming that it was destructive to black youth. And

by 1973, plans were already in the works to bulldoze all of these theaters.

The program

will take place at Black Cinema House in Chicago, located at 7200 S. Kimbark

starting at 4PM. It’s free to the

public.

And, oh yes, the program will finish in time for those of you anxious for the Super Bowl that

Sunday as well. Why not see "Slaughter Big Rip-Off" first before the game and

expand your horizons?

Here’s the

trailer:

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