Yesterday afternoon I finally saw Craig Brewer and Eddie Murphy‘s Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix, currently streaming). Loved it, very cool, super-likable, at times hilarious. Call it a reconsecration of the Larry Karaszewski-Scott Alexander brand, and a definite bounce-back for Brewer and especially Murphy.
Let’s clearly understand that first and foremost this is a Scott and Larry film, and is basically a blaxploitation version of Ed Wood — same spirit, same or similar arc for the main character, same pluck and never-say-die determination, same indifference to (or an inability to recognize) the basic concept of quality, same naive but dedicated crew of co-conspirators.
The difference between Ed Wood and Dolemite is that a sizable African-American audience responds with enthusiasm and joy to the crappy cinematic creations of the real-life Rudy Ray Moore (played by Murphy) while nearly everyone despised Plan 9 For Outer Space (except for purveyors of camp a decade or two later).
The slight downside is that Dolemite Is My Name doesn’t have its own Bela Lugosi character, much less someone like Martin Landau portraying him, and it doesn’t have a facsimile of that gay Bill Murray character.
Dolemite is My Name is a tribute to tenacity and one man’s relentless belief in himself, despite his utter lack of talent and/or inspiration, and especially his absolute lack of respect for the craft of cinema, let alone any artistic potential.
Shitty, low-rent filmmaker makes good because he won’t quit, and because people with no taste ** like what he’s selling!
The funniest scene, for me, is when Rudy and his Dolemite homies are reading the initjal reviews. One critic, Earl Calloway of the Chicago Defender, wrote that “Dolemite is not fit for a blind dog to see…it’s coarse, bold, crude, and rude.” For whatever reason I started laughing uncontrollably when I heard this, and I’m what you might call an LQTM type.
Another critic called it “Dull-emite.”
In the early ’70s Moore was a has-been comedian, musician, singer in his mid ’40s, working in a South Central record store. He re-ignited his career after hearing randy stories about “Dolemite” from a local street guy named Rico. Moore began recording the stories, and assumed the role of “Dolemite” in his club act and on recordings. In 1970–71 he recorded three albums of raunchy material — Eat Out More Often, This Pussy Belongs To Me and The Dirty Dozens.
Rudy is inspired by make his own film after suffering through a public showing of Billy Wilder‘s The Front Page.
I agree with Rudy’s estimation — The Front Page was fairly awful. Jack Lemmon (48 or 49 during filming) and Walter Matthau were at least 15 years too old to play Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns.
Rudy’s own words about the blind-dog review: “Earl Calloway did so much for my career. He wrote in the Chicago Defender — I still got the article — ‘Dolemite is not fit for a blind dog to see.’ And, of course, this made people say, ‘We’re going to see how crude and rude this Dolemite is!'”
** Francois Truffaut stated sometime in the early ’60s that “taste is a natural result of a thousand distastes.”