Dusting Off... Black Dynamite
What is it?
Released in 2009, Black Dynamite is a spoof action-comedy film directed by Scott Sanders, co-written by and starring Michael Jai White and Byron Minns. Named after its central character, played by White, Black Dynamite reportedly came about as a result of White listening to James Brown's 'Super Bad' at a Blaxploitation-themed parties. White had the idea of creating a spoof Blaxploitation film set in the 1970s. Black Dynamite is essentially a Blaxploitation send-up, complete with all the errors and low-budget aesthetics displayed by the films of the era. The film also features roles for Arsenio Hall and a posthumous cameo for the late, great Richard Pryor.
The story centres on the fictional character of the film's title, described as 'the biggest African-American action star of the 1970s'. When Black Dynamite's brother is killed by a villain known simply as 'The Man', he sets upon a mission to locate the culprit and avenge his brother's death.
If that sounds pretty hackneyed and unoriginal, well, that's kind of the point. The whole film is tongue-in-cheek homage to these low-budget flicks and constantly makes fun of the films' 'one take only' approach and shoddy editing; imagine a Blaxploitation version of Garth Merenghi's Darkplace and you're somewhere near the mark. As such, there are numerous deliberate goofs throughout the film including boom mics hanging in shot and actors reading aloud script directions in between their lines. Silly? Yes, but very, very funny.
Why should I revisit?
The attention to detail that has gone into making this film look and feel like an original 1970s Blaxploitation film is astonishing. The film was even shot on Super 16mm Kodak film to give it the scratchy, high-contrast look of these low-budget flicks. Even better than the way the film looks though is the soundtrack, compiled from the music that so commonly featured in 1970s TV shows and films from the era, with some original compositions thrown in for good measure.
The soundtrack includes tracks by the likes of Alan Tew, Johnny Pearson, Brian Bennett and Alan Hawkshaw. If none of those names sound familiar, don't worry; they all worked for the KPM label that supplied music for literally hundreds of TV shows during the 60s and 70s, much of which went uncredited, but seriously - look up one of the KPM Allstars compilations and you'll be amazed how many of the tunes you recognise. Plus, Alan Hawkshaw was the man behind the Grange Hill theme tune and 'The Champ', which any hip-hop fan will surely recognise – it's one of the most sampled tracks in history.
Who will enjoy it?
Anyone who is a fan of spoof films in the vein of Austin Powers and Team America: World Police - or shows like Darkplace and The Office for that matter – will find plenty to like about this film. Also, anyone who enjoys Blaxploitation films or the music that soundtracked them will love the music featured in Black Dynamite.