Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Some Hot Cocoa For Your Winter Evening

As a person grows up, they tend to pick up cultural debris in their collective memory. This is where you get scenes like the one in Slacker where two people are discussing the merits of Scooby Doo, or hipsters sporting T-shirts with retro products like Mr. Bubble. These things stick with you and influence and flavor all that you see. Most of the time, this phenomenon is a positive thing that connects us to new events, ideas and experiences.

When these preconceived images face down something that threatens their comfort zone, a person can find life suddenly makes little sense. This can be a mild sense of displacement in most cases, but that does not make it any less awkward when it happens.

I grew up watching Lola Falana on various variety shows. She was always lively, fun and very pretty as she danced and sang and joked her way through these shows. So I had a warm fuzzy feeling about her from these warm and fuzzy appearances on these warm and fuzzy shows.

We jump ahead a large number of years to 2009....

I get my copy of Urban Action Cinema 15-movie set from the lovely folks at Sure, I have some of these movies, but there are enough titles new to me that I figure it is worth the whopping 5 bucks. After it sits around for a day or two, I get around to popping the thing in. I figure I'll start with the first one on the first disc that I haven't seen. It is a little film called Lady Cocoa. A lady turning evidence gets a day out of prison and has to be protected while she waits for her deposition the next day. Standard fare. Nothing new from the sound of it, and Lola Falana is in it. Has to be some cheap made-for-TV thing, I figure.

You have the leering female guards from the finest exploitation films, but that is no big shock. You have Afros that stretch the limits of physics, but it is the mid-70s. And people are driving gunboat type cars, so obviously the gas crisis hasn't hit yet. Nothing too upsetting, until our group of three (Lola and her two bodyguards from the police) show up at a resort in Lake Tahoe. She turns into a foul-mouthed gutter snipe. She used language that made me cringe, and I have to watch my language around sailors. When she compared a modern art painting in their room to something she would find on a used Kotex, I was double-checking the cast list; this couldn't be Lola Falana. Surely there are two people with that name. But this woman has those same large lovely eyes I remember and that delicately structured face. But that voice and that memories were destroyed utterly when her character is asked what she intends to do and she responds with "I'm gonna shit, shower and shampoo."

But enough of my trauma.

This movie is one of those wonderful sneak attack movies. Stupid and boring as hell for the first 30 minutes or so. Sure, you get her potty mouth. Let's not forget Mean Joe Greene as one half of a pair of hit men who speak no words, but provide some wonderful comic relief during the film. I'd watch a movie of these two on a mission. Far more fun than Terrance Hill and Bud Spencer. But this is all you get for almost one-third of the film. Filler and exposition and distraction, laced with references to Vietnam and pointless posturing.

Finally the story starts taking shape after 30 minutes or so, but it is in granny gear, just barely moving along but you know things are coming together. You start seeing how the characters are taking this side or that, and the hired killers seem to be taking their time to do the job right. Thankfully, Lola has parked the foul language and does her best to be fetching and sultry, and she is almost enough to make a male viewer break down as she talks about how she has been alone in her jail cell for the last year and a half. You want her to have some satisfaction. Yes, Lola can act when pushed, especially when she is being sexy and vulnerable.

Things explode during the last 30 minutes. There are weird and woolly chase scenes, gun fights, naughty and naked sex and some betrayals telegraphed in the first 30 minutes come to fruition. And I won't reveal this bit of fun, but let's say there is a surprise concerning an assassin that they linger on a bit too long. Creepy stuff there.

The quality of this particular copy is iffy. The Garr Group, who released the DVD set, isn't there to digitally remaster these films; much like Mill Creek, they are there to take your money and hand you bargain entertainment. I'm not dissing this company. I have communicated with the woman in charge, and she is very friendly and is happy to know there are fans of the product her company puts out. I'm not adding their web site link as it is currently under restructuring, but you can find a lot of their product in the $5 bin at Walmart as well as searching on Amazon.

For those you who were movie-goers in the 70's, you might have heard of this film under the title Pop Goes The Weasel, which a very good title for this film and it is the song that our wonderful star Lola Falana sings during the opening credits.

Worth your time if you really want to plumb the depths of blaxploitation. This is less urban than most, but it still puts the African-American actors in the foreground. If you want the hardcore type of films of this genre, you might avoid this.

But really. Lola Falana uses THAT language? Motherfucker.....

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