Saturday, November 13, 2010
Black Fist 1975 or 1976 **
Director: Timothy Galfas, Richard Kaye
Star: Richard Lawson, Dabney Coleman, Philip Michael Thomas
Indeed, this movie does feature the work of Philip Michael Thomas, who plays a junkie from the ghetto, probably giving him the background needed for when he was later on Miami Vice and had to seem like he was familiar with the drug underworld. You can also look for PMT as a gang member in The Dark, the 1979 movie about an alien monster that shoots a death ray out of its forehead, and which also features the acting talents of Casey Kasem.
Black Fist tells a story similar to many of its genre. A young black man from the mean streets seeks to become somebody, through somewhat shady means if necessary, and in this case his ticket there is in the illegal fighting game. He demonstrates he is good with his fists fighting a large bald man who will recall to the viewer Pat Roach's hulking German in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
All seems to be going along swimmingly, then along comes a cop played by Dabney Coleman, still years away from his lecherous turn in 9 to 5. He of course demands a piece of the action to keep the heat off, and utters the immortal line, "Some of us never pay the piper because some of us are the piper."
So as one might expect, the odds pile up so high there is eventually pressure on our hero to throw a fight which he will not do, leading to all sorts of nastiness, and then him going on a revenge trip. The part where he deals with Coleman's character is a frosty treat. It all comes to a finish with an ambiguous, psychout head-trip final shot.
Movies like this can be a lot of fun and this one is no exception with all the jive talk, terrific funk soundtrack and disco dancing. Also like many of its type, it balances out being visibly low budget, with some scenes that feel very natural, as during one fight in a public washroom, a man wanders into the altercation and become a part of it in a way that almost looks like it just happened during filming.
While these films can seem exploitative, I do think they did a lot for the acceptance and the growing influence of black culture into white parts of North America. One can imagine that suburban kids would see these in drive-ins, and be introduced to a world that would seem a bit fascinating and strange, a tad alluring. At the same time, what the heroes were going through, while being particular to their situation, would also have a universal quality and be fairly identifiable for anyone who feels desperately trapped in their life.