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  Willie Dynamite It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp
Year: 1974
Director: Gilbert Moses
Stars: Roscoe Orman, Diana Sands, Thalmus Rasulala, Joyce Walker, Roger Robinson, George Murdock, Albert Hall, Norma Donaldson, Juanita Brown, Royce Wallace, Judith Brown, Marilyn Coleman, Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Marcia McBroom, Jack Bernardi, Ted Gehring
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Willie Dynamite (Roscoe Orman) is one of the most successful pimps in New York City because his stable of seven ladies of the night are about the best as it's possible to get in their profession, and therefore he can make a fortune off their backs. All he needs do is send them to a swanky hotel where a convention is being held and they clean up among the businessmen there, but he is having trouble with his new recruit, Pashen (Joyce Walker), who he does not believe is pulling her weight; she obviously needs more guidance, or more force. Today Willie has been invited to a meeting of the top pimps in the area, lead by Bell (Roger Robinson) who has a proposal for them: a union of pimps, with himself at the head of it.

But will Willie agree to an arrangement where he won't be his own man? He values his independence and - wait a second, is Willie actually Gordon from Sesame Street?! Indeed he was, as a short time after making this socially conscious blaxploitation flick he was to be ensconced in the bosom of the Children's Television Workshop as a nice guy some distance away from the nasty piece of work he played here. But take a closer look at the role and you would see what attracted him to it, as Sesame Street made its mission the education and improvement of America's, nay, the world's children, and there was a definite message in director Gilbert Moses' movie as well. Therefore all the trappings of the exploitation effort were present and correct, but there was more.

The actual conscience of the story was social worker Cora (Diana Sands who tragically was dead by the time this was released) who is endeavouring to sort out the lives of the prostitutes who pass by as she sits in the courtroom, and to do that she goes after their bosses. In this case she has made it her goal in life to bring down Mr Dynamite (possibly not his given name), and to do so she targets Pashen when the girl is arrested; it's all going to plan as she scares her into thinking Cora is the only one who can help when Willie appears with a lawyer and Pashen runs into his waiting arms, frustrating Cora once again. But she's not going to give in without a fight, contrasting her very upstanding but understanding form of community concern with the title character's wickedness.

This could have come across like a public information film bulked up to feature length, but there was humour and style here within the limits of the typically low budget blaxploitation work, and most of the budget appeared to have gone on Willie's clothes. His fashion sense is outrageous, patently the inspiration for Antonio Fargas in the spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka with its bright colours, furs, gold lame, brown leather, so much so that you wonder if Moses was actually making a spoof himself by decking Orman out in those threads. It's a canny way of keeping things interesting visually, and that's not even mentioning Willie's purple and gold Cadillac which he gets to drive in a car chase through derelict New York streets, as was requisite for the day.

The dialogue is likewise over the top and slangy, but never patronising or pandering because an excellent cast sell it with both sincerity and a slightly knowing air, as if to say they were here to tell us something important, but that doesn't mean we can't deliver a movie both dramatic and entertaining. Pashen is ostensibly the battleground between Dynamite and Cora, and boy does she suffer for that, yet after a while we realise the real grit of the story is saving the pimp's soul. He behaves reprehensibly, but he's an attractive persona who we can understand why people would aspire to his lifestyle, so when it starts to slide into desperation for him a strange thing happens in that we gradually feel sorry for Willie. As his plush surroundings are worn away with each successive scene, Orman does a great job of eliciting sympathy in the audience, and for a movie that could have celebrated a criminal lifestyle like the admittedly diverting The Mack does, there are genuine scruples and principles playing out here. Don't dismiss this, it's surprisingly worthwhile. Music by J.J. Johnson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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