blaxploitation archive – TRUCK TURNER

truckturnerBAMF’s Blaxploitation Archive is a collection of reviews originally written in the 1990s that appeared in the pages of BadAzz MoFo. This review and many others have been reprinted and collected in BadAzz MoFo’s Book of Blaxploitation, Volume One, which is now available for purchase.

TRUCK TURNER 1974 (a.k.a. Black Bullet) director: Jonathan Kaplan; starring: Isaac Hayes, Yaphet Kotto, Alan Weeks Anazette Chase, Nichelle Nichols
Mac “Truck” Turner is one of those no-shit takin’, ass kickin’ bounty hunters that always gets his man. Along with is his ace boon coon, Jerry (Alan Weeks), Truck sets out to collect the bounty on a ruthless pimp named Gator (Paul Harris). Things take a turn for the worse when Truck accidentally fills Gator full of lead. Meanwhile, Jerry gets stabbed by Gator’s Sondra Locke-lookin’ ho, effectively puttin’ his black ass outta commission. Pissed off that her main man Gator is takin’ a dirt nap, chief CEO of the local ho house, Dorinda (Nichols), places a price on the head of Truck and Jerry. Dorinda offers her “fine stable of pussy” as payment to anyone that can greatly shorten the life expectancy of our heroes. Next thing you know, every pimp in town sets out to give Truck a flat tire (if you know what I mean). Among the army of killer pimps is Harvard Blue (Kotto), the most sinister of all love brokers. Not only is he lookin’ to introduce our hero to the grim reaper, he is bound and determined to be the king of all pimps. Ahhh, to have goals.

Surprisingly, Truck Turner is a highly entertaining film, and among one of the better blaxploitation films you’re likely to find. Much of what makes this bad boy so much fun are the performances of Hayes in the lead of role Truck Turner and Kotto as Harvard Blue. Hayes is laid back, tough and charming, all at the same time. Not exactly the best actor in the world, he’s very comfortable in front of the camera, and radiates cool. Kotto, on the other hand, is downright brutal as the killer pimp—imagine Live and Let Die’s Dr. Kananga, only with a stable of bitches. Kotto brings a sense of class to an otherwise unclassy character, and in doing so makes Harvard Blue one of the most memorable villains in blaxploitation history. Also keep an eye open for appearances from a ton of character actors, including Dick Miller, Scatman Crothers, Sam Laws, and Stan Shaw. And of course there’s Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura as Dorinda. You ain’t never heard no woman cuss up a storm the way Uhura does in this flick. Every other word out of homegirl’s mouth is “nigger”, “motherfucker,” “pussy,” “shit,” and “bitch.” She is more foul mouthed than the entire cast of the Talk Dirty to Me series. I was actually embarrassed and aroused at the same time.

Credit for Truck Turner being the entertaining flick it is also needs to go to screenwriter Oscar Williams, the man who also gave life to Black Belt Jones, as well as writing, directing and producing the incredibly underrated Billy Dee Williams flick The Final Comedown. Originally, Truck Turner was a film that was developed for Robert Mitchum. After Mitchum bowed out of the project, James Coburn was set to play the lead role. By the time Coburn left the project, AIP had invested too much time and money into the script, so it was decided that Truck Turner would be reworked into a black film, in hopes of a quick return at the box office. Williams and Michael Allin (Enter the Dragon) were brought in to give the script a “black feel,” but what they actually did was infuse the script with enough personality and sense of humor that it rises above much of the typical blaxploitation shit. With the new script by Williams and Allin, Dick Anthony Williams, best known as Pretty Tony in The Mack, was cast as Truck Turner, but he was eventually replaced by Hayes, who was thought to have a stronger box office draw.

Truck Turner is one of those films that is good the first time you watch it, and gets better with each viewing. The movie has a great pace, and the characters are surprisingly well developed for what is essentially a low budget exploitation flick. In most films of this nature, the characters have little to no dimension, but part of what makes this movie so great is the way the characters play off each other. This is especially true with the scenes between Truck and Jerry, and even more so in scenes with Truck and his old lady, Annie (Anazette Chase). In fact, some of the film’s best moments occur between Truck and Annie.

The better than average direction by Jonathan Kaplan (who also directed The Slams, and would go on to helm Jodie Foster in The Accused), along with the sharp script, makes Truck Turner a stand out film in the blaxploitation genre—a consistently entertaining movie that holds up to multiple viewings.

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