I drew this back in 1983 (I was about 14-years-old at the time). I was going to do an entire series of illustrations based on James Bond and all the 007 films. This is the only piece that I’m willing to show in public.
And here we have the incredible poster for the not-so-incredible movie TNT Jackson. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this poster, and I love the painting of actress Jeanne Bell. Interestingly, the same image was cannibalized with some of the elements changed for the Darktown Strutters poster (see below), even though Bell isn’t in the movie. Both films were produced by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. I like the poster for TNT Jackson more, but Darktown Strutters is a better movie.
And here we have another one of the many Escape from New York/Mad Max/The Warriors rip-offs to emerge from Italy in the 1980s. Director Sergio Martino’s 2019: After the Fall of New York is a terrible movie, but the poster is kind of cool. As with many Italian exploitation flicks, there were multiple versions of the poster. Below you can see version that show actor Michael Sopkiw’s face more clearly. I was obsessed with this movie when I first read about it, but when I finally saw it, I was sadly disappointed. Study this wonderful art, but skip the movie.
White One Hundred: 100 Great Films Starring Only White People, #13 — The Conversation — Okay, I’ll admit it…it’s been a long time since I’ve seen some of the movies that I’m including in the White One Hundred, and in some cases I may actually be wrong…there may actually be people of color in the movie. Case in point: Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliant film The Conversation. There may be a person of color somewhere in the movie—perhaps an extra in one of the background scenes. But I really don’t think so. I’m pretty sure this is one of those movies with all white people. And the reason I’m pretty sure of this is very simple…when you are a person of color (or if you prefer, a minority—which I don’t prefer), you tend to get excited when you see a person of color in a movie. It doesn’t even have to be a speaking part—just something that signals you have a place in this imagined reality. Sometimes that excitement wears off, once the person of color is revealed to be a sad caricature or cliché (see my listing of Superman), but for a brief moment, you can’t help but be overcome with a giddy feeling. It’s like spotting a long-lost friend in a room full of strangers. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, ask any non-white person you know. Anyway, even though I love The Conversation, think it is one best films of the 70s, and is my personal favorite film by Coppola (even over the first two Godfather movies), I don’t recall ever getting that excited feeling I get whenever I discover the world I’m watching has a bit of diversity.
This isn’t the complete poster image, but that seems appropriate since this film barely got an appropriate release back in the day. To be honest, I don’t even know for sure if this ever got a theatrical release back in the day. Rock & Rule was an animated musical featuring songs by Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Debra Harry, and Earth, Wind & Fire. It was heavily hyped in the world of comics fandom, but to the best of my knowledge it went straight to cable. As a bonus, he’s some cool fan art I found online. Both images are better than the actual movie. And in case you don’t believe me that this is a real film…here’s the trailer.
I get offended whenever people confuse Dumb Donald with Mushmouth. People will see a picture of Dumb Donald (or in my case, they’ll see my tattoo of Dumb Donald), and then start talking like Mushmouth, the implication being that they are one and the same. They are not. Dumb Donald is Dumb Donald. He has a baby sister, and we can assume, some sort of horrible disfiguring of the face that requires him to keep it covered by a mask. Mushmouth is Mushmouth, and he has a speech impediment that should not be mocked. And when I point out to people, “Yeah, actually, you’re imitating Mushmouth, and my tattoo is of Dumb Donald,” they actually try to dismiss their mistake by either questioning me–like I don’t know who is tattooed on my arm–or by implying that mistaking the two is no big deal. Well, it is a big deal, which is why, after years of enduring people thinking Dumb Donald is Mushmouth, I’m setting the record straight…no, all black people do NOT look alike.
The French poster for Planet of the Apes (above) is infinitely better than the American version (below).
White One Hundred: 100 Great Films Starring Only White People, #12 — Breaking Away — Okay, I understand that Breaking Away takes place in Bloomington, Indiana, a town with a rather small population of people of color—the 2010 census has Bloomington’s non-white population at about 13%, and I’m sure it was no better in the late 1970s. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Breaking Away—one of the last great movies of the last great era in American filmmaking—has no people of color anywhere in the film. Sure, they may be an extra in one of the crowd scenes, but there are no significant characters who are not white. Don’t get me wrong, because as with many films that make the White One Hundred list, this is a great movie, and I’m not accusing it or the filmmakers of being racist. But come on…you’re telling me that not one of the Cutters couldn’t have been played by someone other than a white actor. Yes, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earl Haley are great in that movie, both of those parts could have been played by Asian or Latino actors. And what if Dennis Quaid’s character had been played by and African American? Breaking Away is about family and friends, set within a working class world, surrounded by academic and socioeconomic privilege. Having grown up in a working class neighborhood, where many of the collars are blue, I know that these worlds can be a bit more diverse than the one seen in Breaking Away.
White One Hundred: 100 Great Films Starring Only White People, #11 – Annie Hall. Few American directors have taken more shit for the exclusion of people of color in their films than Woody Allen—and rightfully so. Don’t get me wrong, because I actually like many of Allen’s films, including Annie Hall, which is a crucial film in his evolution as a writer and a director (though I would argue not his best film, by any stretch of the imagination). Annie Hall, like a considerable number of Allen’s movies, take place in New York City, the most densely populated and ethnically diverse metropolitan area in all of the United States, and it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack to find even an extra who isn’t white in more than half of his films (and he’s directed almost fifty). I know some of you have serious problems with Allen, but some of those subjects are not what I’m trying to discuss here (especially anything that has to do with young Asian girls). What I am trying to discuss is the fact that Allen has a talent for creating rich characters in compelling stories—Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah and Her Sisters being back-to-back examples of Allen at his best—and within these worlds, Allen creates worlds devoid of color. And I would argue that if it weren’t for the fact that the city of New York was such an integral character in so many of his films, most people wouldn’t even notice the lack of diversity in his movies. Though in all fairness, and to give him credit, Allen did have a black actor playing a sperm in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (I write with as much biting sarcasm as can be conveyed through a blog post).
White One Hundred: 100 Great Films Starring Only White People, #10 – Jaws—I admit it, director Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is one of my most favorite movies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it, though I can tell you that I don’t recall ever seeing a single person of color. Granted, much of the second act and all of the third act only has three actors, it doesn’t change the fact that in the first act, with all those giant crowd scenes and small parts, there wasn’t room for one or two people of color.
Couldn’t one of Chief Brody’s deputies been played by a Latino actor? Couldn’t the Kitner boy and his mother been black? Hell, why couldn’t an actor of color have played one of the three main leads? And don’t give me that crap about Jaws taking place on an island in New England, and people of color don’t vacation there. The fact of the matter is that there is no valid reason for the world of Jaws being all-white, other than the fact that we so seldom question such cinematic realities. And as always, this is not to say that Jaws is a racist film, only that it exists in a reality with the exclusion of diversity is an accepted norm, and that is in fact a symptom of racism.