Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Babe of Yesteryear – Marilyn Joi, Part II: 1974

Let's hear it for Marilyn Joi. Between 1972 and 1989, this Babe of Yesteryear made indelible as well as blink-and-you-miss-her appearances in a variety of fondly remembered, unjustly forgotten, or gladly overlooked grindhouse products. But fame is a fickle thing, especially in the nether regions of the grindhouse, and although Ms. Joi always exuded a memorable presence and has some notable films in her resume, she never became a "name" — hell's bells, more people know the name Jean Bell than they do Marilyn Joi,* although Joi arguably displayed far greater thespian talent, far more variety of facial expression, and definitely appeared in a larger number of noteworthy movies. Indeed, "Joi brought variety and a measure of depth to her big and small screen performances. She never walked through a role and she knew the meaning of nuance. She could be a bad girl, a traditional action film heroine, or a light comedienne of considerable charm. [Bob McCann in Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television]" To that, we might add that she had a killer figure and she was sexy, and she had fabulous eyes.
* Perhaps due in part to Ms. Bell's status of being one of the first Afro-American women to get nekkid in Playboy, while Ms. Joi only did cheesecake for race-specific publications like Players, "the Black Playboy". (Although, according to Ms. Joi, "I did do some [nude] pictures, but they were never published. I'm sure they're floating around somewhere."**) Players deemed Marilyn "America's Favorite Black Poster Girl" in 1980 and, two years later, voted her one of "America's Ten Sexiest Black Women" — and she was.
** Quote taken from an informative interview published in Shock Cinema #16 in 2000, which can be found at the Internet Archives. We make extensive use of that interview in the following blog entry. For those of you who don't know Shock Cinema, it is one of the best magazines around, particularly for people who read sites like this one. Check it out, buy an issue — you'll love it! 
A beautiful and bubbly Marilyn Joi interviewed:
"Marilyn Joi" was born 22 May 1945 in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA. Her full real name is not general knowledge, though her real first name seems to be "Mary"; on-screen, she was at times also credited as Tracy King, Tracy Ann King, T.A. King and even Anita King. She is alive and well and (unlike us) on twitter. A true Babe of Yesteryear, her film career was much too short and she is unjustly unknown — which is why we here at a wasted life have decided to take one of our typically meandering and unfocused looks at her filmography. (If it's more meandering and unfocused than usual, well, it was done during thee Spanish-wide corona lockdown and we had a lot of time on our hands…)
As always, we make no guarantee that anything we write is 100% correct (feel free to tell us where we're wrong — preferably in a non-trolly tone of voice). And if we missed a film, let us know…

Go here for
Marilyn Joe, Part I: 1972-73

Black Samson
(1974, dir. Charles Bail)

A fun if somewhat less-noteworthy slice of 70s blaxploitation from white man Charles Bail, a longtime Hollywood factotum who made his directorial debut with this movie, which he followed up by directing the amusing piece of fluff that is Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975 / trailer). If the imdb is to be believed, Bail was last seen raising horses in Texas.
The screenplay, by Warren Hamilton Jr., is based on a story by Daniel Cady, who had a long and productive career in watchable, no-budget Californian exploitation, sexploitation and porn (often credited as "William Dancer"). He produced The Cut-Throats (1968) and All the Lovin' Kinfolk (1970), for example, both of which feature the Great Uschi (see Part I & Part II), and the trash anti-classics Grave of the Vampire (1972 / trailer) and Dream No Evil (1970 / scene), not to mention the no-budget Henning Schellerup blaxploitation anti-classics Sweet Jesus, Preacherman (1973 / trailer) and The Black Bunch (1972 / trailer). Credited as Tracy Ann King, Marilyn Joi has a small part somewhere in Black Samson as a widow.

Trailer to
Black Samson:
The plot: "Nightclub owner Samson (Rockne Tarkington [15 Jul 1931 – 5 Apr 2015]) does his best to keep his neighbourhood clean of crime and drugs. He is assisted in this endeavour by a heavy staff that is able to subdue every adversary. When vicious mobster Johnny Nappa (William Smith) tries to muscle in on Samson's territory, Samson takes a brave stand against Nappa and his flunkies. Nappa sends his girlfriend (Connie Strickland [whose six-film acting career consists of nothing but prime-quality trash]) to spy on Samson's activities. She becomes a topless dancer in his club and her lover immediately becomes jealous, taking his wrath out on the various thugs sent unsuccessfully against Samson. [Nostalgia Central]" Samson's main squeeze in the film, Leslie, who of course gets taken hostage at one point, is played by another Babe of Yesteryear, Carol Speed, well remembered for her tour-de-force acting turn in William Girdler's classic disasterpiece Abby (1974 / trailer below). 
Trailer to
Black Samson ends with a classic showdown on a rundown street in the hood, where "the rooftops come alive as people hurl every obtainable object at Johnny and his men. The debris continues to fall until Samson raises his staff. He and Johnny stand alone in the center of the rubble, two gladiators engaged in monumental battle. Samson downs Johnny with his staff, and the war is over. [Original press release synopsis @ One-Sheet Index]"
Of that scene, in an interview now found at the Internet Archives conducted while rewatching that scene, William Smith once said, "They were throwing pans, bottles, bricks, mattresses. Hell, they were throwing refrigerators. It was all real. [Pause] Well, so I guess there was a little bit of racial tension. Not from the other actors. But those guys on the roof were just extras. I think they only got about $20 a day. They were really trying to hit the white actors. That part of the scene was real. [A clip showing the white actors in the street] Look at me. I was so mad, man. That son of a bitch was trying to hit me there. They didn't care. […] Rockne Tarkington was really a nice guy. Oh, he was a big guy. He weighed more than I did. And a muscular guy, a basketball player. Weighed about 250, about 6'5". He was good in that fight scene."
Over at the Austin Chronicle was back in 1999, Mike Emery wrote: "He's big, bad, speaks softly, and carries a big stick. No, this isn't the Teddy Roosevelt Story. It's Black Samson, one of the lesser-known blaxploitation flicks of the Seventies. Samson (Tarkington) is a dashiki-clad owner of a topless night club who keeps his 'hood drug-free with the help of an African fighting staff and a pet lion named Ubu. […] Samson's no pushover, so when he's not throwing funky parties at his club, he's busting heads and saving his girlfriend from the torturous clutches of his nemesis' henchmen. Meanwhile, Nappa manages to be a brilliantly psychotic screen villain […]. Directed by Chuck Bail […], the film rolls along fairly smoothly. Most notable is the engaging rivalry between the two big men, Tarkington and Smith. Of course, much of the flick is laughable, but it's surprisingly cohesive, which is more than can be said for many of its contemporaries."
Allen Toussaint's theme to
Black Samson:
The ain't bad but there are better attitude of Mr. Emory above is pretty much shared by everyone who has seen the movie, including Monster Mania, which says: "Black Samson is not what I'd call an intelligent film, though it certainly has a little more to say than other films of the period. Samson is decent, if dull, character who really tries to keep his community strong, keeping out both white and black dealers. I don't know what the deal is with the staff, if there is any significance, or why he's called Black Samson. I suppose this may be alluding to the character from the bible, but that feels like a stretch, considering there's no Delilah […]. Tarkington is not as charismatic as actors like Richard Roundtree, Ron O' Neal, and Fred Williamson, but has some quiet presence and looks good in the action scenes. His two funniest, being his encounter with a shady lawyer, whom he holds over a high ledge and a run-in with some robbers, who get their skulls smashed in, and make the character appear a bit psychotic as he repeatedly pummels one dude's brain into mush, though he does give him a dime for his troubles!
Black Samson is of course in no way inspired or based on Levi Keidel book Black Samson, which was not only published years after the movie came out but, despite its wonderful, almost Holloway House cover, is less Black Lit than born-again lit narrating "an African's astounding pilgrimage to personhood"… (You know that Christian idea: you ain't no person till you done become Christian.)

(1974, "dir." Al Adamson)

Three years earlier, in Spain, the great Argentinean-born Spanish exploitation director León Klimovsky (16 Oct 1906 – 8 Apr 1996) directed the Spanish-language movie El Hombre que Vino del Odio (a.k.a. The Man Who Came from Hate and Run for Your Life), poster below, about a draftee sentenced to jail in Viet Nam who manages to escape and ends up traveling to Rome to kidnap an Albanian dancer, "a decent little intriguer that deserves better than to be completely forgotten. [John Seal @ imdb]"

El Hombre que Vino del Odio was bought for US distribution by producer Samuel M. Sherman, Al Adamson's partner at Independent-International Pictures. But after Sherman bought the flick, he decided it wouldn't appeal to US audiences — so Al Adamson shot new scenes with an Afro-American cast and re-edited the movie, turning it into a "blaxploitation" action film entitled Mean Mother (1974), directed by "Albert Victor".
Trailer to
Mean Mother:
Marilyn Joi, credited as Tracy King, is found in Adamson's version of the movie — hell, she's even on the poster! Joi herself didn't even know that, however, until she was interviewed by Shock Cinema, to which she then said: "[Al Adamson] was always filming something. He'd splice me in here and there — I could be the star of 30 movies and not even know it! Which is fine, as long as I didn't end up in a triple-X movie or something like that!" In any event, as the stripper squeeze of the movie's lead she supplies the prerequisite nudity of the movie.*
* As explained at the great and now possibly no-longer-defunct blogspot Temple of Schlock: "Marilyn Joi was an exotic dancer at The Classic Cat […] when Adamson first approached her with an offer to be in movies. She agreed, and appeared in Hammer as 'Tracy-Ann King,' performing a sexy nightclub strip for Fred Williamson and co-star Vonetta McGee (Tracy-Ann King was one of several names Joi used while touring the strip club circuit […]). Adamson elevated her to leading lady status when he cast her in the new parallel plotline footage for Mean Mother. 'When I first saw the footage of her,' Sherman says, 'I said to Al, "I like her! She's really good, she's really pretty, she's willing to do nudity — let's keep using her."' The gorgeous starlet would go on to do several other films for Adamson […]." The title above is linked to the Temple — do your duty, and go there today.
Rock! Shock! Pop! was able to follow the narrative of Mean Mother and describes the plot as follows: "Dobie Gray (who appears here as Clifton Brown) plays Beauregard Jones, a soldier who has gone AWOL from the Vietnam War and ends up in Los Angeles and involved in a heroin smuggling ring based out of Saigon. When a deal goes wrong, Jones heads back to 'Nam and meets up with his old platoon where he hangs with Joe Scott (Dennis Safren, from the original film […]).* It doesn't take long for the two of them to split up and get out of the jungle during a Vietcong raid. Jones ends up in Spain, while Scott ends up in Rome. Of course, trouble follows each of them to Europe and the Spanish mafia and a gang of Communists ends up hunting them down. Jones eventually finds Scott and convinces him that what they need to do is head to the land of high sales tax and good beer, so they grab their hoochies and head off to Canada. But little do they know, the Euro-mobsters are hot on their trail as they make their way to The Great White North, and things are gonna get worse before they get better."
* Joe's gal, of course, is his gal from the original film, Terry, played by former Bond girl Luciana Paluzzi — she's the SPECTRE hit-babe Fiona Volpe in Thunderball (1965 / trailer) — and is also found in such fin stuff as Muscle Beach Party (1964 / trailer), The Green Slime (1968 / trailer), Jess Franco's 99 Women (1969, with Herbert Lom), and Umberto Lenzi's Manhunt in the City (1975).
"Using screenwriter Charles Johnson, who wrote Fred Williamson's Hammer, Adamson and Sherman […] create a racially edgy film with a shady, violent black lead, with a supposedly international feel. To make things even more surreal, historically, Clifton Brown was cast to play the film's lead character Beauregard Jones. The surreal part is that Brown was actually pop singer Dobie Gray (26 July 1940 – 6 Dec 2011), who had the 1973 single Drift Away [and, in 1965, sang the classic hit, The 'In' Crowd]. In the disjointed Mean Mother, […] the stories never seem to really feel connected. The Beauregard Jones storyline gets almost forgotten during the middle portion, and we're left with the tired, and difficult-to-follow Klimovsky footage until a nonsensical car chase/shootout in the final act. Adamson and Sherman tried to spice up the blaxploitation angle, adding gratuitous nudity, courtesy of former stripper Tracy King as Beauregard's main squeeze, and some horribly edited fight sequences. […] [Digitally Obsessed]" 
Dobie Gray singing
Drift Away:
Over at b-independent, they say that "Sam Sherman is the King of DVD commentaries. Listening to his audio tracks on movies […] is the closest thing to living the 1970s' exploitation scene as a kid who grew up in the 1990s can get. Expansive and detailed, Sherman hits on everything from the evolution of an actor's career to the marketability of the final product, a subject he spends a good bit of time on with Mean Mother, a U.S.-Italian production with a long and arduous history. […] Even Sherman admits he really needs to pay attention to follow the action. Relying solely on plot highpoints, both stories are underdeveloped and do little to complement the other. To bridge the gaps in logic and time, the dialogue contains more exposition than an entire week of daytime soap operas. The result is tediously painful to watch." 
Complete Soundtrack to
Dynamite Brothers:
Somewhere along the way, Mean Mother was also sold as a double feature with another obscure Al Adamson Independent-International picture, Stud Brown — a flick better known as the "East meets West" actioner, Dynamite Brothers (1974), with Alan Tang (20 Sept 1946 – 29 Mar 2011) and the delicious hunk o' chocolate that was Timothy Brown (24 May 1937 – 4 Apr 2020). As to be expected, the Stud Brown trailer is cut in such a way that East meets West turns into pure Black Power.
OK, has nothing to do with the movie, but... the great Etta James (25 Jan 1938 – 20 Jan 2012) cut a great album in 1980 (one of many great albums throughout her troubled career) called Changes, and the first song on the LP is entitled Mean Mother...
Not from the movie —
Etta James singing Mean Mother:

The Naughty Stewardesses
(1974, dir. Al Adamson)

"How small-town can I be? Imagine! I'm so provincial that the thought of making love to a naked man in front of strangers just makes me sick!"
Stewardess Debbie (Connie Hoffman)

"By the mid-1970s it had pretty much become obvious that sex cinema had become a goldmine, and obviously inspired by the success of the Swiss import Die Stewardessen a.k.a. Swinging Stewardesses a.k.a. Stewardess Report (1971 / full film, dir. by the great Erwin C. Dietrich) — a slightly episodic softsex comedy about, you guessed it, stewardesses — Sherman and Adamson decided to make Naughty Stewardesses (1975) — a slightly episodic softsex comedy about, you guessed it, stewardesses (Connie Hoffman [as Debbie], Marilyn Joi [as Barbara], Sydney Jordan [as Jane], Donna Young [as Margie]). The film, which also features […] former silver screen cowboy Robert Livingston (having probably his first sex scene in his long career), actually is almost a little too blunt in its execution and has also remarkably little to do with stewardesses — but it became one of Adamson's and Sherman's production company Independent International's biggest hits. [(Re)search My Trash]"
And thus was made the sequel, Blazing Stewardess (1975), which we look at next month in Part III. 

Trailer to
The Naughty Stewardesses:
"The plot follows the exploits of four sexy flight attendants, and each of them disrobes in front of the camera and/or engage in intercourse at one point. There's raunchy action with a captain and a lass aboard his plane (in which a small child looks on to get a first-hand sex-ed class), and a wild party where a nude dude is actually a cake (he gets slobbered by one of the stewardesses!). The stewardesses include African-American starlet and Adamson regular Marilyn Joi (here using the name Tracy King) who does a poolside striptease. But the real attraction is cute shorty Connie Hoffman. This cupcake has a body to die for and she plays a half-witted blonde torn between a young photographer/pornographer (Richard Smedley) and a much older wealthy playboy (Robert Livingston [9 Dec 1904 – 7 Mar 1988] of Valley of the Zombies [1946 / trailer] and The Black Raven [1943 / full film]). Smedley plays a slightly cracked impotent character that devises a plan to hold the stewardesses at ransom for $50,000 in hopes that old man Livingston will come running with the dough. Instead, he comes running with a shotgun. [DVD Drive-in]"
"Nurses and cheerleaders were the first uniformed T&A starlets. Then cinematic exploiteers took notice as airlines began to sexualize their female flight staffs with daring outfits and suggestive advertising campaigns designed to lure horndog business travelers. […] Notables: Eight breasts. Two corpses. Hitchhiking. Gratuitous shower scene. Knitting. Budding romance montage. Road rage. Gratuitous food fight. Nekkid photo session. Pool-side striptease. Hare Krishnas. One foot chase. Bimbo tossing. […] Time codes: Crew member's kid gets an eyeful (6:55). Maggie has her nethers shaved by a gal pal before a night on the town (15:00). Originator of the Blue Man group (31:08). Shutterbugs get all the girls (46:30). Glimpse into the seedy world of underground porn (58:08). Final thought: Who knew a stewardess picture could be dull!? [DVD Talk]"
Sex Gore Mutants hated the movie, which "involves the Stewardesses — Debbie, Lori and Barbara — going somewhere, but end-up with only men on their mind. That's pretty much all there is to it! Other than that, it's scene after scene of minor titillation, cheesy nude scenes and naff jokes that even Tesco wouldn't use in their Christmas crackers! I can't begin to describe how utterly pathetic these films [Naughty Stewardesses & its sequel, Blazing Stewardesses] are. There are films that are so bad, they're actually quite good. And there are films that are so bad, so utterly dire in every, single aspect, that you can still get some minor enjoyment at their shite-ness! But Blazing Stewardesses and its sister movie don't even get that far! What we have here are two of the most dumb-ass films I've ever endured! This is crapola of the most frivolously nauseating variety!" 
Trailer to
Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson:
Digital Obsessed might disagree: "You know you've got a classic when the first scene is one of our girls inducting the co-pilot into the mile-high club. Sure, this isn't any cinematic masterpiece, and doesn't offer much in the way of real content. However, it does have that groovy 1970s music going for it, as well as a lot of flavor from the era, and who would want to miss the funky uniforms, short-cut skirts, knee-high boots, and poofy hats? Locations cover Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and several of the directors' homes, which were also former dwellings of old Hollywood stars like Harold Lloyd. This and its sequel, Blazing Stewardesses, were anomalies for Adamson, whose mainstay were B horror flicks like Satan's Sadists (1969 / trailer or Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1970). Not nearly as sleazy as they would have you believe, The Naughty Stewardesses is wonderful cheese. It does go beyond the average, working in some timely topics and subplots, a bit of action and some off-the-wall characters. A perfect time capsule for 'Women in Uniform' B movies, where the sky's the limit, and the girls go first class—and all the way."
B-independent, which rightly believes that in the 70s "even sexploitation was elevated to art by merely possessing a social awareness", tends to uncover the deeper levels of classic trash: "With all its comedy, The Naughty Stewardesses is still a dark movie about troubled times. […] For a sexploitation film, The Naughty Stewardesses is a pretty feminist piece of work. The women are all strong-willed who know what they want and don't take any grief from their would-be suitors. In fact, it's the stewardesses who keep their men on the leash. While the girls live in the excess of the times, they don't allow themselves to fall victim to that excess. They have good heads on their shoulders and know how to use them. […] The men, on the other hand, are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Dirty old men. Pornographers. Psychopaths. Criminals. Deadbeats. There's only one truly respectable male in the bunch, and that's a throw-away character […]. Sexual empowerment isn't the only issue The Naughty Stewardesses tackles head on. It's a movie that embodies all that the 1970s were about, and that's infecting the societal changes brought to light in the 1960s. The most apparent being to oust the regime of old men running the country who were stamping out the freedoms our country has prospered on.* It's these old men who reap the rewards given freely by the youth culture, but hold young America at bay and kill them if their tightly woven power circle is threatened. It would be hard to sell a movie like The Naughty Stewardesses today. It's too dark, too raw, and all the endings aren't happy ones."
* Unluckily, as proven by today's failure that is Trump's America, the old men not only won the battle, but have also convinced the enslaved masses that enslavement is freedom.

Music to the movie —
Don't Ask Me by Sparrow:
Trivia from the DVD commentary supplied by San Sherman: "Sherman remembers just about everything about the cast and crew, and the anecdotes are abundant. Some of the best include his recollection of Adamson wanting to walk off the project (the only time he ever threatened to do so), and a furious visit from Lana Wood (married to actor Richard Smedley at the time and fearing he was participating in a porno!) who was appeased by Sam's knowledge of John Ford! [DVD Drive-in]" 
In case you didn't know: Lana Wood, an actress with "naturally large breasts" and of "arresting beauty", is the younger and less-renowned sister of Natalie "Doesn't Float" Wood; Smedley was the second of Lana's six husbands, and seeing that he was rather active in early Southern Californian exploitation and soft-core films of the 70s — for example, Skin Flick Madness (1971), where he is credited as "Bigi Dicki" and Affair in the Air (1970), both with the Great Uschi (see: SFM & AITA) — perhaps her suspicions were justified.

Black Starlet
(1974, dir. Chris Munger)

The full movie can be found online here at Itinerant Blog. We here at a wasted life fondly remember seeing the trailer to this as a 12-year-old kid in some grindhouse in Anacostia, where we had talked an of-age man we knew, Mike, into taking us for a screening of William Girdler's anti-classic Abby (1974 / trailer) — we were the only two white folks in the audience. For some reason, the scene (GIF below) of the "black starlet", Juanita "Where Is She Now?" Brown, throwing the script at the shrimpie little producer masturbating at the audition has remained ingrained in our memory…
Somewhere along the way, for a VHS release, this drama got re-titled Black Gauntlet, possibly to be re-sold as a Black version of Clint Eastwood's lesser action flick, The Gauntlet (1977 / trailer). No similarity, of course.
The story was supplied by Daniel "Where Is He Now?" Cady (see Black Samson @ Part I) and the screenplay by TV scribe Howard Ostroff (25 Nov 1934 – 25 Aug 1990); it was possibly the latter's only foray into "feature films". On the wall in the background of the screen shot below, you can see the posters of the classic Harry H. Novak productions The Black Alley Cats (1973, with Uschi!) and the supposedly lost Lee Frost movie, Female Factory* (1971), which indicates that Novak may have been involved in some form with this movie here. 
* Go to Harry Novak Part XV for our argument why we think that Female Factory is less a lost movie than a re-release of Frost's 1992 movie, Surftide 77.
"A 23 Oct 1974 Variety article reported that Atlanta, GA, based distribution company, Omni Pictures Corp., an investor in Black Starlet, had sued producer Daniel B. Cady and Cady's Entertainment Pyramid Corp. for control over the film, alleging that Cady committed fraud, padded the film's budget with costs that were never accounted for, and diverted funds for his personal use. Omni further claimed that Entertainment Pyramid Corp. was a 'shell and a sham set up with intent to defraud.' Elaine Clara Cady and film editor Warren Hamilton, Jr., amongst others, were also named as defendants. According to Variety, Omni regained possession of Black Starlet, but the article also noted that Cady had countersued, claiming that Omni had not fully paid writer-producer fees on either Black Starlet or Black Samson (1974), another collaboration between Omni and Cady. In addition, the producer claimed that Omni had been withholding $200,000, allegedly owed to Cady since 1 Jul 1972. [AFI]"
The advert above, found at the always entertaining blogspot Temple of Schlock, is for the film's Atlanta premiere, where it was screened at the still-surviving former movie palace, the Fox Theatre. Below, it was screened somewhere with Black Love (1974), not to be confused with the French film L'homme qui voulait violer le monde by the "French Tinto Brass" José Bénazéraf (8 Jan 1922 – 1 Dec 2012), which is about "a black American revolutionary who absconds with party funds and is tracked down and eventually killed by his lover" and was released in the U.S. as "Black Love". No, this Black Love is, as mentioned at H.G. Lewis Part V, "HG Lewis's long-lost porn flick, though to the end he denied directing it — and, indeed, not only is he credited only as the cinematographer (using his beloved 'Sheldon Seymour' moniker), but the credited director and producer R.L. Smith truly existed."
Ten Minutes of
Black Starlet:
The AFI has a through, scene-for-scene plot description here, but we'll present the short and sweet one from the Museum of Uncut Funk instead: "Chris Munger directed this Blaxploitation version of the popular skinflick Starlet! (1969, poster below) [a David Friedman production]. The story concerns Clara (Juanita Brown), an aspiring actress from the housing projects of Gary, Indiana, who goes to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune. Predictably, she is robbed, betrayed, and must hit the casting couch before her dreams can come true."
Among the many familiar faces in the cast of Black Starlet, including Al "Grampa" Lewis, Marilyn Joi (or, rather, "Tracy King") flits by in the blink of an eye as someone the imdb calls "the Kiss Girl". For a change, however, someone else plays the uncredited topless dancer, namely the pneumatic Deborah McGuire (see Female Chauvinists [1975] at Uschi, Part VIII).
Every 70s Movie has the insight to see more in the movie than most: "Telling the familiar story of a young woman degraded by the humiliating compromises she makes while pursuing Hollywood stardom, Black Starlet should be a disposable exploitation flick. The budget is low, the cast is unimpressive, and the exploitation quotient is high enough to become bothersome, with gratuitous nudity periodically distracting from the story. Yet Black Starlet meets and nearly exceeds the very low expectations set by its subject matter and title. Star Juanita Brown […] grows into her role, becoming stronger as her character falls from hopefulness to cynicism. While certainly not a skillful performance, her work is committed enough to put the movie across. Similarly, director Chris Munger and his collaborators put sincere effort into making clichéd characters and scenes feel fresh. Everything in Black Starlet is rote on the conceptual level, from the sleazy agents and producers to the horrific scenes of men demanding sexual favors in exchange for career opportunities, but the way Munger lingers inside scenes — rather than speeding through them — allows a sense of unease to take root. […] What makes Black Starlet more or less palatable are the moments wedged between exploitation-flick extremes. An early scene features Clara waiting on a street corner for a bus. After several men stop their cars to solicit her, presuming a black woman alone on the street must be a hooker, a motorcycle cop threatens to arrest her, so Clara jumps into the next man's car just to get away from the cop. That man steals all of Clara's money. Lesson learned. Later, in the dry-cleaning shop, Clara endures hectoring from her boss, Sam (Al Lewis), a cigar-chomping putz who refers to all his customers as 'slobs' and obsessively yells: 'Don't press above the crotch!' Individually, each of these scenes is serviceable, but cumulatively, they give the vapid storyline a foundation in human reality."
From the movie —
Hollywood Faces:
The soundtrack is from the American soul singer Joe Hinton and Big Dee Irwin (6 July 6 1932 – 27 Aug 1995). We would assume that despite as is found all over the web, Joe "Black Starlet" Hinton is NOT the American soul singer Joe Hinton who was already around 8 years dead (15 Nov 1929 – 13 Aug 1968) when this movie was made. The Joe Hinton who made the music to this film also performed as Jay Lewis and possibly Little Joe Hinton. In any event: Big Dee Irwin has a Wikipedia page, but Joe "Not Dead at the Time" Hilton seems to have been forgotten and disappeared. Their song Hollywood Faces is heard in the movie, and found on "one of the holy grails from [the] US Blaxploitation genre: back in the days, this funk soundtrack was available as a a give-away record to radio stations, theaters and reviewers only to promote the cinema movie. [Soundcloud]"
Black Starlet was novelized by someone named Bobby B. Vance for one of our favorite publishing houses, Holloway House, which brought out at least two different printings of it. A search of the web reveals little about the author, other than a few copyright entries for other written works, usually in conjunction with a "Samuel Vance". Holloway House, on the other hand, should be a familiar name to all collectors of vintage sleaze, trash and Black literature — the firm can perhaps be described a bit as a kind of Afro-American Grove Press in miniature. We originally stumbled on the firm's imprint by way of thriftstore copies of Iceberg Slim novels; since then, if we see any affordably priced book with the Holloway House imprint on it, we buy it. The firm remains criminally under-documented and overlooked, but in 2008 Kensington Publishing "acquired most of the publishing assets of Holloway House Publishing in Los Angeles, the original publisher of such classic black crime writers as Donald Goines, adding an historic trove of gritty African American popular literature to its publishing program. The acquisition includes about 400 backlist titles which will become part of a new imprint at Kensington called Holloway House Classics. Holloway House also publishes a range of popular fiction and nonfiction titles including biographies of famous African Americans. Kensington's Holloway House Classics will begin releasing titles in mass market and trade formats, in addition to releasing original urban fiction that complements the line. Holloway House Classics will join Kensington's growing list of African American oriented imprints like Dafina, Urban Soul and Vibe Street Lit. [Publisher's Weekly]"
Over at the University of Chicago Press, their blurb on Kinohi Nishikawa's non-fiction book Street Players explains Holloway as follows: "The uncontested center of the Black pulp fiction universe for more than four decades was the Los Angeles publisher Holloway House. From the late 1960s until it closed in 2008, Holloway House specialized in cheap paperbacks with page-turning narratives featuring black protagonists in crime stories, conspiracy thrillers, prison novels, and Westerns. [...] The thread that tied all of these books together — and made them distinct from the majority of American pulp — was an unfailing veneration of black masculinity. [...] Kinohi Nishikawa contends that black pulp fiction was built on white readers' fears of the feminization of society — and the appeal of black masculinity as a way to counter it. In essence, it was the original form of Blaxploitation: a strategy of mass-marketing race to suit the reactionary fantasies of a white audience. But while chauvinism and misogyny remained troubling yet constitutive aspects of this literature, from 1973 onward, Holloway House moved away from publishing sleaze for a white audience to publishing solely for black readers. The standard account of this literary phenomenon is based almost entirely on where this literature ended up: in the hands of black, male, working-class readers. When it closed, Holloway House was synonymous with genre fiction written by black authors for black readers — a field of cultural production that Nishikawa terms the black literary underground. [...]"
BTW: Holloway House was founded by Bentley Morriss and Ralph Weinstock, the publishers of Players, which was in fact a Holloway House publication. Players, of course, is the Black men's magazine that once voted Marilyin Joi on of "America's Ten Sexiest Black Women". Interestingly enough, if we're to believe Wiki, Ajita Wilson (12 Jan 1950 – 26 May 1987), the too-soon-departed international model & actress & trans-woman, seen above as a Players cover model, was considered "Holloway House's ideal black woman". "Morriss and Weinstock had only three requirements for women to be featured in the magazine: the models had to look like they were eighteen years old, they had to have European features, and they had to have large breasts."

But first, why not check out our
Short Film of the Month for August 2020?
Chris Munger's 1968 short

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