The Black Godfather (1974)
By: Paul Ryan on May 12, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Dark Horse Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: John Evans
Starring: Rod Perry, Duncan McLeod, Don Chastian, Jimmy Witherspoon
Screenplay: John Evans
Country: USA
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Wounded in a botched robbery that leaves his junkie pal dead, petty thief J.J. (Rod Perry) is rescued from certain death by local numbers boss Big Nate Williams (blues performer Jimmy Witherspoon, billed as "special guest star"). Taking him under his wing, Williams mentors J.J. in the art of racketteering. Within a few years J.J. has become a big-shot in his own right, but he's greatly concerned about the floodtide of heroin taking it's toll on the brothers and sisters in the 'hood. Supplied by white mobster Tony Burton (Don Chastain), J.J. sees heroin as a symbol of the white man's oppression. An uneasy truce is maintained between the black and white mob factions, mediated by bent copper Detective Joe Sterling (Duncan McLeod), but J.J. isn't about to let detente get in the way of teaching the The Man a lesson in respect. After all, as J.J. himself says, "what I'm rappin' to you about is POWER, baby!!!"

Written and Directed by John Evans (who only made two other films, 1971's Speeding Up Time and 1978's Blackjack), The Black Godfather is an often ragged, but still very enjoyable museum piece. There's big hair, big hats and hideous wallpaper aplenty, some colouful supporting characters and a charismatic lead performance from Perry (prior to his role in TV's SWAT) as the moralistic mobster. Evans' filmmaking is pretty uneven - as can be seen in the clumsy opening robbery and a cringeworthy sex scene - but delivers some genuine tension and an authentically gritty atmosphere. Even better is Martin Yarborough's synth-heavy score, which features some original songs in a similar Greek-chorus style to Sweet Sweetback's Baaadasss Song.

All in all, it ain't perfect, and it ain't that well made, but is entertaining, and worth a look.
A slightly faded and battered print is transferred to DVD in unlovely fashion. Presented in 4x3 full frame, the video is an NTSC to PAL transfer, and looks like it might have been transferred off an analogue tape, complete with occasional tracking faults. Colours are muted and occasionally bleeding, with poor shadow detail. Most uncool.
The audio is as grungy as the video. It's listenable, but sounds muffled throughout. There's a faint, but noticeable background hiss at times too.
Extra Features
Looks like The Man been keepin' the special features down. Chapter selection ain't no special feature, ya jive ass sucka! *Cough* Ahem…
The Verdict
Not as well-known as the likes of Shaft or Superfly, The Black Godfather is a shabby, but very very watchable piece of Blaxploitation. Full of hilarious dialogue and funk-ay seventies fashion, this is prime beer-and-pizza-and-mates viewing. And I swear, you could land a jumbo jet on JJ's coat lapels!
Movie Score
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