Junkfood Cinema: Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off

By  · Published on February 17th, 2012

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; enjoy a bowl of our Sugar-Coated Pimp Smacks. We recently asked blaxploitation icon Isaac Hayes to write a theme song for this week’s entry. He politely declined, as he is currently dead, but we think his song would have sounded almost exactly like this…

There’s some dudes on floor; with indigestion, stomachs sore. What hit ‘em? Junkfood Cinema! Watching bad films all day, who threw their integrity away? Junkfood Cinema! We’ll tell you what makes them so fine, what puts the stars in our eyes. So bad, but who loves them? Junkfood Cinema! To top this thing with a cherry, we offer you a snack that’s so very…so very delicious. Junkfood Cinema.

Thanks Isaac, we hope you’ll forgive us.

Today’s Sweet Sweetflick: Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off.

What Makes It Bad?

Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off, more so than most blaxploitation sequels, picks up right where the first film left off. If you don’t recall the events of the first film, Slaughter had effectively taken his time and blown the minds, and by that I mean blown away the skull parts, of the gangsters responsible for killing his parents. With the sequel, we open on what is basically Slaughter’s Congrats on Killing a Bunch of Mob Guys Picnic Brunch. But where the first Slaughter opened with a razor-sharp funk theme and a title sequence that presented Slaughter as an ass-kicking, shotgun-toting black Bond, the sequel kicks off with him…playing polo. Frankly, I’m just disappointed with the lack of imagination here. If I had a nickel for every blaxploitation hero we saw playing polo, riding a tandem bike through Coney Island, or watching Dynasty, I’d have a veritable sum of money. The toastmaster for Slaughter’s little shindig is George Gaynes who played the beloved Commandant in the Police Academy movies. Jim Brown is the only black man I’ve ever seen standing next to George Gaynes who wasn’t damn-near seven feet tall or imitating the sound of a helicopter taking off.

Answer me this question, no one. How often does a low-flying plane ever yield anything but death and mayhem? Somewhere between 0 and never% of the time, right? But that doesn’t seem to register with the obviously un-film-schooled guests of Slaughter’s Gangster Murder Cake Walk. As is the wont of so many hapless movie characters, when the Single-Engine Deathna starts tea-bagging the treetops, they stare blankly at the hovering kill craft as if at any moment it’s going to dump its surprise payload of king-sized candy bars and hundred dollar bills. But then of course, the bullets rain down and Slaughter and his pals are forced to dive for their lives; a scene wholesale lifted from Albie Hicox’s North by North Black. The die-plane ends up taking out one of Slaughter’s boys in the process, and it’s payback time…AGAIN! Again?

Okay, I call vengeance foul. You can’t take revenge on a guy for getting revenge on someone else which then causes a subsequent revenge plot; that’s double revengedy! The new mob boss, pissed off that Slaughter killed the old mob boss, sends a hitman to kill him only to accidentally kill his good friend; forcing Slaughter to then get revenge on the revenge for the revenge. Not only does it make no sense that this mob boss would want to kill Slaughter, the guy who’s de facto responsible for his promotion, but it reaches a point of revenge movie singularity that makes Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off feel like a blaxploitation Death Wish written by Charlie Kaufman. If the traditional blaxploitation trailer were to be forthcoming about this conundrum, the voice-over would raucously declare: “He’s being fought back against for fighting back against the mob, a low-down triple cross of confounding story composition.”

He decides to take his revenge in the form of theft; stealing a list of informers’ names from the mob boss. Now Slaughter calls himself the baddest cat who ever walked the Earth, which I find to be a rather blasphemous slap in the face to Jesus Christ. Also Garfield. But the one area in which he is truly, irrefutably bad, is in the execution of a heist. He goes to all the trouble of teaming up with an expert safe-cracker, quietly infiltrating a thug-infested mansion, stealing his quarry without a sound…and then proceeds to kill every single guard in the building in a thunderous shootout as if he’s still on the set of The Dirty Dozen. I suppose this is why he’s called Slaughter and not Sneak Away Quietly. Though I guess I can’t blame Slaughter too much, he’s forced to undertake this assignment by a cop who seems very keen on putting our hero in jail; odd for the genre considering the cop is also black. Detective Misplaced Aggression overacts so much it’s as if he thinks he’s a Greek mask actor playing to the back of a packed theatre. His exaggerated line delivery goes through a delicate evolution from streetwise tadpole, to unintentional British accent fish-lizard, to upright-walking hack with the unnecessary adaptation of an unhinged jaw. He really throws the book at Slaughter, and that book is The Beginners Guide to Reheated Cop Movie Cliches: Why No Convention is Too Old for this Shit. The pair do actually become friends through the delicate, classic process of BecauseTheScriptSaidSotosis.

The collective wardrobe of this film deserves merciless scorn, even within the context of its era. Slaughter himself tends to run the gamut from the Formica sport coat to the strawberry sundae leisure suit. But the winner of the “Clearly Doesn’t Own A Mirror Award” has to be Cajun Joe. Now don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that pimp fashion has never been heralded as exemplary, not even the sweet get-ups of Detroit’s Ice Cream Green would be classified as à la mode. This is the reason we don’t see many spaceship-sized brimmed hats at board meetings or upscale Manhattan restaurants requiring of their patrons jackets and ties, platform fish tank shoes, and full-length yellow mink coats. But Cajun Joe’s outfits are especially offensive in that they look as if this is the first time he’s ever worn them. I can abide uptown, sex-trafficking entrepreneurs when I feel like they’ve really gotten a lot of well-earned mileage out of their hideous clothing, but I draw the line at a hustla’ who would be caught dead in ready-made, off-the-rack Wal-Mart Halloween costumes for fratboy douchebags. I’m also not going to comment on the phallic symbolism of his absurdly long smoking device, because as Freud said, “sometimes an elongated cigarillo on the end of an already protracted cigarette holder is just a penis.” Good day to you, Cajun Joe. I SAID GOOD DAY!

Why I Love It!

I may be uncomfortably in love with Jim Brown and his unyielding action ‘stache. Brown is one of my favorite blaxploitation stars and he delivers in the sequel more of everything I loved about the first Slaughter…and more. He’s still a total badass, he still drives a sweet car and boasts a swagger more than twice the legal limit, and he’s got tremendous, almost concussive, line delivery. Nobody drops a hate bomb like Jim Brown; I for one believe him when he warns a rival that “you’ll be picking yo teeth outta yo lip.” On top of all of this, he’s got so much sex appeal that it goes beyond something women desire to a more nebulous realm wherein boning Slaughter is a nationally-recognized currency. The gorgeous red-headed prostitute from whom he gleans information at the start of the film demands sex as payment as if there was no other way she could get him into bed. Later, his accomplice Marcia actually pulls a gun on him and demands sexual gratification when a simple please would have accomplished the same goal. Seriously, his sexiness should either be weaponized or traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

I’m a big fan of nonsensical casting in b-movies and in this ill-advised filmmaking feat, blaxploitation is the leading subgenre. Routinely blaxploitation will make leading men out of soul singers, football players (as in Jim Brown’s case), and well-meaning mental patients (as in the case of Dolemite’s Rudy Ray Moore). Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off features possibly the greatest piece of oddball casting in any film. I’m speaking of course about the casting of The Tonight Show’s Ed McMahon as the badguy. He traded in yucking it up for Carson for butting heads with Slaughter as the angry mob boss. Does he pull it off? Not quite. He is still Ed goddamn McMahon after all. In fact, his presence might explain why the mafia gathering at the beginning of the film had all the menace and foreboding of a insurance adjusters convention. Still, it was very cool of Ed to send Slaughter a letter declaring “you may already be the target of a mafia hit!”

Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off is a dirty, nasty, violent piece of cinema, and I loved every second of it. As much as it is firmly rooted in its own genre, it almost feels like an Italian Poliziotteschi film. Slaughter’s still fighting the mob, as in the first film, but stripped away are the clandestine assumed identities and the exotic locations that made Slaughter feel like a James Bond film. Instead we have naught but the grimy, gritty streets of L.A. and a hero whose mafia enemies know his name from frame one; making the war against him far more personal. Slaughter double taps fallen thugs twice at pointblank range, throws swords through people, and puts a henchmen’s head through a car window before emptying an entire magazine into his broken, half-dead body. The villains aren’t fucking around either. Hell, within the first five minutes a man’s head is blown to pieces by an aerial assassin. Later, a gangster actually kills one of Slaughter’s allies by forcing an entire tube of superglue down his throat. But the the scene that really sets Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off apart, is the one wherein a gangster is holding a gun to Slaughter’s head as he and his girl sit in their car. The hood starts dispassionately clicking through the chamber until he either finds the single bullet or until Slaughter’s girl willingly drives their car off a cliff. I hazard that even Shaft would have copped out when that danger was all about.

Junkfood Pairing: Sweet Revenge Candy

Taking a page from the book of Slaughter, and his over-sized rip-off, we’ve subscribed to the idea that revenge is a dish best served over and over again until it doesn’t make sense any more. To wit, we offer the vending machine delicacy Sweet Revenge Candy. If you get a hankering for these tangy fruit candies at 3AM and the only laundromat with a machine that offers them is closed, we might suggest expertly breaking in, covertly stealing the candy, and then shooting everyone in the neighborhood just for good measure. We might suggest that, but we won’t, because that’s evidently wrong or something.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.