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Category:    Home > Reviews > Blaxploitation > Black Shampoo (1976)

Black Shampoo (1976)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Since the 1970s, every legitimate motion picture has had at least one XXX hardcore sex version to send it up, and during that decade, the same often went for mainstream and Blaxploitation films.  Hal Ashby created a real time capsule about the sexual revolution and its emptiness in the 1975 hit Shampoo, where hairdresser Warren Beatty is a popular hairstylist who fits all kinds of antics between washing and rinsing.  Immediately, Greydon Clark’s Black Shampoo went before the cameras and was released a year later.


The story centers on hairdresser Mr. Jonathan (John Daniels) who is opening offering special bonus services with his usual stylin’.  However, this pre-AIDS, “equal-rights” paradise is quickly jeopardized by white mobsters and other corrupt racists in power.  At first, it is not a problem, then they decide to wreck Jonathan’s salon.  This ticks off a couple of his openly gay employees, one of whom is tortured later in a way one could consider sexual and very politically incorrect, and their extremely stereotypical portrayal only adds to the craziness.


There is other torture and violence, but the sex is never so, which earns it a point.  If anything, the bad “acting” by the women excited over Jonathan is a sliver above XXX bad sex acting then or now.  Imagine that.  The idea of the Beatty film was that sex was going on openly where it should not be.  This film decided to go much further than a “respectable” yet counterculture comedy/drama would dare.  It may not be as good as the Beatty/Ashby film, but it is all the more amusing if you know about the first film or watch it before watching this one.  Black Shampoo is pure exploitation and worth a look for being one of the highlights of its cycle.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is not bad for its age, though it shows its age and there are some issues with the color palette that has to do with Video Red.  It is slightly off and that throws off the film a bit throughout, though this does look like Movielab’s processing.  The film had two cinematographers, Dean Cundey and Michael Mileham, and film fans know Cundey from John Carpenter’s original Halloween.  That was only two years away.  I like the camerawork on the film, whether it is showing as much nudity and violence as an R would allow for, or just the amusing medium shots of the many characters we meet throughout.  Cundey did most of the work.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is a bit smaller than we are used to and that gets in the way of Gerald Lee’s funky, bad-assssssssssssss (you can never add enough “s”-es you know) score.  On top of that, there are other funny music moments, some unintended.


Extras include a full-length commentary by Clark, plus his bio, and text interview with him, Daniels (who has a phone interview done for this DVD in 2005 here) and female lead Tanya Boyd in Cashier Du Cinema of all places.  You also get deleted scenes (which are silly for the most part), a stills gallery, Easter Egg (which we will not reveal), and trailers for more such material from VCI.  They have more on the way and we cannot wait to see it.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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