Black Shampoo (1976)
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