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Black Caesars and Foxy Cleopatras

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Member Reviews

Abrams Press provided an early galley for review.

In the early 1970's, the era that Henderson focuses on for his book, I was just a kid (way too young to see any of these in the theater). As I grew up, I had a passing awareness of blaxploitation films but that's about as far as my knowledge on the subject went. Henderson's book changed all of that. This was very much a crash-course on the subject.

He does a fantastic job talking about these films, from the plots to the production to the cultural impacts. His year by year approach puts each of them in the context with other events occurring at the time as well.

For readers who enjoy detailed looks at films, this one is a definite read.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Abrams Press for this advanced copy of this book the on the history and lasting impact of genre of films, with many subsections that came to be called Blaxploitation, and how awesome and culture changing many of these films were.

My father was a complicated man, who I don't think was ever really understood by his woman, my mom or my brother and I. My father was born a Bronx Irish Catholic, who loved watching Soul Train, played Tina Turner before she became big with Private Dancer, Richard Pryror Redd Foxx and Cheech and Chong, and exploitation movies. To this day we have no idea how he knew all this stuff. Working nights messed up my Dad's sleeping habits and he would stay up late watching our illegal cable box downstairs on his day off, fixing things that were kind of broken, and as his oldest and most insomniac child, I would join him. A movie would start to play and he knew it, or see someone in the cast and go, ohh this will be terrible, sit back Dan we are going to have fun. And boy did we. Hammer films, drug films, drive-in films, Flash Gordon, and William Castle films. But what always made him happy was Blaxploitation films. He loved the fashion, the cars, the action, the bad dialogue. And I know he would have loved this book, and kicked himself at the movies he might have missed. Black Caesars and Foxy Cleopatras:A History of Blaxploitation Cinema by the chief critic of the Boston Globe, Odie Henderson is an ode, a paean to a lost time and era, where the hair was big, the fashions loud, and so were the beatdowns. When a films gave hope to a large group of people, saved a lot of studios, and influenced many of the films we watch today.

Henderson starts with a history of representation in Hollywood films, which except for some films that were all black productions, was slim to none. Even the most trained of actors were given roles as drivers, cleaners or more likely criminals in many films. The dominate thought was that black movies don't make money, and no one will see them. With again rare exceptions that somehow slipped past. This lasted until the 60's when the film studios were losing money huge products no on cared about, television was draining audiences, and stockholders wanted returns. Melvin Van Peebles with his movie Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, was ignored, until it started to make money, lots of money. Followed by Gordon Parks' Shaft, which not only made money at the theaters, but also made money on its soundtrack. This proved there was an audience for movies with black stars, and even black directors Soon a new genre was born, with lots of product, good and bad, filling theaters, in New York and Los Angles, and many a drive-in in between. Action movies, prison movies even a werewolf movie. Many of these were cash in movies, made for a quick buck, but some asked more of audiences, who appreciated it, or passed on it, waiting for later generations to discover many great films.

Odie Henderson loves movies, and is gifted and blessed with the fact that he is a very good writer that conveys this love, and was blessed with a family that brought him to grindhouse theaters to see these movies at a very young age. Henderson and I are about the same age, and in his writing I can feel his excitement, in seeing this movies, and learning quite a lot about life they didn't have in Saturday Morning Cartoons, though I was a white kid in the suburbs. For Henderson these movies were and stay important. And probably fed his love for films, which like I said must be a long romance based on his writing. This is not an A-Z guide, Henderson writes the history of the era, with looks at critical films, and key members cast, crew and those who protested these kind of films. A very complete history and one I found fascinating, with looks at movies I never knew, and new ways of appreciating films that I have seen numerous times.

Recommended for movie fans, and especially for those who love genre films or well written histories of cinema. This is a very funny, very well-written book with lots of information, insight and history on a genre that really has influenced culture, television, films, and video games. My Dad loved reading too, and he would have snagged this from my hands just to look at, and while reading would call out stuff that he really liked. A great book, and something that no real film person should be without.

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Black Caesars and Foxy Cleopatras is a deft blend of storytelling and analysis, written with an inviting wit and expertise. I laughed, I gasped, I now have a lot of movies to watch and music to hear.

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This is a great account of Blaxploitation films of the 1960s and 70s. I love Odie Henderson's personal and very deep takes on his top (and the most important--not always the same!) movies, the tropes, the actors, and producers for a huge swath of Black pop culture. This is a total joyride through the movies, their connections, and catchphrases. It's also an astute and thoughtful analysis of Black movie culture, as well as music, comedy, and more. Go read it, then watch some of the movies, if you haven't seen them already, and consider watching Eddie Murphy's recent *Dolemite Is My Name,* a fantastic biopic of Rudy Ray Moore, one of the filmmakers discussed in the book. You're in for a great time.

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This is an interesting and very readable narrative history of the distinctive and monumental Blaxpoitation film industry. Spanning the works of Gordon Parks, Mario Van Peebles and many other directors, actors and professionals, it weaves an interesting story that not only catalogs milestones, but goes deeper into the perspectives and deeper significance of the movies and the genre.

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