FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Black Shampoo (1976)
‘SHAMPOO’ SIMPLY DOESN’T RINSE.
I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is the blaxploitation flick Black Shampoo…
A salon owner (John Daniels), with a reputation for being as good a lover as he is a hairdresser, takes on the mob after his receptionist (Tanya Boyd) is kidnapped and colleagues are assaulted.
Inspired by the Oscar-winning Shampoo (1975) one year earlier, Black Shampoo delivers what is expected: sex, nudity, violence, questionable acting, and a paper-thin plot that will keep fans of the blaxploitation genre happy. Unfortunately, the film suffers from poor pacing, with director/co-writer Greydon Clark apparently more concerned with finding reasons to link soft-core porn-esque sex scenes, and their accompanying score, together than presenting a taut action caper.
So while there is much to critique Black Shampoo about, there are also a few positives to draw from it. Although not given much to do and not the greatest actor to ever grace the screen, the beautifully imposing John Daniels does well enough with the material at hand and Tanya Boyd is also quite engaging.
However, what is quite remarkable about the film from a contemporary viewing is the manner in which homosexual characters are not only depicted but also interact with their heterosexual counterparts. The queer men here are extreme stereotypes: effeminate, flamboyant hairdressers. But this is nothing to be offended by.
Exploitation films and their subgenres utilise stereotypes as a form of shorthand; in-depth character development is never a priority. Additionally, what a wonderful manner to depict society’s outcasts—Queer. Here. Get over it. This, of course, means nothing if our macho hero does not accept them unconditionally. But accept them, Daniels’ Mr. Jonathan does. Not only that, but the beating of gay salon worker Artie (Skip E. Lowe) is one of the driving motivators for tensions between Jonathan and the mob. And this loyalty is a two-way street. Artie’s refusal to jeopardise Jonathan’s safety escalates in him being sexually assaulted with a curling iron. (Rape as a weapon is a common trope in exploitation films reserved for women and gay men.)
Ultimately, the final act is where a film such as this sinks or swims. It is violent and blood and is spilt, but remains a little underwhelming, particularly when compared to its contemporaries. It is unfortunate that this badly acted and even worse written caper did not receive a little more care and a slightly bigger budget, because Black Shampoo has all the potential of a genre masterpiece. 2½ / 5
Starring: John Daniels, Tanya Boyd, Joe Ortiz, Skip E. Lowe, Gary Allen, Anne Gaybis, Jack Mehoff, Bruce Kerley.
Director: Greydon Clark | Producer: Alvin L. Fast | Writers: Greydon Clark, Alvin L. Fast | Music: Gerald Lee | Cinematographers: Dean Cundey, Michael Mileham | Editor: Earl Watson
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