The Human Tornado

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I love Rudy Ray Moore’s albums Eat Out More Often and The Moans & Groans Of Love, and this film is the best translation of his unique comic styling to the silver screen. In just the opening alone we find Dolemite in bed with the sheriff’s wife. When the sheriff catches them in bed, his wife accuses Dolemite of raping her. To this accusation Dolemite replies “Bitch! Are you for real?”, and then dives naked out of the window. We then cut to a naked Dolemite sailing through the air about to land and roll down a hill when the film freezes. In voice over, Dolemite asks “Y’all didn’t think I could do that?” Then the film rewinds and replays. The Human Tornado is ridiculous, crude and totally self-aware. It’s by far my favorite Rudy Ray Moore experience.

So I’m more than glad that Rudy Ray Moore has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity the last couple of years. First, Vinegar Syndrome released a handful of his films in stunning Blu-Ray/DVD dual format packages and, in September 2019, Netflix released a biopic about “the godfather of rap” titled Dolemite Is My Name. As critics and audiences rewrite film history to be more inclusive, figures such as Rudy Ray Moore are finally getting their due. One can only hope that the same is true for a number of other talents that worked in “blaxploitation” films.

“Blaxploitation” films have been re-assessed and reconsidered countless times since Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997) sparked a renewed interest in the genre. In most film literature on the subject however, one of the genre’s most crucial players is often overlooked, Rudy Ray Moore. Moore’s most iconic character, Dolemite, made his debut on the party album Moore recorded in 1970, Eat Out More Often, but wouldn’t appear in a film until Dolemite (1975) directed by D’Urville Martin.

Dolemite lead to a string of follow up films like The Human Tornado (1976) and Petey Wheatstraw (1977), all arriving late on the scene during the final days of the genre. Though most blaxploitation films functioned as crime dramas with a semi-pornographic edge and a comic self-awareness, only Moore’s films took that self-awareness as their primary purpose. In Dolemite and The Human Tornado, the blaxploitation themes of kung fu, black power, and caricature are taken to highly plastic levels for the sake of satire. With Petey Wheatstraw, Moore targeted films such as Abby (1974) and Blacula (1972) with his iconic brand of irony.

The genre dissection and analysis that occurs in Moore’s films is subversive and difficult to read at first. Partly this is due to the low budget of the pictures and partly because of the drop in artistic quality among such films as the drive-in venue slowly became extinct. But upon careful viewing it becomes clear just what exactly is going on. Between spouts of rapping dialogue and soft-core sex scenes, Moore has found the time to mock and disassemble a genre that has proven more than controversial to the African American community post the 1990s.