Vintage Pulp Apr 4 2017
BIG MACK ATTACK
It's hard out there for a pimp.


The Mack is about pimping. Let's just get that out there. Those with twenty-first century sensibilities will probably hate the film on principle. But is there anything more to it than sexual exploitation? Well, it's an offering in the blaxploitation genre that deals with an ex-con's plan to rise to the top of the macking game in the city of Oakland. The main character, named Goldie, has a brother who intends to rid the streets of crime. Goldie's main antagonists are a pair of corrupt cops who see no difference between him and his brother. The subtext is interesting. Goldie and his brother represent opposite forms of direct engagement—one works to improve his environment while opposed by authorities who see political activism as a threat; the other works illegally to get ahead and get out while opposed by authorities charged with fighting crime.

The movie chooses as its backdrop one of the most activist cities in the U.S., with one of the most corrupt police forces. Both of these facts were true when The Mack was made and remain true today. For example, while Oakland police are tasked with preventing crime, they repeatedly and brazenly break the law, and have paid out more in civil damages than almost any police force in the nation. This dichotomy callsinto question whether the police actually exist for the good of the community at all, or for a more complex purpose—say to protect the interests of elites by both containing crime and hemming in the possibility of political empowerment. Actually, the question is rhetorical. We've been to many countries, and in all of them police suppress political activity among the underclass. So yeah, there's more to The Mack than just pimping.

The movie was actually inspired by the real life struggle between the Ward Brothers, who were leaders of Oakland's black underworld, and the Black Panthers. Both groups wanted to bring Oakland under their respective control for opposite reasons. Film critic Elvis Mitchell described The Mack succinctly in 2013, saying: “Do you become this horrible kind of mutation of free enterprise, or do you take the nationalist route and help your people?” But the Oakland police ultimately considered power achieved through crime and power achieved through politics to be equally unacceptable. And that may be the entire disturbing point of the film. The Mack premiered in the U.S. today in 1973, and the awesome poster was painted by Fred Pfeiffer.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 31 2010
BUMMERTIME BLUES
Why, why, why don’t we listen?

We’re contrarians here—warned away from something we usually jump in neck deep. That’s how we ended up eating beef tripe last week, as our friends screwed up their faces in disgust. It’s why we went to that Anthrax concert, and to this day can’t hear tones above 19 kHz. And it’s the reason we just watched 1973’s Bummer, a film so scathingly reviewed we immediately did bio checks on director, cast and crew, to make sure mobs of critics didn’t douse them all in kerosene and barbecue them on a giant pyre. The filmmakers survived, as far as we can tell, but we almost didn’t. In fact, we finished Bummer about an hour ago and our girlfriends still won’t let us near the silverware drawer unless we renounce the suicide pact we made about twenty minutes into the film.

Bummer has all the trappings of sexploitation cinema, but with none of the insouciance that makes it palatable. It’s about a rock band and their groupies on tour together, and the problems that ensue when the bassist—a hairy, obese, psychotic rube named Butts—starts to spin off his axis. Butts is too repulsive to score, so he compensates by humiliating the groupies instead (hence the film’s tagline, above, “You don’t have to assault a groupie… you just have to ask!!”). Butts’ daily abuse escalates to rape, then the strangulation of another girl, and finally to an unconvincing shooting that could only have been less believable if we’d actually seen the victim break a ketchup packet on himself to simulate blood. When finally Butts gets shotgunned by a vengeful Carol Speed his dying words are, “Why..? Why..? Why..?" Which is exactly what we’re still asking ourselves. This one is going to sting for a while. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 15
1945—Laval Executed
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
October 14
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
October 13
1970—Angela Davis Arrested
After two months of evading police and federal authorities, Angela Davis is arrested in New York City by the FBI. She had been sought in connection with a kidnapping and murder because one of the guns used in the crime had been bought under her name. But after a trial a jury agreed that owning the weapon did not automatically make her complicit in the crimes.
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