June 20th, 2012: Black Gunn

What It’s About: Mr. Gunn (Jim Brown) runs a high-end nightclub.   His brother Scotty (Herb Jefferson Jr.) is the leader of the militant B.A.G. (Black Action Group) which decides to raise funds by robbing the Mafia.  Russ Capelli (Martin Landau), a slimy used car dealer, is put in charge of finding out who ripped off the mob-and who has their vital ledgers.  Can Gunn protect Scotty?

Why Watch it Today?: Martin Landau was born today in 1928.  Like a lot of character actors, Landau got his turn as the bad guy in a Blaxploitation flick, but with the possible exception of Rip Torn, no one played a character as strange, repellent, or at odds with their usual persona as Landau did here.  How many films feature a villain who’s a used car salesman, complete with cheesy ads, who moonlights as a mob kingpin?  For the most part Black Gunn is a run of the mill revenge flick, but advanced scholars of Blaxploitation will enjoy seeing the film, which toys with (and unfortunately abandons) being a West Coast adjunct to Across 110th Street , with militants out to get money for their cause replacing low-level crooks robbing the mob for their own gain and quickly realizing they’ve bit off more than they can chew as the full force of organized crime descends in racist fury.  Gunn isn’t half the film that Across 110th Street is, with an inferior soundtrack, largely wasted cast (including Luciana Paluzzi and Bernie Casey), inability to focus on what should be the main plot, and less nuanced and far more exploitative approach to dealing with the racism loaded into the premise (Bruce Glover makes Anthony Franciosa look subtle), but there’s interest to be had in seeing the “rules” for the sub-genre still coming together and in seeing a failed attempt at a premise that worked elsewhere.

Where to Get It: Watch the film free at Crackle or Hulu.

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