Tuesday, 29 July 2014

BOSS NIGGER aka "Boss", "The Boss", "The Black Bounty Killer" - Review By Greg Klymkiw @FantasiaFest2014

Play the theme song from BOSS NIGGER sung by Terrible Tom while you read the review:
video

"Look Mayor, you've been hunting black folks for so long,
we just wanted to see what it'd be like to hunt white folks."
Boss Nigger (1974) ****
aka Boss, The Boss, The Black Bounty Killer
dir. Jack Arnold
Starring: Fred Williamson, D'Urville Martin, R.G. Armstrong, William Smith, Carmen Hayworth, Barbara Leigh

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Boss (Fred Williamson), a tough, tall and lean African-American cowboy, counts his reward money, pockets it obligingly, then flashes a big smile at the racist lawman who grudgingly had to pay it out. "I wants to thank ya, Sheriff," says our title character. "Sorry, we ain't got time to stay for supper, but we got us more whities to catch."

And so begins Boss Nigger, one of the best westerns of the 70s. Boss and his trusty, wiseacre sidekick Amos (D'Urville Martin) ride off into the picturesque natural beauty of New Mexico in search of their next easy kill - always wanted, dead or alive and yes, always of the White Trash Caucasian Persuasion.

Now if you saw Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and thought the idea of an African-American bounty hunter was original, just remind yourself that QT's entire output has been steeped in ripping off, or rather, referencing the works of older films he revered as being cooler than cool.

And don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the Jamie Foxx/Christoph Waltz western bloodbath, but Boss Nigger is the real thing.

JED: Go ahead and kill me, Nigger!
BOSS: That's "Mr. Nigger" to you!
JED: Then go to Hell, Mr. Nigger!
BOSS: To Hell is where you're going!
Made almost forty years ago, it's way ahead of its time and proves to be more cutting edge revisionist than Tarantino's. Written and produced by the former football champ turned superstar and directed by the legendary Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mouse That Roared), this terrific duster blends old fashioned western tropes with the very best elements of Blaxsploitation. Don't forget that Django needed to be rescued and taught the trade by a White Man, but Boss Nigger and Amos are former slaves who broke free all on their own and carved a path of destruction to emancipate their fellow brothers in the legendary Nigger Charley series (not to mention that Django is single-minded in the pursuit of securing his wife's freedom at the expanse of anyone, whereas Williamson's character is all about making America a better place for all oppressed people of colour).

How can anyone not like a film wherein
Fred Williamson goes at it with William Smith? 
And so it is that Boss and Amos are on their way to a wild, wooly tank town bereft of a sheriff in order to track down Jed Clayton (William Smith), the meanest, orneriest criminal psychopath this side of Hell and his gang of bloodthirsty, shoot 'em up, rotgut-guzzling and female-violating redneck racists. The pair rescue the beautiful Clara Mae (Carmen Hayworth) from gang rape at the hands of some Clayton cowpokes, deposit her in the care of some kind Mexican-Americans on the outskirts of town, then proceed to nominate themselves as Sheriff and Deputy of a town so corrupt that its Mayor (R.G. Armstrong) is secretly in cahoots with Clayton.

Boss and Amos waste no time in posting the new laws of the town which all include hefty fines for spitting, cussing, shooting and worst of all, using the word "nigger". Many townspeople are shocked by this and would just as soon put up with the Status Quo, but some, like the sexy schoolteacher Miss Pruitt (Barbara Leigh) are relieved that law has come to their town. She even develops a mad crush on the muscular, leather-adorned Boss Nigger.

In addition to their shenanigans in town, the Boss and Amos wreak havoc upon the huge gang of cutthroats and Boss Nigger reigns solidly as a violent, action-packed western of the highest order.

Jack Arnold's helmsmanship is first-rate, the fisticuffs, shootouts and explosions are taut and engaging and Fred Williamson's writing equally so.

The dialogue is especially ripe and you'll feel like delivering a standing ovation when the prim, proper schoolmarm Miss Pruitt begs Boss to take her along when he leaves town after tidying up his business. Williamson, always the King of Cool, writes himself one of the best lines in movie history. Bidding the sexy schoolteacher farewell, he says:

"Lady, a Black Man's got enough trouble in this world without a White woman following him around."

Enough trouble, indeed!

Boss Nigger (with the title Boss) is playing at the 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival in Montreal.