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Super Bad, Super Cool

57 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 09 January 2010

Actress Pam Grier takes us back to the cinema of the 1970s, when a type of film emerged that featured all-black casts and great soul, R'n'B and jazzy soundtracks.

Pam celebrates these films with the funky soundtracks and interesting stories that were given the unfortunate name of "blaxploitation" movies. She considers their musical legacy, and their wider impact, particularly in terms of the film roles that were available to black actors before and after that period.

These films depicted a reality about the world which African-American audiences could identify with, even if the stories themselves were pure fantasy. Wildly colourful ghetto garb, drug and sex scenes, extreme (if often cartoon-like) violence, classic soulful scores (Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch, Isaac Hayes), and touches of black nationalism are the still irresistible trademarks of what became known as "blaxploitation movies".

The films created a whole music genre that followed the release of the film Shaft. The films often gained success from their soundtracks rather than their plot-lines; and the music stands alone as a testimony to some very funky producers. Almost every major artist of the day did a film score for these movies. After Isaac Hayes led the way with Shaft, Curtis Mayfield followed with Superfly, Marvin Gaye with Trouble Man, then James Brown, Bobby Womack and Edwin Starr got in on the act.

Contributors include Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L Jackson, Joel Freeman, Jorge Hinosa, Ashley Walters, Gloria Hendry, Dennis Coffey, Scott Bomar, Lalah Hathaway, Mathieu Bitton, Mary Ramos, Lawrence Bender, and James Hyman. The documentary first broadcast on Radio 2 in January 2010.


Sue Clark


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