Xenon Entertainment presents
Disco Godfather (1979)
"I'm fine, divine and guaranteed to blow your mind!"- Tucker 'Disco Godfather' Williams (Rudy Ray Moore)
Stars: Rudy Ray Moore
Other Stars: Carol Speed, Jimmy Lynch, Lady Reed
Director: Robert Wagoner
Manufacturer: Video Transfer Inc.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language
Run Time: 01h:33m:00s
Release Date: 1999-08-10
DVD ReviewRudy Ray Moore was a 1970's comedian who (legend has it) learned a "patter" story about a pimp named Dolemite from a homeless man and leveraged it into a successful recording and movie career. Moore was a big influence on modern rap music, and samples from his 70's albums frequently appear on current rap releases. Disco Godfather was released in 1979 as the fifth feature film in Moore's big-screen career, towards the end of the "black exploitation" era; Xenon Entertainment Group released this DVD in 1999.
Rudy Ray Moore stars as Tucker "Disco Godfather" Williams, owner and DJ at the Blueberry Hill Disco, where he spins records and proto-raps ("All right all right all right! Put your weight on it, put your WEIGHT ON IT!") for his young, dance-crazy patrons. He's also an ex-cop with considerable martial arts skills, and when his nephew Bucky (Julius J. Carry III) ends up in an asylum-like hospital ward after taking bad Angel Dust, he takes on a ruthless gang of drug dealers, assisted by the gorgeous Noel (Carol Speed).
This premise sounds more entertaining that it actually is—the "kung-fu" action is weak and occasionally sloppy despite staging by Howard Jackson, the anti-drug rhetoric sounds awkward and preachy, and the story unfolds slowly under J. Robert Wagoner's direction. It takes forever for Moore's character to figure out that the slick, wealthy Stinger (James H. Hawthorne) is responsible for the Angel Dust epidemic, and the "emotional" scenes with his drug-addled nephew fail to generate any real drama. The film's ending is particularly bizarre and unsatisfying—battling the drug gang on its own turf, Moore absorbs a heavy dose of Angel Dust. He then experiences weird, noisy hallucinations involving a vampire woman and his Aunt Betty—the film ends on a Reefer Madness-like note with a wild-eyed Moore shouting "There's nothin' wrong with me!" over and over.
Moore blamed Disco Godfather for ruining his career, though it was probably not directly responsible. Growing public discomfort with the stereotyped characters in most "blaxploitation" movies led to the genre's demise around this time, and a good decade passed before directors like Spike Lee and John Singleton re-established a vital African-American cinema. Disco Godfather is not a very good movie—it's interesting for its genre trappings, disco-era music and violence, but ultimately seems thrown together and not nearly as much fun as it ought to be.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Xenon's DVD presents the film in full frame—the opening credits are windowboxed with a red border around the frame, and it looks like the film was originally shot in 1.33:1 (though it might be modified from a 1.66:1 aspect ratio). The print used for the transfer has visible damage in a few scenes, which is odd because it's otherwise pretty clean. I did spot some compression artifacts on venetian blinds in an office scene, and darker scenes are often muddy, probably due to limitations of the source—this transfer is just average, decent but not impressive.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The film's soundtrack is presented in monophonic Dolby Digital through the center speaker only—the audio is well-transferred, with minimal hiss, but the frequency range is compressed and dialogue is often overpowered by the throbbing disco music. It's too bad Xenon couldn't have tracked down the original soundtrack elements for a remix—the DVD provides an accurate representation of the print's soundtrack, but a little digital cleanup and separation would have made a big difference.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s)Packaging: Amaray
Extras Review: Disco Godfather doesn't have a lot of supplements, but what it has is worthwhile:
The disc includes the original theatrical trailers for several of Rudy Ray Moore's other films: Dolemite, The Human Tornado and Black Godfather, as well as a more recent video promo for Shaolin Dolemite. These trailers are VERY entertaining, much more so than the main feature, and the transfers on Dolemite and The Human Tornado are quite good (the other two are poor but watchable.) I enjoyed these so much, I'm giving the disc a B for extras on the strength of the trailers alone. Once you've heard Rudy Ray promoting Dolemite in his inimitable style, you'll never get "Coming to this theatre as the next attraction—a picture that'll put you in traction!" out of your head.
The disc also contains an image of the movie's original poster, great for setting the mood—I just wish it was bigger or had some close-ups of the artwork.
The chapter selection menu doesn't seem to work—chapter stops are present and accessible through the remote, but attempts to use the built-in menu always brought the disc to a halt on my Panasonic A-120 player.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsIt's great to see films like this becoming available on DVD—I'm thrilled that hard-to-find, often historically valuable titles are being digitally preserved for posterity. However, this is only an average disc—I can't recommend the film except as an amusing relic of the period, and Xenon's DVD transfer is middle-of-the-road. Watching the bonus trailers, I got the impression that Rudy Ray Moore was at his best in the earlier Dolemite films—Disco Godfather seems to have been an unfortunate misfire.
Dale Dobson 2000-04-25