Picking up where we left off in our interview with Blaxploitation movie maven, Josiah Howard. Catch part one here.
Blaxploitation Paperbacks: I applaud your book not only for the great detail you provide on Blaxploitation movies but for all the great images (pictures, posters, etc.) Is that your own collection and what’s your approach for amassing all of it?
Josiah Howard: I would say that I have an impressive collection of Blaxploitation memorabilia including posters, photos, press books and the like, but the reason the book is so beautiful has nothing at all to do with me. My publisher, Plexus Books, was committed to the project as a deluxe representation of cinema as “art.” They didn’t approach it as a book about “black” films, but, instead, a book about American cinema. I’m both fortunate and grateful.
BP: There’s been a few “remakes” of Blaxploitation movies e.g. Shaft and supposedly Bones with Snoop Dogg was based on J.D’s Revenge. I’m not really a fan of the remake, but if there was one Blaxploitation movie you think could be remade, what would it be? And who would you cast?
JH: Well, I just read that every good film should be re-made every 15 to 20 years because with that time frame there is a whole new generation of movie goers who know nothing about the original. Generally speaking, I think re-makes illustrate a lack of creativity; but I get it. “It’s a brand. It was already successful. Let’s do it again.”
As I mentioned earlier, I think “Get Christie Love!” would be a lot of fun as a movie. If there can be Charlie’s Angels movies there should be Get Christie Love!.
As for casting, since Whitney has passed—how tragic is that?—I’ll let Hollywood choose whomever they deem to be the “bankable” Black female of the moment.
BP: I use a rating scale on Blaxploitation Paperbacks where the lowest rating means I couldn’t even finish the book because it was so terrible. Thankfully, I haven’t come across any that bad yet. Are there any Blaxploitation movies that were just so horrible that you couldn’t get through them? I can think of a few that pushed me to the limit (e.g. Blackenstein, Mean Mother). Or are we such fans of the genre that we subject ourselves to the torture of seeing the worst ones all the way through?
JH: Lol! Well Mean Mother is absolutely atrocious! And Blackenstein is super low budget and terribly under-lit. (Black folks need more lighting: hello!) Frankly speaking, the larger part of the Blaxplotiation films are less than what moviegoers demand—even back then. They are what they are: cheaply made entertainments. But, no, I can sit through even the worst of the worst. I’m thrilled that they were made, that they were popular, and that they provided work and a forum for African-American talent.
BP: I find that many Blaxploitation fans are in countries outside of America. What do you think it is that draws such a diverse population to the genre?
JH: You’re right. The films are particularly popular in Spanish-speaking countries—Spanish language poster proliferate.
I think they’re popular in other markets because they’re straightforward shoot-em-ups. They’re not hard to translate. Everybody—in any country—wants to find a way to get more: more money, more girls or boys, more “validation”.
BP: You and I have a common purpose which is to keep the genre alive by sharing and exposing it to as many as possible. I think you are doing an awesome job. Is there anything else you would like to see happen as it pertains to fulfilling this purpose and making a huge impact?
JH: Thanks for the compliment but it’s inclination, really: I’m just running my mouth about things that I’m genuinely interested in!
As for further awareness of the genre and “era,” I have dreamed about hosting a Blaxploitation Night type TV show for one of the cable networks. It would be so much fun for me—and so cool for the new generation to have access to the films. That’s my dream! TV ONE, BET, VHI, BOUNCE—are you listening?!
BP: The last occurrence on record I was able to find historically of a Blaxploitation conference or celebration seemed to be well over 10 years ago. In your opinion, what would it take for Blaxploitation lovers to pull an ongoing celebration of the genre and its accomplishments?
JH: Money! There are conferences for everything from vintage dolls to cast iron kitchen appliances. If someone was willing to put forward the money, I would be more than happy to organize and promote a Blaxploitation conference. It’s my passion! (I’d even officiate a screening of the rarely seen “Super Dude” and “The Obsessed One”!)
BP: When all is said and done, what do you want people to say about your legacy and contribution to Blaxploitation?
JH: Legacy? Such a big word! I just wrote a book about something I was passionate about—and I was lucky enough to partner with a publisher that was equally passionate. No one has really noted this, but Plexus Books is a British publisher. I had to go outside of my own country to stir up interest and get the book deal. And, what a great job they did!
BP: OK last question: you’re trapped on a deserted island and you can only have 1 Blaxploitation movie, 1 Blaxploitation paperback and 1 Blaxploitation soundtrack. What would they be?
JH: The “soundtrack” is without question Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly. It’s magic, hit-heavy, atmospheric, career defining.
My “desert Island” Blaxploitation paperback would be Mandingo by Kyle Onstott—the novel sold more than ten million copies! It’s a great: outrageous, salacious, shamelessly exploitative entertainment: writing to the Nth degree.
And as far as films go, I’ll take Coffy any day! She’s as “bad” as the men that populate the genre—and way nicer to look at!
BP: Anything else you want to leave the readers with?
JH: Yes: Keep on Truckin’ baby…!