The Black Godfather

Movie Review #878

“THE BLACK GODFATHER” IS A BASIC EXPLOITATION FILM: SOMETIMES ITS FUN, WHILE OTHERS, IT’S OFFENSIVE.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

black_godfather

Released August 15, 1974 (Oakland, California)
Released October 16, 1974 (Los Angeles, California)
Crime, Drama
Rated R (mature themes, graphic violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language)
90 minutes

It’s been forever since I last watched an exploitation film. It’s hard to forget the style of such a genre.  The style’s so much fun because so much of it isn’t intended–it comes generally from an inexperienced producer’s difficulty handling a very low budget.  But even so, I felt when I was watching “The Black Godfather” as if I’d somewhat forgotten how much fun exploitation films are to watch.

I’d also forgotten just how awful they were.

“The Black Godfather” is what you get when you take various scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather”, label that much as the entire plot, remove the white characters from the lead, substitute them with heavily stereotyped blacks, and substitute the Italian antagonists with white trashy, phony villains. The movie stereotypes African-Americans in a way that is so over-the-top, it’s impossible to believe a word of its overall message. “The Black Godfather” is filled to the brim with terrible writing and terrible, terrible, terrible performances. Its depiction of African-Americans as violent, uneducated, anti-police, bad drivers, and money-grubbers can be hilarious at times, but it grows increasingly offensive and as a result, obnoxious.

This isn’t historical like “The Godfather” is historical, but it’s historically significant, for sure. In fact, every exploitation film is. “The Black Godfather” is not “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”, nor is it “Shaft”, in terms of importance, but it nonetheless depicts its own form of the term “cinematic.” The is what is often defined as “blaxploitation,” and not only is it extremely racist, it’s also rather demeaning to women.

There’s a certain quota “The Black Godfather”, like any exploitation flick, reaches through which it is absolutely funny in its attempt to execute drama, action, and espionage on a low-budget and a sub par cast and crew. But it well surpasses that quota, and once it does, it’s nothing but offensive all around.

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