Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Excerpt of the Day

“To break down the racial wall entirely it took a film made by a black person for a black audience… Melvin Van Peebles’ scandalous, X-rated, audaciously titled feature, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song. As the film’s writer, director, producer, soundtrack composer and star, Van Peebles almost single-handedly activated the genre that would later be dubbed blaxploitation. In order to avoid industry union rules, he claimed to be making a porno. It become the highest grossing independent film up until that time, pulling in $16 million with extremely limited distribution. Unlike today’s ‘indie’ hits, however, it did not garner the filmmaker any big-studio offers. The film’s gritty subject matter and provocative marketing tagline (“Rated X by an All White Jury”) served to alienate mainstream Hollywood from the brash auteur…. Hollywood’s response to Sweetback’s stunning success was to transform a fairly generic crime thriller about a private detective named John Shaft into a genre-busting box-office smash.”

– from Chapter 1: Crime Jazz & Felonious Funk of Kristopher Spencer’s Film and Television Scores, 1950-1979

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