The antithesis of the Oscar-winning Moonlight. Hooray!
John Daniels, Eli Haines, Tom Hankason, Marva Farmer, Richard Kennedy, George Buck Flower
I enjoy blaxploitation, but it does take some wading through to find the goodies. Lately I’ve caught some competent but mediocre efforts like Hammer, Black Gunn and The Legend of Nigger Charlie, all lacking the requisite elements that I so enjoy. Candy Tangerine, however, reignited my enthusiasm with its nutso low-budget mix of pimping, comedy, nudity and full-on malice.
What the hell are these crazy cats up to? Traveling businessman Ron Lewis aka The Black Baron (Daniels) is a laid back but ultra-resourceful pimp on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard. All he wants to do is make money, but he can’t help attracting the vicious ire of two demented vice cops and the local Mafioso goons. I guess success brings its own problems. Not only that but his doting wife (who has no idea about his double life through the week away from the leafy suburbs) wants him to fix a bathroom window, mow the lawn and prune an avocado tree. For Christ’s sake, woman, it’s the weekend. Let the man relax.
Is there a racist cop keeping the brothers down? “Here comes that black cocksucker!” corrupt, incompetent vice cop Dempsey (Kennedy) exclaims while catching sight of our hero during a stakeout. I imagine you already suspect he’s not the most restrained and reasonable law enforcement officer, perhaps envious of the Baron’s stylishness and silky skills with the ladies. Whatever the case, he’s determined to bust the Baron’s ass, even though he’s always a couple of steps behind. His latest mad ploy involves dressing up a fellow cop in a blonde wig and green dress to try to trap the Baron into propositioning ‘her’ on tape. “Goodbye, my Baron…” Dempsey starts singing while listening on the headphones in a nearby car and laughing his head off. The Baron, of course, sees through the ruse and leaves the fake hooker with ‘nuts the size of basketballs’.
Dempsey has a gum-chewing sidekick by the name of Gordon (Buck Flower). In a slightly more subdued approach, he calls the Baron ‘Sambo’ and a ‘spook sonuvabitch’ but keeps his manic laughter on the inside. Both cops are equally hell-bent on jailing their black nemesis, although that doesn’t mean they won’t defer the whacked out pursuit for a little rape.
How are the bitches and hos treated? Baron is introduced smooth-talking a lady into going on the game. “I’ll tell you one thing,” he says. “None of my ladies are anything but totally content… Choose me and you got the whole world by the asshole.” He even has a retirement plan for his older whores. Not only that, but when he ‘wins’ a new girl in a game of pool, the sort who’s never had a john between her legs, he takes her to the bus station, gives her money and orders her to get out of town.
At home the Baron is attentive to his wife, promising he’ll soon quit his demanding job to spend more time with her and the children.
What a nice guy.
Then again, he expects his ‘bitches’ to make him $200 every day of the week. Occasionally he shoots to death any females that displease him. I guess he also has to take some responsibility for his stable of ‘skag-bags’ coming under attack from the Mob. In a sequence that belongs in an early 80s slasher like The New York Ripper, one goon fondles a hooker’s nipple with a switchblade and says: “I’d like to cut this off and have it for breakfast.” True to his word, he proceeds to remove a breast. Unsure whether he eats it, though.
Are there any pimps roaming the hood? Apart from the Baron, there’s the ‘asshole chump’ Dusty Compton (Hankason). He’s a much more traditional pimp, strutting around town drenched in jewelry and with a garish feather in his hat. Cocky as hell, he often compliments himself and then gives a tittering, high-pitched laugh. Sometimes he speaks in rhyme: “Check me/I’ve got more moves than Ali/Can you dig it, Mr B?”
However, this preening coward is all talk, best demonstrated when he hoovers up some of the Baron’s girls (who’ve been somewhat unsettled by the aforementioned breast removal). “If that motherfucker fucks with me,” Dusty tells them, “I’ll cut his cock off. Can you dig it?” However, when the Baron does show up he refuses to get off the sofa and almost craps his pants. After he’s gone, Dusty recovers his cool to assert that he ‘should’ve kicked that motherfucker’s ass.’
Do I dig the threads? The Baron is no sartorial sensation like Willie Dynamite, preferring a much less flamboyant look. Sure, he’s got the pimp hat and black leather gloves but he prefers strolling around in a three-piece suit and tie complete with silk handkerchief peeking out of a breast pocket. Classy. Then again, none of the fashion or hairdos on display is particularly distracting. People dress surprisingly normal for the mid-70s.
Does it have funky music? A band called Smoke supplies the tunes. Like the film itself, the music’s all over the place, starting with a terrific piece of smooth rap (a genre I don’t normally like) before sliding into funk and soul. The music is often tight, although it shakes things up appropriately for the comedy, violence and an unexpected bout of pathos. In fact, it’s good enough to make me consider tracking down the soundtrack album.
Best jive talk: “The only mother I ever fucked was yours and she was a shitty lay.” The Baron responds to a knife-wielding punk repeatedly calling him ‘motherfucker’.
“This girl is gonna make me ten thousand big ones before she wears that slot out.” Dusty voices his confidence about a young, untapped whore.
“You lost my woman! You white, honky motherfucker ball!” During a game of pool, Dusty accuses the cue ball of racism after it drops into a pocket, thereby losing him not only the game but the aforementioned lady.
“You shovel-nosed faggot! You did the cutting, didn’t you?” The Baron politely suggests Dusty was behind the disfigurement of one of his girls.
Are any hard drugs injected into eyeballs? This one isn’t interested in narcotics. The Baron abstains, as do his girls, although Dusty likes a little nose candy. No matter, for just about every other vice is crammed in.
Is Candy Tangerine Man any good? It might sometimes be a bit flatly directed and only offer ordinary or OTT performances, but Tangerine Man succeeds because of its wild script. It chucks in everything from golden showers and amputation to a mobile brothel and mass murder. Like Arnie in True Lies, the Baron leads an astonishing double life, although he remains amazingly unruffled by whatever comes his way whether it’s police brutality or hearing one of his girls has been mutilated (“Any other good news?”) Here we get a mountaintop nod to The Italian Job as well as a wince-inducing garbage disposal scene that surely influenced the excellent Rolling Thunder two years later. Candy Tangerine is a prime piece of blaxploitation, a treat that gets better and better as it insanely careens toward its satisfying final line.
Do I now have a Tarantinoesque urge to be black? Hmm, I’m sorely tempted. The unflappable Baron outsmarts and outfights everyone. In fact, he punches so hard he can send a man flying through an upstairs window into a swimming pool. Then there’s his fucking ace car. He cruises around in a customized, yellow and red Rolls Royce that the boys from ZZ Top would surely be more than happy to share a ride in. This thing’s so cool it’s even got machine guns behind the headlights! Apart from that, the smartly dressed Baron has sex on tap, a loving woman at home and money to burn. To quote one of our lovely vice cops, the ‘black bastard’s got a horseshoe up his ass.’