Jan 3, 2009

Petey Wheatstraw

Petey Wheatstraw is blessed with an acute personality and surreal aesthetics that set it apart from the other self-funded 70s films that defined a genre. The set direction can only be borrowed from hallucinogenic masterpieces such as Julian Roffman's The Mask or José Mojica Marins' Coffin Joe anthology. The single greatest compliment to 70s blaxploitation is the creation of The Devil's Son-in-law. While many blaxploitation titles were far-fetched, few would cross boundaries such as Dolemite's own Petey Wheatstraw.

In a similar "-sploitation + Underworld" vein of The Dragon Lives Again, our favorite comedian finds himself in hell after his execution from rival comedians. Since his birth during a hurricane, Petey Wheatstraw was born a 12 year old with an affinity for ass kicking. It's these special skills that allow him to reign supreme in all of his characters. Petey Wheatstraw might be an accurate biopic on the life of Rudy Ray Moore. After promising Lucifer to wed his hideous daughter and create a spawn, Petey decides to steal his magic cane and hastily work towards outwitting the devil (by leaving town). The main thing here is that Petey becomes no ones bitch but his own.

Petey Wheatstraw is one of Rudy Ray Moore's greatest achievements. His addition to cinema can be steadily overlooked as just another accidental spoof film but the layers are feathered deeper than presumed. With its incredible art direction of a 70s surrealist creation and nutzoid script ridden with laughable plot holes and awkward editing, Petey Wheatstraw even organizes time in a way to cleverly insert racial caricatures of the iconic "hood niggas" parodied in such timeless cartoons of ye olde' Disney. Such scenes as two Afrocentric Negroes on a porch sharing some delicious watermelon. Their only response is "Dis sho' am good!" and this is prior to the boy getting shot.

Racism intact; Dolemite has inspired roughly two generations of rap music with his jive talk and constant rhyme scheme. His other outings swap circumstance with chance and inspire visual artists. There isn't a doubt in my mind that films like Petey Wheatstraw and Disco Godfather (Both experimental Rudy Ray Moore films) inspired the post-blaxploitation classics like Pootie Tang and infused the African philosophy of art that Spike Lee attempts to use in many of his brash and crass films of an anti-white nature. I'm sorry Mr. Lee but Eastwood won the race battle on this one with his personal piece, Gran Torino.

Months before Rudy Ray Moore's tragic death, he had posted a Myspace blog explaining his recent decision to never say the word "Nigger" again. After creating an entire culture based on the versatility and counter-versatility of this word, his resignation of his own cultural movement proved to be of a shock. While many supported him, his protege's would not listen to reason. Snoop Dogg, who would be nothing without Dolemite, continues to use the word freely and even rather loosely. Whereas Dolemite films would express the term to a selected class of African-American, modern rappers use this term to describe an average Joe.

In Petey Wheatstraw, many continuity errors and problematic space/time conundrums occur. In one example, a thug wearing a sleek fedora gets rocked in the face causing his hat to fly off. The next edit leaves the guy getting punched again with his hat on. The reaction time for the thug to grab his hat and fit it back to his head is impossible which creates a quirky environment. One in which Petey grabs a 6 foot ladder to scale a multiple story building, but I guess art is art. Had Lucifer prevented the slaughter that occurred from ever happening, how did Leroy & Skillet acknowledge that Petey should be six feet deep? Ravenous hearts run rampant in Rudy Ray Moore's films. In most cases, you can expect a downbeat ending that serves as a PSA to urban youth.

When the credits finally roll, you'll see that death takes its toll. In the case of this futureless setting, it seems ole' Petey will continue with the wedding. Petey Wheatstraw doesn't go far from raising the blaxploitation bar. Devil ho's and magic canes aside, you'll enjoy the hell out of this motherfucking ride. The rhymes grow thin, the room starts to spin, How could Petey ever hope to win? You barter with the Devil and you've sunken to his level. Rest in peace: The true pimp Dolemite. Even if your films are a bit anti-white.


1 comment:

Quint-R said...

The watermelon birth is one of my favorite non-sequiters of all time. This film is particular proves Troma would be nothing without Rudy laying down the comedy-horror-poo joke formula years before