Black Shampoo (1976)



We must live in a more repressed time than the one in which Black Shampoo was made.  It must have been common practice to bang some trashy middle aged woman – reverse cowgirl style – while her children watch from within their swimming pool.  Also the two daughters are naked after having stripped for and mounted the movie’s main character before their mother shooed them off so she could have him for herself.

Black Shampoo – from director Greydon Clark, who would later be responsible for such classics as Satan’s Cheerleaders and Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate – is not your typical blaxploitation film.  I mean, it has the genre’s main elements; gratuitous sex and violence, a bad-ass leading character who casually bangs a lot of different women, mustachioed thugs who cause needless violence to get what they want and a love interest that develops over the course of a montage.  However, it’s those lapses in good taste – not that this genre really has much – and surreal situations that made me *almost* give Black Shampoo my first four out of four (don’t ask why my album reviews are out of five and movies out of four, just don’t).

First of all, the movie’s “bad ass” main character Mr. Jonathan (John Daniels) operates a hair salon where he meets the “special needs” of the female clientele.  In fact the opening credit sequence has him shampooing some woman’s hair before she blows him and says something like, “wow, it’s so big!” or something like that.  Mr. Jonathan’s male assistants are two flamboyant gay guys; the white one is slightly wimpier than the black one.  No, it’s not politically correct!  Fuck that!  Yes, the portrayal of the two gay characters is purely based on stereotype.  I don’t know if the actors are actually gay but they don’t seem to be faking those feminine poses.

The loose plot is revealed when three thugs visit the salon and threaten Brenda (Tanya Boyd), the receptionist.  Mr. Jonathan goes into action.  That’s pretty much it.  The sex scenes don’t even come close to erotic.  Don’t get me wrong; the women have good figures, especially Tanya Boyd.  But the act is either scored by hilariously bad 70s soft jams, overacted (OHHH, OHHHH, OH MY GOD) or just plain gross – I did not need to see that open-mouth tongue kissing.  Mind you, these things made the movie amusing so I’m counting them as positive.  One sex scene borders on rape and that’s done by the movie’s hero!  But, I’m gonna save the kicker for the next paragraph.

The barbecue chicken cookout scene.  If I was trying to impress you with my incredibly cultured film taste, I’d compare it to a scene in a Fellini film.  But, let’s just say the cookout took place on a ranch, had a naked woman casually walking around, a ballerina who dances for nobody, a partially naked woman who has holes cut out of her shirt so she can show off her huge breasts, over the top, flamboyant queers and Mr. Jonathan wearing a cowboy hat.  The scene is completely unnecessary and exploitative but I suppose that’s the point.  Also ::spoiler:: there is a scene where a thug shoves a hair curler up the ass of one of the gay hairdressers.

The score is also something else.  Aside from the customary “wicka-wicka” funk music, there is a strange moog playing at times and a salon trashing sequence set to looney tunes music.

And while all of this would seem worthwhile, let’s face it.  The lead actor is completely wooden; sure he’s supposed to be “cool” but he almost exudes no emotion at all except when he rapes a woman as a way of coping with being let down by his true love.  Also the only action we see in the first 70 minutes is Mr. Jonathan punching someone in the face and kicking someone in the balls.  In the trailer it looks exciting but it’s surrounded by no other action.  And the climactic chase scene – involving a motorized weapon, which I won’t reveal – seems to go on for too long, as if they were padding for time.

However, I’m still gonna recommend it because of the film’s ridiculously violent payoff at the end!