Boss Nigger (1975)

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Overall Rating 63%
Overall Rating
Ranked #6,517
...out of 19,390 movies
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Two black bounty hunters ride into a small town out West in pursuit of an outlaw. They discover that the town has no sheriff, and soon take over that position, much against the will of the mostly white townsfolk. They raise hell, chase women, and milk the locals for cash, while waiting for the opportunity to get their man. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: November 6, 2008
With the 2008 election in the books and Barack Obama soon to take the position as the most powerful man in America, I thought that it would be appropriate to tackle a movie that would reflect this on the site. The only problem that I encountered was that most of the movies dealing with presidency and the men who have sat in that chair are simply unappealing to me. Truth be told, I had actually given up on reviewing anything on this little site of ours to reflect this historic election (hence the delay), but then I decided that since his race played a big part in the media up to, during, and after said election, I might be able to find something appropriate in the blaxploitation genre. That's when I stumbled upon a blaxploitation / western hybrid called Boss Nigger, so here we are with a look at another piece of that seventies sleaze that I enjoy so much. Oh, and let's just get this out of the way right up front: I voted for Obama and damned near shed a tear of joy when I heard that he had won, so don't look for any deeper meaning behind the timing of this review. Now, you didn't come here to read about politics, so let's get cracking on the storyline, shall we?

We begin with a look at a handful of white cowboys sitting around a campfire and counting their money in the middle of the night, when out of nowhere, a pair of black cowboys show up and kill each and every last one of them. As it turns out, the white cowboys were thieves, and the black guys - Boss Nigger (Fred "The Hammer" Williamson) and his sidekick Amos (the late D'Urville Martin) - are bounty hunters out to collect the reward for bringing them in "dead or alive" (yeah, they tend to go for the former most of the time). In the process, they discover that there is a huge cash reward for the capture of a man named Jed (William Smith), and with a little detective work, they learn that he has been terrorizing the citizens of a nearby small town. With that, they set out for the town in hopes of catching Jed with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak.

On their way to the town (and more importantly, their big payday), they come across another group of white cowboys who have just killed a defenseless black man and who are also in the process of raping his daughter (Carmen Hayworth). Boss will have none of this, so he lets his guns introduce themselves and saves the little lady from almost certain death. He decides to take the woman, named Clara Mae, to the town with him and set her up with the Mexicans living there, and in the process, we learn that the sultry Clara has the hots for our hero.

With no time for love, Boss arrives at the town and learns that the local sheriff has been killed by Jed and his boys. Seeing an opportunity here, Boss has a word with Mayor Griffin (R.G. Armstrong) and declares himself as the new sheriff of these parts, with the idea being that he and Amos will settle down in this cozy little town, wait for Jed to show up, and then get themselves a handsome reward for their troubles. Jed will eventually show up with his entire posse in tow and there will be a huge gunfight, but in the meantime, Boss aims to clean up the town, throw all of the racists in jail (and there are a lot of them), and maybe find a little time for the white school teacher (Barbara Leigh) who also has the hots for him.

By its very nature, blaxploitation fare is pretty offensive for anyone who can't handle racist remarks or derogatory stereotypes. These are movies that came out during a time when racial tension was still pretty high in America, and these films catered to the black guys and gals who wanted to watch a movie where they could be the good guys for once. Thus, these films usually involve white antagonists who drop the "n" word in every other sentence, while the heroes are played by smooth, jive-talking black guys who usually abide by every stereotype in the book. Boss Nigger, if you couldn't guess by the title alone, is no exception to this statement, and in fact, it actually goes a good deal further than a sizable portion of the other films in the genre. The vicious insults and slurs are hurled back and forth with shocking regularity, so if you get slightly uncomfortable with traditional blaxploitation flicks, this one will send you over the edge.

The film itself is a blend of the traditional western with a little bit of comedy thrown in for good measure, and while I'm normally not a fan of westerns, I thought that this one turned out to be pretty damned good. The storyline is a mixture of the standard blaxploitation and western plot points (the heroic black man versus the racist white man / the tried and true good gunslinger versus bad gunslinger), but it was definitely interesting to see these two seemingly-opposite genres mixed together. Even though each of the plot points have been done before, the mixing of the genres kept the film feeling fresh, and it certainly didn't hurt that both aspects of the film were handled with skill: western fans will enjoy the cowboy shootouts and the barroom brawling, blaxploitation fans will be satisfied with how the black man gives the racist bastards their comeuppance, and fans of both genres will almost certainly get a couple of laughs here and there. A surprisingly somber ending that works out much better than it should have also did nothing but enhance my overall enjoyment.

Another thing working in the film's favor is the fact that it feels like a legit western. I have to admit that I sort of expected this to be nothing more than a gimmick, but this is far more than just a traditional blaxploitation release with cowboy hats and bar wenches. The sets are one-hundred percent authentic and feel like they came straight out of a Clint Eastwood classic, the characters are played just as you'd expect cowboys from the old-time westerns to be played, and if you stripped out all of the racial slurs, you wouldn't be able to tell a difference between this and a "real" western movie.

Fred Williamson stars in this movie, and truer words have never been spoken as Williamson is damned sure the star of this release. The man makes a decent movie a thousand times better with his character portrayal and line delivery, and even though the movie itself was good to begin with, Williamson makes the entire affair even better with his very presence. D'Urville Martin (who you might remember as the director and co-star of Dolemite) is also entertaining as the sidekick, and of course, the perennial villain William Smith is great as always.

Overall, I think that blaxploitation fans will certainly dig this one, while fans of westerns who can get past the racial aspect will probably feel the same. With the obvious exception of the language, it's actually a pretty clean film with minimal sleaze: the kills are nothing more than "guy gets shot and falls off of his horse" and "look at the hole in my shirt" variety, and even though Williamson juggles two love interests, the only skin that we see is a very brief glimpse of Carmen Hayworth's ass. The filmmakers chose to sink or swim with their storyline and their characters instead of relying on cheap exploitation, and for my money, they produced an enjoyable film. 8/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added November 6, 2008 at 2:24pm
They call him boss...Boss Nigger!
Best theme song ever.

8/10 as well.
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