Disco Godfather (1979) / Thriller-Action
aka The Avenging Disco Godfather
MPAA rated R for strong violence, language, drug use, and sensuality
Running time: 93 min.
Cast: Rudy Ray Moore, Carol Speed, Jimmy Lynch, Jerry Jones, Hawthorne James, Frank FInn, Julius J. Carry III
Director: J. Robert Wagoner
Screenplay: J. Robert Wagoner, Cliff Roquemore
Review published January 7, 2012
J. Robert Wagoner, in his first and only undertaking in his filmography, directs and co-writes what might be, from outward appearances, a spoof of the gangster movie and disco music scenes so prevalent in pop culture throughout the 1970s, but in fact is a mostly serious attempt at a 'message movie' decrying the dangers of Angel Dust/PCP. The main problem: any film called Disco Godfather and which has a starring role for Rudy Ray Moore (Big Money Hustlas, The Human Tornado), whose demeanor and delivery does not lend well to seriousness, should never play for anything other than laughs, which this mostly sincere and often dark film does not.
Moore stars as Tucker Williams, a former police officer turned the city's most famous discotheque DJ and entertainer who can wow the crowds by simply shouting, "Put your weight on it!' repeatedly. As Tucker is working the crowds at the Blueberry Hill Disco, his nephew and burgeoning basketball star Bucky (Carry, The Last Dragon) freaks out due to a dangerous new drug that is taking over the community, making him see horrific visions and getting violent to the point where he needs immediate long-term hospitalization. Utilizing his experience with law enforcement, and working alongside his former friends on the force, Tucker proceeds to try to take down the town's major drug dealer, Stinger (James, Se7en), before more people are harmed by the 'Wack'.
A sloppy, disjointed, and, at many times, utterly nonsensical effort from Wagoner (there may be continuity errors and bad dubbing in nearly every scene), Disco Godfather suffers from too much heavy-handedness in its anti-drug delivery to make it effective, and probably elicits more laughter from today's audience than anything else for its Reefer Madness-caliber depiction of the ills of PCP. At just a little over 90 minutes, it feels like two films crammed into one, as the padded scenes of disco dancing and Tucker working the crowd have absolutely nothing to do with the plot at hand, and yet they easily comprise a third of the film as well as the title.
The action scenes aren't plentiful, but when they are, they consist mostly of terribly choreographed and choppily edited kung fu for no other reason than it captures yet another fad from the 1970s. Wagoner experiments with many techniques to try to evoke the drug experience, mostly laughable due to their overuse of surreal horror effects, fog machine and make-up, and one particular scene involving a shooting in the discotheque uses a 'pause' effect that backfires in creating any sort of tension or suspense. Oddly, these experiences all seem to be identical, regardless of the person, including the vision of a snarling demon-woman. That there is a scene where an addicted young woman is ostensibly cured through exorcism only adds to the wrongheaded hyperbole of the anti-drug message.
Some classify the film as part of the Dolemite series, though if it is, it is only due to Moore's involvement and not because it has anything to do with the 1975 film or its characters. The scenes of disco dancing, though superfluous tot he overall story, are very amusing, especially in how gaudy the skin-tight outfits are that the Disco Godfather wears, as well as his flamboyant dance gyrations. Unless you're a fan of Rudy Ray Moore, or just god-awful exploitation films in general, Disco Godfather resides pretty close to the bottom of the cinematic barrel in terms of entertainment value.
©2012 Vince Leo