Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

With my main man Isaac Hayes kicking the old bucket not too long ago I decided that its nigh time I dust my old VHS copy of my absolute favorite blaxpoloitation film ‘Truck Turner’ and watch it one more time in honor of Mr. Hayes, who died on his treadmill trying to do right, and also to try and remember exactly what was it that I liked about this movie so much.

Truck Turner (Hayes) is a bad man. Seriously. Shaft, Slaughter and That Man Bolt would all step to the other side of the street if they saw Macarthur ‘Truck’ Turner coming their way. Truck is also a very simple man with simple needs as he has a very simple, albeit incredibly dangerous job as a bail bounty hunter working with his exasperated partner Jerry (Alan Weeks), and Truck also just wants to spend his spare time with his criminal minded shop lifting girlfriend Annie (Annazette Chase). To highlight how tough Truck is, after retrieving a tough talking, child raping army sergeant, this nut hurls numerous racial epithets at Truck and Jerry, then makes the mistake of saying Truck wouldn’t be so bold if he, this he... the sarge, weren’t wearing these handcuffs. Somebody should have told my man that it wasn't nothing but a thing to take those handcuffs off.

Things is Truck’s life gets a little more complicated when one of his Bondsmen, Mr. Fogarty (the legendary Dick Miller), offers him a job to retrieve the notorious pimp Gator (Paul Harris). Truck knows that Gator caries guns and knives and that this ain’t no easy gig so he extorts as much money as he can from Fogerty before agreeing to the job, and as it turns out it still wasn’t enough money as our hero ends up having to kill Gator in a rather lengthy car chase and shootout with Jerry getting stabbed by a crazed whore in the process.

Unfortunately for Truck, Gator’s number one lady Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols) is none too happy about this, and in a secret meeting of pimps, players and ballers, offers up her entire stable if one of them can take Truck out. The majority of these hustlers opt to pass on this deal as they know better than to mess with one Truck Turner, but there are a few who foolishly accept the challenge and as a result, there is a run on super fly polyester funeral suits due to these dead pimps piss poor career choices. However one pimp in particular, Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto), thinks he has the real plan to take out The Truck and makes Dorinda an offer she can’t refuse because she really, really wants Truck off the earth. And though Harvard Blue and his crew of brutal Hitmen known as The Insurance Company did manage to do some damage, they probably should have seriously thought twice before trying to cash in this policy. For real.

So what exactly, in my damaged eyes at least, makes ‘Truck Turner’ the best blaxploitation movie ever? Three things really, with these being Isaac Hayes, Yaphet Kotto and especially Nichelle Nichols. I mean Lieutenant Uhuru was seriously off the freaking chain in this flick. Having Ed McMahon play the heavy in ‘Slaughter’s Big Rip Off’ was quite the coup, but Nichelle Nichol’s Dorinda pretty much slams the door shut on performances by an actor or actress you weren’t prepared for. Dorinda preened, and cursed, and slapped whores, and spit out the word ‘nigga’ with such venom that it made me want to curl up and hide every time it came out of her mouth. Of course anybody trying to compete with the creamy chocolate overdeveloped ball of anger and fury that was Dorinda is going to come up short but Yahphet Kotto gives it his best shot as ‘Truck Turner’ reeks of one of those types of movies that Black actors had to do back in the day because they like to eat. Checking out Nichelle Nichol’s filmography you’ll observe that between the time that Star Trek exited in ’69 and this movie came out in ’74, girlfriend only managed a guest appearance on ‘Ironside’ and another on some show called ‘The D.A.’ That’s two jobs in five years which ain’t feeding nobody. Yahphet Kotto doesn’t really classically fit the role of a pimp, no matter how much tacky polyester and fake fur they put him, unlike Paul Harris’ Gator character, but he is a very good actor and despite his obvious reticence to pick out his ‘fro even a little bit, he was a pretty mean pimp. Plus he might have performed the best death scene EVER.

Isaac Hayes is the star of this movie though and what makes his Truck Turner character different is that he’s not some super cool cat as he drives a pretty bold ride and his clothes… errr, I mean his threads leave much to be desired, he’s a bad ass mofo to be sure but never feels the need to announce it, and he’s no skirt chasing lothario either since he likes to spend his time with his girl, when she’s not in jail, eating fried chicken which I guess we could take offense at, but fried chicken is pretty tasty.

‘Truck Turner’ is still classic Blaxploitation cinema as Jonathan Kaplan directs some pretty cheesy action sequences, there is a plethora of jive talking pimps and players to wade through, the plot and writing isn’t exactly The Iliad, and some the acting may fall a bit below Shakespearean theater levels but we have no trouble forgiving all of that because you can’t have decent 70’s Black Cinema without some Jewish cat behind the camera telling Black people how to act Black. An absolute must! Though ‘J.D.’s Revenge’ is certainly near the top and ‘Three the Hard Way’ has it definite charms, I still have to roll with ‘Truck Turner’ as the best of the genre. Rest in Peace Mr. Hayes.

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