Junkfood Cinema: The Human Tornado (Blaxploitation History Month)
Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; Truck Turner isn’t just what we call Brian when Tacos-On-Wheels runs out of Baja sauce. Welcome back suckas, to the Internet’s freshest bad movie column; this month featuring a funky twist. This is Blaxploitation History Month: Sequel Edition. Every week in February, we’ll be rolling out another super bad blaxploitation sequel that’s so whack we can’t help but dig it. We’ll lay down some cold-blooded mockery on said film, going upside its head with its own numerous faults, but then will jump back, kiss ourselves, and get hip to all the reasons we think these movies are dy-no-mite. To top it off, we’ll serve you with a badass, and bad for you, snack food item themed to the movie.
Today’s jive turkey: The Human Tornado.
What Makes It Bad?
The Human Tornado is the sequel to Dolemite. How that sentence isn’t scribbled on some Mayan temple wall next to references of fallen empires and circling comets is beyond me. But as it is 2012, it seemed all-the-more appropriate to crack the seal on this doomsday capsule. Dolemite, as you recall (because your therapy clearly isn’t working), is the story (read: slapped-together case of visual Tourettes) of a lovable pimp sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Upon release, he takes his revenge through a series of half-finished scenes, costume changes, and lyrical freestyle sessions in which he proceeds to tie us all up and mercilessly rap us…rap us right in the ears. But clearly, this is a man whose ineffable charm and epic heroic qualities could not be contained in just one movie. Enter The Human Tornado…exit your will to live.
The movie kicks off with one of the most spastic, nonsensical title sequences history of spastic, nonsensical title sequences; a history encompassing nearly 300 years if I’m not lying. Every person credited is bestowed their own individual font style and color; choking up the screen with silly and giving the distinct impression that The Human Tornado is set on the rough Streets of Sesame. The film sees the flabtastic hero Dolemite working as a nightclub comedian by evening and an expensive manwhore by day. True to the spirit of what really sets the Dolemite franchise apart from, you know, real movies, the “writer” of The Human Tornado both celebrates the familiar ways in which Rudy Ray Moore was ill-equipped for stardom and creates entirely new mediums to further explore his untalentedness. Turns out he’s just as inept at stand-up comedy as he is at being naked. So he’s hired by the desperate(ly unattractive) wife of the local sheriff for clumsy, well-feed sexulations. The sheriff, whose racial sensitivity makes Buford T. Justice look Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, is alerted that a party of non-whites is occurring and rallies a posse of plain-clothes clansmen to break it up. He finds his hatchet-faced beloved in bed with a far-more-nude-than-any-of-us-needed-to-see Dolemite and shoots her in the upper face. Dolemite is of course framed for the shooting, and blamed (arguably rightfully) for the guy he totally does shoot, and must go on the run; hijacking a flamboyantly gay man’s car and heading to California to meet up with his old ally Queen Bee. You know, hero stuff.
This represents the closest The Human Tornado ever comes to having a plot. Let me be clear, I’ve seen plenty of non-movies in my time, films that abandon the tedious, mainstream constraint of a narrative throughline in favor of a pastiche of formless visual ejaculations. The first film is a great example of this, in particular the moment wherein the film grinds to halt in order to give Rudy Ray Moore a pulpit from which to deliver his hip-hop sermon from the Book of Jo-Mama. What I’ve never seen is several non-films crammed within one singular non-film. The Human Tornado plays out less like a movie and more like a variety show, featuring extended sequences of Broadway dancers, lounge singers, comedians, and Central American nunchuckers; no part of that sentence is a joke. It was as if the director thought, “if we load up the movie with people who are good at things that have nothing to do with the film, subconsciously the audience will be fooled into thinking we’re good at making movies!” There is also a subplot about an old witch woman who operates a torture chamber in which two unfortunate ladies find themselves trapped. Apparently the filmmakers were very concerned that the one demographic this franchise had not yet catered to was burgeoning serial killers. Poking its head through the thicket of nonsense is some shoehorned story about Dolemite taking down the mob, but only because the writer was required by blaxploitation law to include it.
The showcasing of people who are all very skilled at things that don’t belong in this movie is aligned with scenes of things that make no sense regardless of context; all them proving that The Human Tornado is sexually charged…or rather should be charged under a number of sex crimes statutes. The police chief in L.A., where Dolemite is hiding out, calls in his “best man” to track him down. When he calls this “best man,” the detective in question is engaged in what appears to be the rape of a female officer. He pauses to take the call before returning to his twisted application of law enforcedsex. And then of course, there’s the scene in which we see Dolemite seduce a woman, watch as she gets undressed, and then get down to some real dirty exercise. No that’s not a euphemism, they actually get very nude and take in a few reps with the Nordic track apparatus hanging above the bed. In addition to illustrating the writer’s unresolved body issues, scientists now credit this scene with the discovery of the cure for sex addiction.
But the weirdest thing in the movie, and high in the running for the single weirdest eyeball intrusion to which I’ve ever subjected myself, is the point at which The Human Tornado splits off into this tangential dream sequence/sex-terrogation scene. It’s downright arthouse, and by that I mean it’s initiated by hideous ART and looks like it takes place in a carnival funHOUSE. Dolemite arrives at the home of the mob boss’ wife with the intention of humping some information out of her as to the location of the missing girls (the ones being imprisoned in the torture chamber of JiggaSaw. He masquerades as an artist and shows her a velvet painting of an interracial couple embracing. As he anticipates, this of course sends her into an uncontrollable sexual frenzy that causes her to not only bang Dolemite, but all the while fantasize about a circus stage in which she lies on three giant wooden blocks that spell out the word bed as a bevvy of black Adonises file out of a trunk marked “toy box.” I really do wish I was making this up because it means I wouldn’t have had to actually witness it on screen. I’m not going to touch the sociopolitical implications of a white woman keeping several black men in a box, but these men then take turns hurling themselves wang-first down a slide and onto the eager woman’s naked body. It’s either the most avant-garde or absolute worst porn you’ve ever seen depending on how drunk/horny/self-loathing you feel.
Why I Love It!
The Human Tornado’s function as a film is clear to me now, to make Dolemite look like Citizen Goddamn Kane. The filmmakers must have taken stock of the bad sound and even worse martial arts of Dolemite, because they strive to fashion ways to correct both issues…failing spectacularly at doing so. To correct the nearly inaudible line delivery of Dolemite, they decided to ADR nearly every single line of dialogue in The Human Tornado and lay it over footage shot like a home movie. What this leads to is a film that seems like a documentary about mentally disturbed people. We get scenes like the one wherein Dolemite comes out of a shoe store, clearly not moving his lips, and the ADR has him saying, “great new shoes for my feet…now I can get me something sweet to eat.” It happens all through the movie and reminds me of those segments on Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood where he would tour a cheese factory or get a root canal and would then narrate his own adventure after-the-fact. I know it’s been said by every respected film historian you’ve ever read, but I’ll go ahead and reiterate that The Human Tornado is even more hysterical to watch if you image that he’s one of Mr. Rodgers’ neighbors. “I’m comin’ for ya, Mr. MuthaFUCKin’ McFeeley.”
As to the martial arts in The Human Tornado, it isn’t so much that the fight sequences are “better”as much as they are “considerably sped up so you don’t notice how bad they are.” Rudy Ray Moore didn’t get any more skillful at throwing a punch and making it look remotely believable so they just had him do it slower and then went back and hit the fast-forward button in the editing booth. This not-so-brilliant cheat ends up defining the whole damn movie; the “speed” with which Dolemite “strikes” is what “earns” him the nickname the “human” tornado. The result is that we, the audience, are left to conclude that that he learned his ancient fighting style from revered kung-fu master Benny Hill. Despite Human Tornado’s best efforts to make its fight scenes unwatchable, they are actually a lot of fun; aided in no small way by Rudy Ray Moore’s combat grunts…or rather his impressions of Bruce Lee possessed by the demon Pazuzu. I also find it hilarious that, realizing that they still had that mixing board anyway, the editors actually pause the film, rewind it, and replay certain scenes. My favorite of these being the one wherein they replay a stunt in which Rudy Ray Moore jumps head-first down a hill. During the replay, he espouses in voice-over, “y’all don’t believe I jumped, so watch this good shit!” Unfortunately we see the shot again from the same obscuring distance, providing no further evidence that the person jumping is actually Rudy Ray Moore.
Once again, a blaxploitation movie as bad as The Human Tornado finds one level on which to excel: the theme song. It’s basically just a constant restating of the film’s title over and over, with a few absrud lyrics mumbled in between, but if you’re going to be the personification of a natural disaster, there are only like four of five better choices than the tornado. I’m sorry, but if you listen to the opening song here and don’t aspire to be a human tornado yourself, or at the very least a “bad motor scooter,” I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Also, listen very closely for the line in the song that sounds an awful lot like Rudy Ray declaring himself to be a “notarizer.” He actually says that he’s been “known to rise up,” but it took me several viewings to realize he wasn’t actually letting me know he was available to sign off on these alterations to my will. I’m leaving everything to the Dolemite Foundation for Talent-Challenged Actors.
Junkfood Pairing: Texas Tornado Cake
As I currently live in Texas, and this movie is called The Human Tornado, my first choice for the junkfood pairing was of course creme brulee, but then I remembered that I’m still not quite sure what creme brulee is so instead I fell back on the slightly less on-the-nose Texas Tornado Cake. Sorry, I know it makes no sense. As Rudy Ray would say, “spin this cake around inside your mouth, before Dolemite makes you laugh so hard you spit it out…th.”