Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DETROIT 9000 1973

"It's The Murder Capital Of The World. And The Biggest Black Rip-Off Of The Decade"

"It's gonna get solved....or the town's gonna explode."

   During the 1970's the city of Detroit made national headlines as it was tagged with the monikers "murder capital" or "murder city" U.S.A thanks to its ever escalating homicide rate and along with NYC became one of the symbols of urban decay in America. Producer Arthur Marks (who also was the director here) used this aspect in the films print & radio ad campaigns ("It's the Murder Capital of the World !") and while often labeled in the blacksploitation genre it actually more of an urban police/action drama, with having a passing resemblance to the excellent 1972 heist drama ACROSS 110TH STREET and even references a classic scene from DIRTY HARRY. Re-released under various titles including POLICE CALL 9000 and DETROIT HEAT , this was one of Mark's most successful productions and because of its box office returns he went to work for A.I.P. directing the somewhat tame FRIDAY FOSTER (with Pam Grier) and J.D.'s REVENGE. He would later helm a few episodes of STARSKY AND HUTCH and THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.

   Anchored by a solid performance by Alex Rocco (who had made a memorable appearance earlier for Mark's in the classic BONNIE'S KIDS from '72), like most of Mark's movies DETROIT 9000 shows the entire world as outside the law,corrupt and/or with less then 100% moral motives (here complete with a lecherous preacher played by Scatman Crothers). Although perhaps indicative of the obvious total co-operation given by the Detroit police dept. it does paint the authorities in favorable light (although the closing does leave Rocco's character's motives somewhat ambiguous). Filmed entirely on location in it's namesake, Marks really goes out of his way to let us know where we're at with close-ups of newspaper headlines, licence plates and various official Detroit municipality buddings. The original title was MOTOWN 9000 but that ran onto the obvious copyright problems (9000 was the Detroit police code number for an officer in trouble).
   Dealing with the robbery at a fundraiser of sleazy politician Aubrey Clayton (Rudy Challenger), along with its aftermath and the subsequent police investigation - all punctuated with chases, bloody shoot-outs, loud suits, wide ties and big hats with everything filtered thru a gritty 1970's setting. As this being a more straight forward police action type film, Marks does tone down the more sleazy aspects that perpetrated his past films such as the above mentioned BONNIE'S KIDS (along with THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS and THE CANDY SNATCHERS - all worth seeking out) but it does offer up some nudity and exploding blood squibs to keep things firmly rooted in its lineage.

    Perpetually pissed off detective Danny Bassett (Rocco - who was best known to audiences at this time for getting shot thru the eyeglasses while getting a massage in THE GODFATHER) is assigned to the case along with cool as heck black detective Jesse Williams (Hari Rhodes). The film plays up the overall racial divides and dis-trust of the police dept., but doesn't really get into the two detectives working relationship as Bassett's initial distrust of Williamson (he's the ex-jock & local celebrity that's the star of the dept. while Basset is portrayed as the working class guy) is dispensed with quickly and they get on with the job. Williamson gets most of the action scenes and racks up a pretty impressive body count by the end of the movie blasting away numerous suspects with his chrome plated automatic. Each of the two detectives are given their own personality quirks with Williamson trying to quit smoking and Bassett suffering from sinus problems ("Your trouble is Danny is that your allergic to Motown !") and having to deal with a sick (and racist) wife.

     Starting with the elaborately staged heist the film moves into a sometimes difficult to follow plot (which to its credit keeps your attention and never lets you know more then detectives themselves know) with many names and quickly introduced characters thrown into the mix with everything wrapped up by a flashback. The climax leads to a really terrific running 20 minute gun battle thru a cemetery and abandoned rail yard. The film's action sequences are very well done and choreographed (along with being appropriately bloody) and makes great use of its Detroit locations - although the city did ask the filmmakers not to show any of the still burned out ruins from the 1967 riots.
    Also with an excellent performance by Vonetta McGee (SHAFT IN AFRICA & BLACULA) as a hooker, plus local celebrity and DJ Dick Purtan, a blink and you'll miss her appearance by 70's favorite Marilyn Joi and June Fairchild (PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW) shows up as a hooker. Also in a kind of weird cameo is Detroit chief of police John Nichols (playing himself), who was running for mayor at the time against Coleman Young and thought it was a good idea to appear in a movie where cops blow away suspects about every 20 minutes.
   Available on DVD from Miramax as part of a few DVD's that Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures put out out back in 2000 that also includes MIGHTY PEKING MAN and Jack Hill's very fun SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. Now we need for someone to put Arthur Marks's ROOMMATES from 1973 (with Roberta Collins & Pat Woodell !!) on DVD.

1 comment:

  1. It really is an excellent urban action flick. Reading this makes me want to see it again!