Color, 1976, 96m.
Directed by Cliff Roquemore
Starring Rudy Ray Moore, J.B. Baron, Glorya De Lani, Herb Graham, Ernie Hudson, Howard Jackson
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Xenon (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
After Dolemite became a surprise smash hit around the country, it was only natural that a sequel would be put into production quickly. Star and stand-up comic legend Rudy Ray Moore was dissatisfied with D'Urville Martin's direction of the first film, s enlisted another promising first time, Cliff Roquemore. More extravagant and fast paced than its predecessor, the sequel was filmed under the title Dolemite II but shown almost everywhere as The Human Tornado.
Determined to make the sequel more outrageous than the original, Moore really goes to town here, speaking virtually every single line in rap (his acting, relatively speaking, has improved by this point) and, in one memorable scene, even posing as a Chinese door-to-door salesman of erotic paintings. (Really). In the raucous opening, a redneck cop catches his wife in bed with Dolemite (thankfully the only time Rudy ever felt compelled to bare it all on screen), leading to Dolemite rolling naked down a hill and taking off in a car with his cohorts. With the hillbilly cops in pursuit, Dolemite and his gang carjack a cheerful gay guy (who, incredibly for the era, doesn't get mocked or abused) and keep him around as company on the way to California by the next day. (Good luck figuring out the geography of any of this.) There the story proper kicks in courtesy of an evildoer named Cavalletti, an Italian gangster who busts up Queen Bee's place and holds the Queen Bee girls hostage so he can take over the club scene. You can tell these are really evil folks because they live in Pasadena and hold parties where boys in bikini briefs come out and do tricks with nunchucks. Dolemite seduces Cavalletti's wife (who has fantasies about bodybuilders popping out of a toy box) in a scene worthy of Russ Meyer, and soon Dolemite's gang (featuring a bald Ernie Hudson, way before Ghostbusters) decides to pay the mobsters a visit in person. It all culminates, oddly enough, with a gruesome act of dismemberment in a horror basement.
Though The Human Tornado loses some scrappy charm compared to the first film, it should still please viewers with its outrageous set pieces and Moore's incomparable verbal talents; in many ways, this is the closest thing we've ever had to a black John Waters film. Continuity is almost nonexistent, as is normal editing; in the most baffling gaffe, Hudson had to be absent from the shoot for a few non-dialogue shots, so the crew slapped a bald cap on his brother (who looks nothing like him) to stand in for several scenes in the middle of the film. The switcheroo somehow adds to the crackpot charm of the film, which seems to shift entire genres every ten minutes or so with Moore's self-confident swagger somehow holding it all together.
For some reason, no two home video versions of this film seem to be alike. Xenon Pictures released it multiple times on VHS and DVD, with different edits causing mass confusion about the narrative flow and basic structure. The shortest and worst version, a mere 83 minutes(!), rearranges the entire opening and hacks out entire scenes left and right, including the journey to California (presumably due to political correctness, even though there's nothing to really get all that upset about). Like Dolemite, the film was presented fullscreen on DVD with exposure of a lot of extraneous image area at the top and bottom. Unlike Dolemite, however, the boom mike doesn't drop into frame every two minutes, and the compositions are more carefully arranged.
Fortunately the longest and most correctly sequenced version of the film can be seen on Vinegar Syndrome's dual-format Blu-ray and DVD edition in 2016, and as with Dolemite, this marks the first fresh transfer it's had in ages. Despite the super low production values, the film looks very punchy with a vibrant '70s palette (just check out the colors of the walls) and some heavy, stylized red lighting in several scenes. The actual "35mm vault materials" here are in somewhat rougher shape at times than the first film, with at least one bumpy reel change and some significant debris during the climax; however, it's such a massive improvement over anything we've had before that it's unlikely anyone will mind. The DTS-HD MA mono audio on the Blu-ray sounds pretty energetic, with the funky main titles (featuring some charming hand-drawn lettering) really kicking things off in style. Optional English subtitles are also provided.
The plentiful extras also operate like a sequel across the board, with Moore biographer Mark Jason Murray returning for another commentary track. This time he's joined by Jimmy "Mr. Motion" Lynch, who has a great memory for detail about his role as Dolemite's sidekick and has particular fun talking about the vehicular acquisitions and destruction that had to be undertaken. The 17-minute “I, Dolemite Part II” delivers exactly what it promises, picking up with archival Moore interview footage intercut with new comments by Murray, cinematographer Nicholas von Sternberg (who was one of many cameramen coming on and off of the film including, apparently, Dean Cundey), and Roquemore's two sons. However, the best comments come from none other than Ernie Hudson, who seems bemused by the failed ruse of using his brother as a stand-in -- which also led to him getting fired by his manager! There's also a Murray-conducted pair of archival audio interviews with Roquemore (who passed away in 2002) and martial arts champ Howard Jackson, who has a small role in the film (and was evidently confused at first about Moore's comic presentation of the sport). Audio quality is pretty rough and often very difficult to decipher, but completists should get a kick out of it. However, that's nothing compared to the entire presentation of Der Bastard, the 84-minute German dubbed version of the film (no subs, but you won't need 'em). Married to the video for the restored transfer, it's a hilarious and truly strange viewing experience right from the outset with Moore doing his stage routine in enthusiastic German, so brace yourself. The entire soundtrack is also playable cue by cue, while other goodies include a gallery of stills and promotional material, a radio spot, and trailers for both Dolemite adventures. As usual, the reversible sleeve artwork features a new design by Jay Shaw and one of the many original poster designs.