Tuesday, February 9, 2010


After enjoying THREE THE HARD WAY on DVD last week, I found myself wanting to watch some more Fred Williamson Blaxploitation flicks, so I ordered a disc I'd had my eye on ever since seeing the original theatrical preview on the first of the 42nd STREET FOREVER trailer compilations.

This 1975 Western was originally released to theaters under the title BOSS NIGGER, but, perhaps understandably, VCI has chosen to release it on DVD simply as BOSS. The original title does appear on the print, however, and the film itself does not appear to have been edited in any way.

Two African-American bounty hunters, "Boss" (Fred Williamson, THAT MAN BOLT, HAMMER) and Amos (D'Urville Martin, DOLEMITE), on the trail of an outlaw named Jed Clayton (the great William Smith, FAST COMPANY, THE LOSERS), ride into a small town that's being terrorized by Clayton's gang. The town has no sheriff, so Boss basically bullies his way into the job, knowing that sooner or later, Clayton will come to him. While they wait, the two bounty hunters have some fun at the expense of the town's racist populace, fining or imprisoning those who don't show them the proper respect. Eventually, of course, events come to a head, and Boss must take on Clayton and his gang.

Directed by Hollywood veteran Jack Arnold, who helmed everything from genre classics like THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE to countless episodes of TV shows like GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and THE BRADY BUNCH, and written by Williamson himself, BOSS would seem to have a lot going for it. Williamson is a charismatic lead, Martin is an amusing sidekick, and Smith is a formidable, muscular villain. The story is formulaic, but fun. Unfortunately, there evidently wasn't much money or time to do camera set-ups, because Arnold shoots virtually the entire movie in wide, master shots. There are almost no close-ups or inserts in the film at all, only minimal editing, and most of the dialogue plays out in long, uninterrupted takes. After a while, it starts to get rather obvious.... and distracting.

I'm actually rather surprised. If anyone could shoot fast, cheap, and still get all the usual coverage, you'd think it was Jack Arnold.

VCI's DVD came out a couple years ago, and it's decent enough, all things considered. The anamorphic, 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is fairly clean, but soft and lacking definition. The black levels are poor, as well. The supplemental features are nice, though - if limited. The best is a fairly long interview with Williamson, covering not only the movie at hand, but his entire career as both athlete and actor. BOSS producer Myrl Schreibman is also interviewed about the making of the film and gives a nice tribute to director Arnold. Finally, there's the original theatrical trailer, the one that sparked my interest in the movie in the first place.

As I said, it's a fun Fred Williamson vehicle, but not very well made. VCI's disc is just adequate. But if you're a fan of "the Hammer" you might want to at least check it out.

BUY: Boss