Director: Greydon Clark

When the term “blaxploitation” was at its peek, any familiar cinema icon was a target for the excitement of the black experience. Of course there was a black Dracula, a black Frankenstein and even a black Jekyll & Hyde. But whoever thought a well-publicized Hal Ashby film starring Warren Beatty would be turned urban? It took quick-thinking director Greydon Clark --formerly an occasional actor associated with cult filmmaker Al Adamson -- to know that 1975’s SHAMPOO would be a hit, and hence came his aptly titled BLACK SHAMPOO shortly thereafter.

BLACK SHAMPOO’s title sequence commences with a blond babe getting her locks soaped up by Jonathan Knight (John Daniels), the muscular, afro-headed owner of "Mr. Jonathans,” a popular Beverly Hills hair salon. The experience is orgasmic for the woman, and after she comments on Jonathan’s package, they commence in a backroom romp. Jonathan is then requested for a house call, where two teenage girls strip off their itsy bitsy bikinis and assault him like “sharks.” Their mom runs outside to chastise them, and then hops on Jonathan’s lap right in front of them to show them how it's done. But it’s not all sexual shenanigans with rich LA women that floats his boat – Jonathan discovers true love with his new secretary Brenda (Tanya Boyd) after a bittersweet couple’s montage that resembles an old K-Tel record commercial. Brenda is entangled with a local mob boss who still wants to keep her as his moll, so she’s held at his side against her will while Jonathan’s salon is ransacked. The masculine hairdresser takes out his frustration by forcing himself on one of his customers in right on her fron porch, but later gets Brenda back while fighting off the bad guys with a chainsaw!

One of Greydon Clark’s earliest films as a director (he also co-wrote it), BLACK SHAMPOO starts of looking like your average 70s porno movie (the funky score by Gerald Lee also fits this mold), but then does a 360 turn into a drive-in action flick with more than enough schlocky ingredients thrown into the mix. It’s as if Clark wanted to have something sensational up on the drive-in screens at all times, regardless of a plotline as thin as rice paper. There’s tons of nudity, constant four-letter words, stereotypically gay characters (one of whom is played by Skip E. Lowe, a public access talk show host who obviously helped inspire Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick), a freako barbecue party, and enough violence to make Sam Peckinpah proud. Lowe’s character is bent over and tortured with a hot curling iron, and lets just say the bloody climax involves not only chainsaws, but a hatchet and a pool stick! John Daniels is not bad at all as Jonathan (playing him kind of like a studlier and meaner Jim Kelly) and Tanya Boyd is simply gorgeous. As the central villains, there’s Joe Ortiz as a mob boss who we’re never really told what he does, and William Bonner (another Al Adamson regular, here billed as "Jack Meoff") who is appropriately sleazy as his sidekick. Greydon Clark’s late wife Jacqueline Cole (star of SATAN’S SADISTS and SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS, here billed as “Edith Wheeler”) has a small role as a receptionist.

VCI’s DVD of BLACK SHAMPOO is much better than anyone could ever hoped for, starting off with a really nice transfer. The film is presented in its original 1.85.1 ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The colors come through quite vividly with deep black levels and a very sharp picture overall. There's very little in the way of print damage and other blemishes, so the image is extremely clean. The Dolby Digital Mono contains a nice mix, and dialog and music both come through nicely.

The disc is chock full of extras, starting off with a commentary by director Clark. The track has its share of silent moments, but there’s still a good amount of information shared, as Clark describes how cinematography shifted between Dean Cundey and Michael Milleham, that he pushed the limits of the R rating, and that the film was made in two weeks for only $50,000! A telephone interview with star John Daniels lasts a good half-hour, as he describes his experience making the film, how he balanced his acting roles with a career in the music industry, and shares a couple of good anecdotes, including how he supplied his own wardrobe for BLACK SHAMPOO. At the end of the interview, Daniels requests that they use the great poster art for the DVD cover (he hated the old VHS box), and as you can see, he got his wish. There’s text interviews with Clark (who also gets a bio), Daniels and Boyd – the latter’s is accidentally cut short, leaving a question unanswered, though it’s obvious the actress didn’t want to be remembered for her early exploitation roles. All the text interviews were conducted by Mike White for the fanzine Cashiers du Cinemart, and White (the biggest fan of BLACK SHAMPOO for sure) is most likely responsible for this disc being a full-blown special edition. There’s also some deleted scenes with no sound which mostly take place during a strange outdoor barbecue (one of the scenes shows a bit of a pie fight which the distributor demanded be removed). Trailers/clips for other VCI titles (including DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE and Clark’s THE BAD BUNCH, which are noted as “coming soon”) are present, as is the original BLACK SHAMPOO trailer and a photo gallery (which includes candid shots of Clark directing while he and other crew members wear shirts with "Black Shampoo" ironed on them). Mike White also wrote the heartfelt liner notes in the booklet included, and there’s an Easter Egg that simply animates an afro to larger proportions. (George R. Reis)