THE HUMAN TORNADO (1976) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Cliff Roquemore
Vinegar Syndrome

Dolemite is back in the outrageous and batshit crazy sequel as THE HUMAN TORNADO, on Blu-ray/DVD combo from Vinegar Syndrome.

Seemingly forgetting the events of the first film, THE HUMAN TORNADO has wealthy pimp Dolemite donating his Alabama mansion to a priest to found a boys' home. The party is crashed when racist Sheriff Beatty (J.B. Baron, PETEY WHEATSTRAW) and Deputy Charlie lead a posse to bust them up; but it's Beatty who is in for a shock when he catches his wife in bed with Dolemite (having paid for his services). Beatty orders his deputy to kill them, but Dolemite manages to escape. With buddies Dough (Ed Montgomery), Bo (Ernie Hudson, GHOSTBUSTERS), and Jimmy (James R. Page), as well as a gay guy who they carjack, Dolemite heads to Los Angeles at the invitation of club owner Queen Bee (Lady Reed, DISCO GODFATHER). Upon arriving, however, Dolemite and his buddies discover Queen Bee's club shut down and learn from his old flame Hurricane Annie (Gloria Delaney, RED HEAT) that Queen Bee and her girls are being forced to work at the club of mob rival Calvaletti (Herb Graham, VIDEO VIXENS!) who is holding girls T.C. (Peaches Jones, COFFY) and Java (female impersonator Lady Java) hostage in a creepy old house to be tortured by an old hag. While Queen Bee and her girls arm themselves to make Calvaletti's lavish birthday party one he'll never forget – with the help of Dolemite's buddies and World Karate Champion (and Chuck Norris choreographer) Howard Jackson – Dolemite attempts to determine the whereabouts of T.C. and Java by seducing Calvaletti's nympho wife (Barbara Gerl). Unbeknownst to Dolemite, police detective Blakely (THE LONG GOODBYE's Jerry Jones, who also scripted) has been put on his tail by Captain Ryan (Jack Kelly, MAVERICK) when Beatty shows up accusing Dolemite of murdering his wife.

Learning from the reception of the highly successful DOLEMITE, Moore, screenwriter/actor Jerry Jones, and director Cliff Roquemore (replacing DOLEMITE director D'Urville Martin whose work left something to be desired on the first film) amped up every element of the film in terms of comedy, violence, language, vulgarity, sex, and nudity. White women lose control for Dolemite's body (despite Hurricane Annie disapproving of his paunch), and Dolemite's seduction of Mrs. Calvaletti is preceded by a fantasy of several black bodybuilders sliding head down a children's slide in between her legs. The subsequent sex scene looks like outtakes from an EXORCIST rip-off with a rocking bed, slamming doors, shaking walls, and a ceiling cave-in. Hurricane Annie seduced Dolemite into a workout that turns into a sex scene intercut with their romping around town (negating the workout with some fast food). There are some brutal bullet hits but the sadism of the torture scenes is softened by the over-the-top acting of the witch and her cohorts. The fight scenes are still staged rather ineptly, with Dolemite taking on several of Calvaletti's men at this house on the hill in an endless sequence of karate posturing and spouted gibberish, undercranked camerawork, and instant replays. This is followed by the climactic battle at Calvaletti's compound in which Jackson contributes some more adept karate before Dolemite arrives to take on a nunchaku champion before giving Calvaletti a taste of his own medicine with the help of some hungry rats. The film is wonderfully irreverent and unpredictable, as Moore fully embraces the comical aspects without actually turning it into a parody of the Blaxploitation genre which was on its last legs.

Released theatrically by Dimension Pictures – Hugo Grimaldi, who reworked some other Dimension and International Artists titles, is credited with "editorial supervision" – the film was unavailable for some time following Dimension's bankruptcy (even though a number of their titles were released in the early 1980s by VCI, Continental, and Charles Band's video companies) until Xenon released several of the Moore films in 1988. A DVD release followed in 2002 with a reissue following soon after with an improved but still fullscreen transfer and video of Moore visiting the film's locations. Now, Xenon has teamed up with Vinegar Syndrome for Blu-ray/DVD combo editions of five Moore films. Transferred in 1080p in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio from a 2K scan of archival 35mm archival elements, THE HUMAN TORNADO does not look as impressive as Vinegar Syndrome's DOLEMITE restoration; indeed, it looks pretty much like what one expects of a Dimension Pictures 35mm print with reel change marks, faint vertical scratches, and a couple emulsion digs which are more evident in night exteriors. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono fares better apart from some hiss and the pops and bumps associated with the visual damage. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.

Whereas Vinegar Syndrome's DOLEMITE offered up a bonus "boom mic" open-matte encode, THE HUMAN TORNADO includes an alternate German-dubbed version titled DER BASTARD (84:34) with the audio laid over a reconstruction using the HD master (the titles remain in English). While there is some novelty value in hearing Rudy Ray Moore dubbed in German, Vinegar Syndrome sadly did not have the German version subtitled to show how Moore's dialogue had to be adapted for translation (perhaps a few excerpts with subtitles might have been a more cost-effective choice). The shorter cut loses some footage here and there with the major deletion being Dolemite's visit to a club to ask MC Fletcher Weatherspoon about Hurricane Annie's whereabouts.

Rudy Ray Moore biographer Mark Jason Murray heads another audio commentary with co-star Jimmy Lynch who played Queen Bee's club MC Mr. Motion. Lynch had a comedy album out at the time and Moore used him in a cameo in DOLEMITE and gave him a larger role here. He discusses his contributions to the film, including the opening titles (painted on glass in between the camera and the background), wardrobe, and sets. He also refutes Jones' claim that everything in the script was his, recalling that he, Roquemore, and Moore reworked the script on a daily basis to live up to the HUMAN TORNADO title (Lynch is credited with "special dialogue" although that may be his MC dialogue). Murry – who voices some skepticism when Lynch claims to have doubled for Moore during Dolemite's naked tumble down an ivy-covered hillside – points out the usages of the derelict Hotel Dunbar (where Moore was living rent free) for sets, asks Lynch about the identities of background performers and the whereabouts of unfamiliar locations, and reveals that the bankruptcy of Dimension Pictures effected the forward momentum of Moore's career (since he had made DOLEMITE off money from touring and the bigger budgeted HUMAN TORNADO from a combination of touring money and the profits of DOLEMITE).

"I, Dolemite Part II: The Human Tornado" (17:46) features contributions from Murray, Lynch, Hudson, Roquemore's two sons Rokki and Bryan, and Moore who refers to the film as his favorite of the Dolemite films (he also voices his regret at turning down a role in EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC since the unsuccessful film still would have given him exposure alongside stars like Richard Burton and Louise Fletcher). Roquemore's sons describe how Moore got to know their father through his producer T. Toney who saw one of Roquemore's plays SELMA while Hudson reveals that he had to leave the production when it ran over schedule to appear in a play and that his brother doubled for him in a bald cap (unfortunately, Roquemore and Moore failed to conceal this by placing him in the background of group shots as they said they would and Hudson's film agent fired him after seeing it). Although DOLEMITE cinematographer Nicholas Joseph Von Sternberg (TOURIST TRAP) was not brought back for THE HUMAN TORNADO, he would end up shooting some of it, and reveals here that Dean Cundey (HALLOWEEN) and Robert Caramico (LEMORA) also worked on the film (Von Sternberg is listed as second unit cameraman while Gene Condie and Bob Wilson are listed as the film's cinematographers). Von Sternberg recalls that he and Cundey operated different cameras during the fight scenes, and that he had stages action scenes in depth for his camera which had the unintended effect of restricting Cundey's compositional choices.

Murray also appears on an audio interview with director Roquemore and martial arts champion Jackson (18:43). The Roquemore half is actually more of an essay with Murray framing comments from Roquemore (which could have used captioning as the phone interview quality is terrible). The section with Jackson is more of a conventional interview. Both expand upon topics covered in the "I, Dolemite" featurette including how Roquemore became involved with Moore and brought Hudson along, and Jackson's initial feelings about Moore lampooning martial arts. The film's soundtrack (103:55) is offered in thirty-nine separate tracks including alternate takes and 45 versions. The theatrical trailer (2:45), a radio spot (1:03), and a still gallery (2:26) are also included along with a trailer for DOLEMITE and a reversible cover. (Eric Cotenas)