The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Slams

My first thought was that TCM's online schedule was messing with me. A 1973 movie starring former NFL star Jim Brown listed as a...musical?!? Nope, not buying it. That's what the genre specification said for 1973's The Slams. So out of morbid curiosity and some more genuine confusion, I had to at least give it a try. And yes, the schedule was wrong.

After pulling off a successful heist of over $1 million and drugs to boot, Curtis Hook (Brown) survives a double cross by his partners and manages to escape with the loot. He's wounded in the process though and is forced to stash away the cash while destroying the drugs and is caught by the police soon after, sent away to an inescapable prison in California. Everyone and anyone in the place knows who he is, and the mob has put a contract out on him for stealing their money/drugs. There aren't many friends inside, and everyone from the guards to the convicts to the warden want to get their hands on the stash. Can Hook manage to escape before it's too late?

The TCM description was blank, IMDB has one user review, and Wikipedia lists in fact that the movie does exist...that's all. This is a movie almost completely forgotten over the last 30-plus years and for good reason. It's not that good. Entertaining in an awful, guilty pleasure sort of way? Yes, most definitely, but that's about it.  Relatively unknown cast other than Brown with directing powerhouse Jonathan Kaplan at the helm, I'm guessing 'Slams' was a drive-in feature, maybe a second run theater type movie. If there was straight to DVD in 1973, this movie would qualify. Made on the cheap by the looks of it, it is typical of so many lower budget 1970s movies. It's not a truly awful movie, but it's close so know what you're getting into if you can manage to find a copy.

I can't go as far to say this is a blaxploitation movie, but it's close. Lots of talk of The Man, all the white guys are racist mobsters and nameless henchmen, all the black guys are either anti-heroes or truly bad street dudes, and a crazy style that in general has to be seen to be believed. Lots of language -- including some rather forced f-bombs and mother f'ers in the opening -- with more than enough gratuitous nudity and plenty of brutal violence (especially the particularly grisly ending). The musical score from Luther Henderson is funk-heavy with a little R&B mixed in. It always sounds odd compared to what's going on in the movie, but it all adds to the ridiculous quota. Just don't expect a lot of production value -- translation: low expectations -- and you'll be fine.

Now if I didn't see Jim Brown's name as the star here, there's no way I'm so much as slowing down to investigate this movie. He's the one name star/actor here, playing a character he played a lot through the 1970s.  Never a truly expressive actor, he's still pretty cool, maybe even too cool. He never seems worried that everyone wants to kill him. Eh, he's Jim Brown. I guess he doesn't have to care. Judy Pace plays his babely girlfriend Iris with Paul Harris playing Jackson Barney, Hook's old friend, a pimp on the outside working as an accomplice on the escape attempt. Frank DeKova is Capiello, the jailed mob boss who runs the place with an iron fist, Ted Cassidy playing Glover, Capiello's menacing enforcer. Frenchia Guizon has a small part as Macey, a former hit man/enforcer who may or may not be on Hook's side.

Keeping this one short because overanalyzing a movie like this is overkill. You're either going to love it or hate it, or maybe like me just go along for the guilty pleasure aspect.  It is entertaining in its badness, and let's face it. Jim Brown whether he's rolling over defenders in a football game or bashing heads as a badass con is still pretty cool.

The Slams <---TCM trailer (1973): **/****

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