Even in the age of hip hop and internet-hyped esoterica, Rudy is in many ways as underground as he ever was. A legend of rude comedy, Moore released what were known as "party records" throughout the 60's and 70's. He's perhaps best remembered now for his string of low-budget blaxploitation films, particularly Dolemite (1975), but by "best remembered" I mean remembered mostly by film geeks and hip hop aficionados. Rudy Ray Moore is one of those rare creatures who's still distributed following someone saying something like "You've never seen a Rudy Ray Moore Movie?!? Then you have to see...."
I took a trip down memory lane and revisited Moore's bizarre later entry Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law (1977), and boy, was it awful. As awful as it ever was. And awful in that special way that makes an Ed Wood movie charming. But there's something disturbing about it...
Now, if in some ways, minus the crazy suits and martial arts sequences, this sounds something like a blues song, I'm rather sure that's intentional. There was an early blues-folk singer William Bunch who performed as "Peetie Wheatstraw", a name from black folklore (Some suggest Bunch himself was the origin of said folklore.). Both Bunch and Robert Johnson, who was influenced by Bunch, have tall tales circling them that they sold their souls for musical fame. However, the movie never delves all that deep into the idea.
In fact, it's difficult to say whether the over-the-top opening sequence of Petey's birth wouldn't be more at home in a blatantly racist production. As Petey's mother struggles (and hams it up to the nth degree with the rest of the cast) to give birth, the doctor first removes a large watermelon from between her legs before Petey himself arrives. In fact, watermelon makes frequent and strange appearances throughout the film, including the exploding of a truck loaded with the fruit. In many respects, I feel like the movie was trying to develop some kind of subtext but either the message didn't come through, or I'm completely wrong and it was all meant for hackneyed laughs.
|Only a master filmmaker could've talked anyone into these outfits...|