Friday, August 22, 2008

We Owned The 80's: The Last Dragon

Any black person alive during The Greatest Decade Evar is prolly quite familiar with the epic martial arts action dramedy The Last Dragon. But for the 4-5 members of AverageNation™ with Similac still on their breaths, I figure I owe some context to this post.

Released in 1985, The Last Dragon was produced by Motown magnate Berry Gordy and was roundly trashed by critics. However, the movie really caught fire when it was released on Betamax and VHS (the precursor to DVDs for you kiddies) and it went on to gross over $30M and become an urban cult classic.

The premise of the film is pretty silly. A young kung fu master from Harlem (Taimak, a black belt who couldn't even act, and it showed) named "Bruce" Leroy Green goes on a quest to achieve the ultimate martial arts accomplishment, "The Glow". In the meantime, he finds himself tangled up with a TV star/singer (Prince jumpoff, Vanity), a shiesty arcade mogul, and most importantly, Sho'Nuff: The Shogun of Harlem (played with much panache by Julius Carry III who ironically just died of pancreatic cancer a few days ago), who is hellbent on proving who's the True Kung Fu Master.

If this all sounds incredibly corny, that's because it was. The movie made little logical sense, the acting was universally awful, the soundtrack was cheesy, and it's grand finale is a prime example of "turn off your brain" style reality-stretching.

So why, might you ask, did I include this movie as an entry in We Owned The 80's? Because it still ended up being strangely entertaining, and hearkens back to a distant era when an entire Black family could gather around the TeeVee for a movie without parents cringing and covering their kids eyes.

The movie featured no sexual innuendo (although Vanity wasn't hard on the eyes), few curse words, and only comically exaggerated episodes of violence. There was no rap soundtrack, no rap cameos, and probably a million and one legitimate quotables.

"Kiss my Converse!"

"I got somethin' real for yo' a$$ in these hands!"

"Who's The Master? .... I Am!"

"Who played this garbage? ... Shut Up *****!"

"Deliver your feetsa to Daddy's Green's Pizza!"

"Don't know. Not sure I'd tell you if I did!"

Here's a few classic clips.

Sho'Nuff holds court.

Sho'Nuff tears up Daddy Green's Pizza.

Laura and Leroy's The Glow Video

The Final Showdown: Leroy vs Sho' Nuff (Spoiler Alert)

Seriously, how sad is it that they don't make movies like this anymore? Most "urban" movies now are cliched crap with way too much PG-13 language and waaay too much sex/violence, not to mention crappy rapper cameos. I guess Drumline, and Are We There Yet? would qualify as exceptions[1], but this sort of movie is far too uncommon. I hate to get all Andy Griffith on ya'll, but it kinda saddens me that my son and I won't be able to enjoy this kind of movie together. And by enjoy, I mean watch new movies in the future with the same spirit and family-friendly content.

Sure, I've got The Last Dragon on DVD, along with Better Off Dead, Disorderlies, License To Drive, and Coming To America. But if my kid's anything like me (and he is), chances are he won't have the slightest interest or attention span to sit down and watch this someday, just like my Dad trying to get me to watch Putney Swope and Kooley High usually resulted in me begging to go to my room. I of course can appreciate my Dad's movies (Car Wash and Which Way Is Up? are also in my collection) today, but I'm sure he woulda preferred me being interested back then. So I guess this is some weird generational thing.

Doesn't mean I won't try to sneak The Last Dragon in my son's DVD player someday though.

Question: Is The Last Dragon one of the last Black family friendly movies of all time or am I overreacting? Any other candidates? What's your favorite scene? Whoooo's The Master?

The Last Dragon Wiki [Wikipedia]

Julius Carry III, Sho'Nuff Dies [Post Chronicle]

[1] If you're aware of more exceptions (and we're not talkin' cartoons), tell me you-know-where. I'm working on my AverageSon Rainy Day DVD collection, and I'll take all suggestions.

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