Rod Sawyer’s Guide To Blaxploitation Flicks

It was the after party of our February show at the Hideout, which featured Alderman Rod Sawyer and state Rep. La Shawn Ford.

A bunch of us were hanging at the bar, talking about this and that, and someone mentioned Trouble Man, the iconic Blaxploitation movie from 1972.

Sawyer said he liked that movie. And I said I couldn’t believe he was old enough to have seen it.

To which Sawyer said: “I’m older than you think.”

And to prove his point, he broke into a spontaneous recitation of the title song, written by Marvin Gaye.

I know some places and I seen some faces
I got my connections, they take my directions
What people say, that’s okay, they don’t bother me, no…

I was like–wow!

I mean, it was as though I was face to face with greatness–if greatness can be measured by spontaneously reciting Trouble Man.

That led to the following exchange on Blaxploitation flicks…


Blackula doesn’t get the credit it deserves…


Me: In your opinion, what are the three greatest Blaxploitation flicks of all time?

Sawyer: Cotton Comes to Harlem, The Mack and Superfly. Though Shaft‘s in the conversation.

Me: What’s the best opening scene?

Sawyer: Cleopatra Jones. But my favorite opening scene in any movie is The Matrix. Hard to top that one.

Me: What movie has the worst special effects?

Sawyer: All of them. The blood doesn’t even look like blood.  Let’s face it–these movies aren’t that good. But I still love them.

Me: What’s the best line?

Sawyer: From The Mack, when Pretty Tony tells the guy in the dice-shooting scene: `Next time you hear grown folks talkin’, shut the fuck up–you hear?’

Me: That is a good line.

Sawyer: I’m telling you, man.

Me: What’s the best theater?

Sawyer: Oh, man, now you’re bringing me back. Remember the McVickers on Madison?  I lived at 74th and Wabash, so we’d take the State Street bus all the way downtown. But we also has neighborhood theaters. The Rhodes at 79th and Rhodes. And the Hamilton on 71st and the Maryland on 63rd. Each one is gone. Matter of fact, the Rhodes is still a vacant lot in my ward. Maybe Walter [Alderman Burnett] will port me over some of his TIF money to develop it.

Me: Don’t count on it.

Sawyer: I’m not.

Me: What kid did you go to the movies with?

Sawyer: Renfroe Lee–that’s my guy. We did everything together.

Me: And the best soundtrack?

Sawyer:  There were so many. Really, the soundtracks were way better than the movies. I’d go with Trouble Man, Shaft and Superfly–can’t beat Curtis Mayfield.

Me: The best Pam Grier movie?

Sawyer: Black Mama, White Mama–though you can make an argument for Foxy Brown.

Me: What’s better–Blacula or the sequel, Scream Blacula Scream?

Sawyer: They’re both pretty bad.

Me: You’re wrong–Blacula’s one of the best movies of the `70s.

Sawyer: C’mon, man.

Me: Who’s the Shaft of Chicago politicians?

Sawyer: You mean, the man who’s unafraid to tell it to The Man?

Me: Exactly.

Sawyer: Got to be [state senator] Donne Trotter.

Me: And the Foxy Brown–you know, a woman who’s not afraid to tell it to The Man?

Sawyer: Karen Lewis–no question about it.

Me: Who’s the China Doll of Chicago politics?

Sawyer: No comment.

To get that last joke, you have to know a little something about The Mack. You see, China Doll’s this hooker, who…

Ah, just watch the movie.