The title was later used for some kids tv show for Nickelodeon, but accept no substitutes; this is the original Super Dude, and the best. What’s susprising about this widely-forgotten Blaxploitation entry is that this is directed by Henry Hathaway, a veteran who helped John Wayne to his Oscar for True Grit a few years earlier. Hathaway’s name is on classics from Kiss of Death to Lives of a Bengal Lancer, but he was some way from his comfort zone here; ‘If I see you, I’m going to piss on your f***ing face’ says one character, because this is one deeply scuzzy film.
Rookie cop Ken Ramsey (well played by William Elliott) takes part in police crackdowns on drugs, although the amounts of drugs and cash involved seem pitiful. Ken discovers an acquaintance, Julie (Marki Bey) working in a sleazy LA knocking-shop, and enlists her help in bringing down king-pin Fred Richards, played by Barton Fink’s Michael Lerner. Unfortunately, Ken falls for Julie, who kicks her habit, but gets tangled up in the complications as Ken seeks contacts to flip…
Elliott and Bey are just terrific in this film, giving fluid, sympathetic performances that give the film heart. The action, like the nudity, comes in waves, but the shoot-out in the car wash is good, as are the propulsive final show-downs. This is a funky-vigilante-cop movie, with a hip cop learning the hard way what a hip cop’s gotta do to bring down the drug-peddling man, and even if the tv movie values bog us down pictorially, things pep up by the finale.
Adapted from Bernard Brunner’s novel The Face of Night, Super Dude aka Hangup is a real neglected find; online prints are in atrocious condition in terms of markings, but just about watchable. With some hip dialogue, strong acting and a funky feel, it’s the kind of thing that Tarantino would surely have a poster of on his bedroom wall, plus an 8 track cartridge of the soundtrack. Super Dude has had short shrift; presumably those lured by Hathaway’s name are unlikely to dig it, but it’s a super-slick, slice of peak Blaxploitaton that not surprisingly ran on mid-70’s double bills with the more lauded but far more garish Dolemite.
A quick warning, a quick play-through of the trailer below revels toxic levels of sex, violence, gunplay, drugs, racism and language, so watch your step, and don’t say you wasn’t warned; this ain’t no jive.