In Dolemite Is My Name, there’s a fun scene where Rudy Ray Moore (played by Eddie Murphy) rattles off the ingredients he wants to have in his debut motion picture to the earnest, socially conscious playwright he’s roping into service as his screenwriter: “Pimps and whores and cussin’… and kung-fu, karate. Brothers love all that kung fu… you know what we should have? An all-girl kung-fu army.” True to his word, Moore delivered all these things in his maiden celluloid venture, Dolemite. He might have done it on a shoestring budget but he made it all happen.
Better yet, he did it with personality. If you want to get the flavor of what he came up with, you need look no further than the original theatrical trailer for Dolemite. Moore racked up all his achievements in show business by being an indefatigable salesman for himself – and in the Dolemite trailer, he takes the helm of the narration to sell like there’s no tomorrow.
The Dolemite trailer begins by establishing Moore’s larger-than-life bonafides: as a funky clavinet groove percolates on the soundtrack, he’s picked up by a sedan full of women at the prison gates and shoots down a bunch of mobsters with a machine gun. In the midst of all this, a closeup of Moore shows him proudly proclaiming “Dolemite is my name and f–kin’ up muthaf–kas is my game!” By now, you know what kind of movie you’re going to be watching: sex appeal, comic book violence and funky sounds, all built on a foundation of braggadocio that is outlandish enough to be endearing.
But Moore’s just getting started. Next up, he introduces the aforementioned femme-fighter army (“I got an all-girl army that knows what to do! They foxy as hell and practice kung-fu!”). You also see Moore (often his stunt double) getting in on the action by giving plenty of bad dudes a good kicking and chopping. Whether it’s crooked white cops or double-dealing brothers, he lays on the smackdown in an equal opportunity manner. You also see him satisfying a lady in the sack, followed by her telling him “You’re still the best man I know in bed.” This cat does it all.
Now that film’s style has been established, the remainder of the Dolemite trailer doubles down. It’s wall to wall martial arts, interspersed with the occasional bit of gunplay, and Rudy Ray goes into overdrive in the narration booth. He lays down a sixty-second onslaught of rhymed boasting that will leave the viewer slackjawed: he threatens all the days of the week as well as various members of the animal kingdom (“I’m the one who had the elephants roosting in trees and all the ants wearing BVD’s”). As this minute-long stretch ends, he delivers the killer blow: “If you crave satisfaction, this is the place to find that action/Coming to this theater as its next attraction is the picture that will put you in traction!”
After that, Moore has under thirty seconds to go so he displays a credit card for himself and also gives props to co-star and director D’Urville Martin, the one name in the cast. There’s a few more shots of Moore in action, a three-part push on the title card (accompanied by gunshot sound FX) and, in a nice little closing grace note, a couple of brothers giving each other five and cracking up.
Like the film it is drawn from, the Dolemite trailer wears all its rough edges on the surface: most the kung fu is more enthusiastic than it is convincing, Moore looks hung over in the still image used for his name credit and you can see other little gaffes like Moore looking the wrong way when he addresses his all-girl army. However, those little bits just add funky texture to a trailer that offers breathless cheap thrills and brain-dazzling rhymed narration. It’s too much fun to deny and a perfect sampler for what its parent film has to offer.