Disco Godfather (1979)

Week of October 19, 2005

Oct 19, 2005 at 4:00 am
Who knew Blueberry Hill was a black Bay Area disco owned by Rudy Ray Moore, and not a drinking and music mall in University City, Missouri? Perhaps Rudy Ray embedded a knowing nod to Joe Edwards in Disco Godfather, a direct descendant of the blaxploitation classic Dolemite that's equal parts kung fu, Saturday Night Fever, TV cop drama and junior-high anti-drug film.

Disco Godfather opens at the center of Blueberry Hill's dance floor, where 123 black people are grooving and 1 white guy is doing the robot. In the DJ booth is Rudy Ray and his muttonchops, imploring the crowd to "put your weight on it!" Seated in a booth with a couple of sweat hogs is Rudy Ray's nephew, a pro basketball star named Bucky who slips into the parking lot and does some angel dust. In real life the PCP might fuck him up for a few hours -- a day at the most. But in Disco Godfather angel dust lands Bucky in a quasi-mental institution, stuck in a lifelong hallucination where he's playing basketball in his boxer shorts against a team of armed ghouls. Strapped to a gurney, Bucky is convinced his left hand has been chopped off and arches his back as though a gremlin is about to burst out of his chest.

Nowadays when a famous actor is sleepwalking through a howler of a movie to collect a paycheck, you know it. But Rudy Ray treats every one of his films like he's playing Moses in The Ten Commandments. Even if the material is subpar, Rudy Ray's all in, inevitably resulting in a super-entertaining -- if hilariously flawed -- product.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.