Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Campus|
|Produced by||Harvey Bernhard|
|Written by||Robert J. Poole|
Roger E. Mosley
|Music by||Willie Hutch|
|Distributed by||Cinerama Releasing Corporation (1973-1974)
American International Pictures (1974-1980)
Embassy Pictures (1980-1994)
Blossom Pictures (1983; re-issue)
Nelson Entertainment (1987-1994)
New Line Cinema (1994-2008)
Warner Bros. (2008-present)
|April 4, 1973|
|Box office||$3 million (rentals)|
The Mack is a 1973 blaxploitation film directed by California native Michael Campus, starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor. The film also stars Oscar-nominee Juanita Moore, and Tony nominated actor Dick Anthony Williams. Filmed in Oakland, California the movie follows the rise and fall of Goldie. After returning home from a 5-year prison sentence, he returns home to find his brother involved in Black nationalism. Goldie decides to take an alternative path, striving to become the city’s biggest pimp. Although the movie was produced during the era of such blaxploitation movies as Dolemite, its producers do not label it a true blaxploitation picture. They believe it to be a social commentary, according to Mackin' Ain't Easy, a documentary about the making of the film, which can be found on the DVD edition. Its soundtrack was recorded by Motown artist Willie Hutch.
After returning home from a five-year prison sentence, John "Goldie" Mickens, (Max Julien) has a plan to achieve money and power in Oakland, California by becoming a pimp. Goldie’s criminal ways juxtapose his brother Olinga’s (Roger E. Mosley) Black Nationalist efforts to save the community from drugs and violence. With Slim (Richard Pryor) as his partner and Lulu (Carol Speed as his head prostitute, he organizes a team of women and quickly rises to prominence. His success catches the attention of Fat Man (George Murdock), the heroin kingpin that Goldie worked for before heading to prison, and Hank (Don Gordon) and Jed (William Watson), two corrupt and racist white detectives. Goldie refuses to work for Fat Man again, and dismisses the detectives requests to stop his brother from ridding the streets of drugs. As a result, his mother is assaulted which eventually leads to her death. Even though Olinga is disappointed in Goldie because he “brought death to their house,” he agrees to help him get revenge. They develop a plan with Slim to seek revenge, but their plans fall apart when Hank and Jed kill Slim at their rendezvous point. They reveal that they are responsible for Goldie’s mother’s death, causing Goldie and Olinga to kill them both. Realizing that Oakland is now too dangerous, Goldie hugs his brother goodbye and leaves the city on a charter bus.
- Max Julien as Goldie
- Richard Pryor as Slim
- Juanita Moore as Mother
- Carol Speed as Lulu
- Roger E. Mosley as Olinga
- Dick Anthony Williams as Pretty Tony
- Don Gordon as Hank
- William Watson as Jed
- George Murdock as Fatman
- Paul Harris as Blind Man
Michael Campus created the film that he is best known for in 1973. The original script for the film was written on prison toilet paper by man named Bobby Poole. While staying in Oakland for two months, Campus was with a man named Frank Ward who controlled the city’s underground. Max Julien’s character, Goldie, is based on Frank Ward, who was a real pimp and drug dealer from Oakland. In order to shoot the movie, Campus needed Ward’s permission since a large portion of the scenes were in his territory. In exchange for his guidance and protection, Campus put Ward in the film. All of the homeless people, junkies, pimps and women in the film were supplied by Frank Ward.
Although he had Ward’s protection, the film was also in Black Panther territory. While they were filming bottles and trash cans would be thrown off the roof by Black Panther party members. In order for filming to run smoothly, an additional deal had to be made with Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who were then put in charge of providing extras for the film. About halfway through the production of the film Frank Ward was shot in the back of his head, and killed while in his Rolls Royce. There was speculation that the Black Panthers were responsible for Ward’s death, so the filmmakers and cast relocated to safer areas for filming. Despite the tension, the film opening was held in Oakland with all of the proceeds going towards the Black Panther’s milk fund.
The influence of the Black Panther party in The Mack gives it direct ties to Black Power. Goldie’s brother in the film, Olinga is a representation of the Black Panther Party. He takes an active effort in removing drug dealers from the streets, because of the great negative impact that it has on the black community. Fat Man supplies the drug dealers with heroin, and the two corrupt cops, Hank and Jed, exploit money from the drug dealers to allow them to continue selling. With a lack of law enforcement, the drug dealers are free to sell the harmful products. The film exposes the public to some of the struggles that the Black Panther Party had to face. Olinga was fighting a war against “the man” and “the establishment” who was damaging the lives of the youth in the black community for their monetary gain. He also had to combat the pimps and drug dealers who had instilled superficial values in the minds of the youth.
Goldie’s involvement with both selling drugs for Fat Man himself, then eventually pimping, puts a strain on the relationship he has with his brother. Regardless of both his mother’s and brother’s attempts to steer him in a positive direction, he is committed to his life of crime. In the film, Goldie states, “Black an’ poor ain’t nothin’; black and rich is somethin’!” which is responsible for Goldie’s need for power. Because he is the main character in the film, director Michael Campus makes attempts to make us sympathize for him, when things aren’t going his way. Especially in the context of significantly worse drug dealers and pimps.
On the other hand, Olinga sympathizes for his brother because of his ideology. Goldie’s lack of confidence about his financial status, causes him to make judgments about himself as well as poor black people. Olinga wants to instill pride and power in his brother, so that he can feel proud of his Blackness whether he is poor or rich.
Although the film is about pimps and prostitutes, surprisingly there aren’t any sex scenes. The film shows Goldie in bed with Lulu after they have sex, but never show the actual act. Even though there is a lack of sexual content, this doesn’t stop the film from presenting the harsh realities of pimp culture. We see Goldie transform from a soft-spoken, smooth gentleman with dreams of living a lavish lifestyle and providing for his mother to a harsh and cold hearted individual strictly about business.
Goldie and Lulu were romantically involved during their childhood. After making plans to start pimping, he runs into Lulu and discovers that she is a prostitute. Together they start the operation, with Lulu as his “bottom bitch”, in charge of all of the other prostitutes. A key moment in the film that signifies his change in behavior is when Lulu runs to Goldie sitting in his car after being robbed during one of her appointments. Given their history, Lulu expected that Goldie would be sympathetic towards her and resolve the situation. Instead, Goldie responds to her harshly, dismissing any concern for her. As Lulu is hysterically crying, he tells her to make back his money, no matter how long it takes. At this point, we see Goldie’s full transition into his pimp character. Despite this cruel interaction, Lulu continues to work for Goldie and they continue to build their team of prostitutes.
Aside from Goldie’s mother, almost all of the women in the film are prostitutes. Importantly, not all of them are black. The film shows the process of Goldie courting a wealthy white woman, and then eventually turning her into a prostitute. Goldie is able to lure her in by gaining her trust and promising to give her everything that she wants. Once this trust and love builds, he is then able to manipulate her to do anything that he wants. Though the prostitutes are under the control of pimps, they have the freedom to choose who they work for. Prostitutes can decide to leave their previous pimps, and move on to a new pimp if they feel the circumstances will be better. As the film shows, these situations can get violent if the pimps fight over control of the women.
The film was only played in around 20 Black communities, “white theaters” were avoided because distributors didn’t believe the film would do well in those areas. Despite low distribution the film still managed to outgross “The Godfather” in those same cities. The soundtrack for the film, done by Motown artist Willie Hutch, still managed to receive a lot of popularity with the songs “Brother’s Gonna Work It Out” and “Slick” becoming hit singles on the soul chart. Over the years the movie has evolved into a cult classic, and the term “mack” has infiltrated pop culture. Jay-Z, Too Short, Tupac, and Mark Morrison are a few of the Hip-Hop artists who paid homage to the film either through their lyrics or by sampling the soundtrack.
For director Michael Campus, the film doesn’t fall under the category of a Blaxploitation film. Blaxploitation films are usually categorized as films created in the 1970s that were mad to appeal to black urban audiences. They usually feature African-American actors in lead roles, but were often critiqued for stereotypical portrayals of black people and the glorification of crime in the communities. For him, The Mack is a true representation of the real experiences of Frank Ward. The direct involvement of the Black Panther Party with the production also further distances the film from the usual negative interpretations associated with Blaxploitation films. Campus believes classifying the film as Blaxploitation minimizes the efforts and accomplishments of the film.
In its original 1973 release from Cinerama Releasing and its 1978 reissue by AIP, The Mack featured a score by Willie Hutch. In 1983, Producers Distribution Company and Blossom Pictures reissued the film, to capitalize on the resurgent popularity of Richard Pryor and Roger Mosley (the latter a co-star on hit TV series Magnum P.I.), and commissioned a new score by Alan Silvestri featuring vocals by Gene McDaniels. The reissue poster advertised a soundtrack release on Posh Boy Records, but the album was released on the ALA Enterprises label; it is now out of print and highly collectible. To differentiate it from the original score, fans have referred to it as "The Mack and His Pack," based on a catch phrase used on the reissue poster. When the film was initially licensed to Embassy Home Entertainment for home video, the Silvestri score was present. The New Line DVD release restored the original Willie Hutch score to the film.
References in popular culture
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- Dialogue from the film was sampled in the King Kooba song "Can...(Dig It!)".
- Ludacris sampled The Mack in his song "Can You Buy That?"
- Big L referenced The Mack in the song "American Dream", in the line "nigga, yo' bitch chose me, you know the rules to the game."
- Jay Z referenced it in the "7 minute freestyle", in the line "I mack like Goldie, go back like the oldies."
- The song "I Choose You" was sampled by UGK in their 2007 song "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)", and by Jaheim in his song "The Chosen One".
- Jay-Z again referenced the The Mack in the song Big Pimpin', in the line "not for nothing, never happen, I'll be forever macking."
- Guru of Gang Starr referenced The Mack in the song "Doe In Advance", saying "Like Max Julien I'm the authentic Mack So just relax, and keep the cuts like a lance."
- Dr. Dre sampled dialogue from the film for the intro of the song "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" on his solo debut album The Chronic.
- R. Kelly referenced The Mack in the song series "Trapped in the Closet", in the lines "And I said but yo' chick chose me/He said don’t give me that mack shit please".
- Raekwon sampled dialogue from the film in his debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
- Tupac Shakur sampled a dialogue in "Definition of a Thug Nigga".
- The "Players Ball" scene gave its name to Outkast's first single, "Player's Ball".
- Rapper Curren$y references Max Julien in his song "Chilled Coughee" from the 2010 album Pilot Talk. He states in another song, "I saw The Mack when I was only 11 years old/And I swore never to be a simp for a hoe!" He also later mentions Max Julien in the song "What's What" on the 2011 album Weekend at Burnie's.
- Too Short, in his 1990 single "Pimpology", samples multiple lines in the movie from Goldie and Pretty Tony.
- Jadakiss also remade the moment where Goldie and his partner kill Tony, in the skit "Stick Yourself" on his album, Kiss tha Game Goodbye. In this remake, Big Will plays Pretty Tony, Cross plays Goldie, and Icepick plays Slim (though he's referred to as "Pick").
- Drum'n'bass producer Incognito sampled dialogue from The Blind Man in his song "Mack 2.0".
- Dialogue from this movie is sampled at the start of 8Ball & MJG's 2001 single "Stop Playin' Games", which peaked at #47 on the U.S. charts.
- Killer Mike, in his 2008 album I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II, has sampled the "35,000 Dollars" dialogue on the track "Can You Buy That?"
- Kris Kross sampled a dialogue from Richard Pryor in Macking Ain't Easy.
- Rapper and producer Raz Fresco sampled a clip from the movie in his music video for the song "Filmore Slim".
- Electronic music duo Groove Armada samples a dialogue between Goldie and Lulu in their song "Pre 63".
- The theme song was sampled in Three 6 Mafia's "Testin' My Gangsta".
- In the 1993 film True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino, The Mack is playing on Drexl Spivey's (Gary Oldman) television and referenced when Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) confronts him. When Drexl points out that Clarence isn't paying attention to the naked breasts on the screen, he responds: "I ain't looking at the movie because I already seen it seven years ago. It's The Mack. Max Julian, Carol Speed and Richard Pryor."
- The Chemical Brothers 1998 compilation album Brothers Gonna Work It Out begins with the dialogue between Goldie and Olinga at the basketball courts.
- In the film Friday, a character named Felicia asks the main character Craig to borrow his VCR so that she can dub The Mack.
- in the television series Martin episode "Do You Remember the Time", Martin recalls his version of the first time and Gina met. In the episode "All the Players Came", Martin throws a player's ball themed fundraiser with guest starring Dick Anthony Williams as the MC Pretty Tony.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974, pg 19.
- "'The Mack' is back after 40 years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
- Dutka, Elaine (1997-06-30). "ReDiggin' the Scene". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- "See Why Black Panthers Got Violent With Crew On "The Mack" Movie Set". I Love Old School Music. I Love Old School Music.
- Walker, David; Rausch, Andrew; Watson, Chris (2009). Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow. p. 19.
- Mims, Greg. ""The Mack": Inner City Youth Rises To Power!". ProQuest. New Pittsburgh Courier.
- King, Susan (25 September 2013). "'The Mack' Is Back after 40 Years". Los Angeles Times.