In all the annals of exploitation filmdom, there is perhaps no greater guilty pleasure than the blaxploitation era of the ‘70s. And 1973’s urban drama The Slams — as produced by Roger Corman’s brother, Gene — is certainly no exception. Big bad Jim Brown stars here as Curtis Hook, who, as the film opens, is the low man on the totem pole in a plan to snatch $1.5 million in cold hard cash from the mob — with a suitcase of cocaine thrown in for good measure. Hook isn’t going to settle for an even split, however, and promptly takes out the competition once the job is complete — stashing the moolah away in a deserted amusement park by the sea, and disposing of the deadly drug by dumping it into the water below before being pinched by the man and sent to The Slams.
But prison life is anything but easy for a guy when everyone wants your money. Though he’s been put away for entirely different reasons, there are a number of parties — from an incarcerated mafia feller (Frank DeKova) livin’ large behind bars to the penitentiary’s corrupt staff, and the feds, too — hoping to get their hands on the dough Hook rightfully killed and stole for to begin with. To make matters worse, our man Curtis winds up smack dab in the middle of a race war between the honkies and the brothers — a perpetual fracas endorsed by the very same people that are also after Hook’s stashed-away fortune. These inmates don’t play nice, either: one guy gets molten metal poured on his face, while our anti-hero himself receives an eyeful of bleach from white supremacist gang leader Glover (Ted Cassidy).
His stint in stir soon turns into a breakout, motivated by word that the old amusement park is scheduled to be demolished soon. So, Curtis’ girlfriend Iris (Judy Pace) gets in touch with Jackson Barney (Paul E. Harris) to conjure up a way to escape before it’s too late. This highly enjoyable blaxploitation/prison flick also features Roland Bob Harris (as a sleazy prison official), Frenchia Guizon, John Dennis, Quinn K Redeker (as the warden), Charles Cyphers, Carmen Argenziano, and a cameo by Corman factory regular Dick Miller. Corman protégé Jonathan Kaplan directs (his third outing doing so) the somewhat uneven but completely enjoyable script by Richard L. Adams. Broadway legend Luther Henderson serves up a sizzling, funky soundtrack that (sadly) was never released.
Just like it’s soundtrack has never received a pressing of any kind, The Slams itself has never been released on home video in the US, so the fact that this gritty ‘70s exploitation gem has been released as part of the Warner Archive Collection is reason to celebrate. Furthermore, Warner’s Manufactured-on-Demand disc (available at WBshop.com) is part of the “Remastered Edition” lineup of made-to-order releases, and boasts a lovely anamorphic widescreen image and mono soundtrack. The campy original theatrical trailer is also included as an extra, and the obverse side of the cover depicts the original MGM poster art.
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