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TCM Underground - July 2018
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Remind Me

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka

The American film movement commonly known as "Blaxploitation" had been over for nearly a decade before the first full-force parody of it arrived in 1988 with I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, the directorial debut of actor Keenen Ivory Wayans. The actor-turned-filmmaker had already appeared in (and co-wrote) more familiar clich├ęs of Blaxploitation in brief segments of Robert Townsend's low-budget wonder, Hollywood Shuffle (1987), but Wayans' film would be the first feature-length lampoon of the movement, a tactic later used by such films as Undercover Brother (2002) and Black Dynamite (2009).

Not surprisingly, Wayans had some difficulty pitching his idea to studios and financiers. In a promotional interview for People, he recalled, "Prior to going to United Artists, which released the movie, I went to this one company where they had this most bizarre let's-mix-it-up mentality. One of their suggestions was, 'Why don't we get Anthony Michael Hall, and he'll play your little brother, and he can act black throughout the whole movie.' Then they said, 'We can get Charles Bronson to be one of your older brothers.'" A former engineering student at Alabama's Tuskegee University, Wayans was inspired to go into show business after watching Richard Pryor and decided to go to Hollywood where he met up with Townsend and became a regular standup comedian on The Tonight Show. "I wanted to do something that was true to its ethnicity but not restricted to it," he said in that same interview. "That's important to me as a black filmmaker because I feel that our society is painted to be more racist than it is. I think black exploitation movies occurred because blacks didn't have control of the images they were portraying. My film doesn't have the star value of an Eddie Murphy movie, but it has the same kind of approach in that everybody can relate to it."

Wayans went to great lengths to round up vintage Blaxploitation stars including Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes and a scene-stealing Antonio Fargas. Shaft's ( 1971) Richard Roundtree and Superfly's (1972) Ron O'Neal also appear as the film's more significant holdouts. The film was shot over a 32-day period with a budget just under $3 million. It made its money back with over $6 million at the box office, and opened regionally in 135 theaters on December 14, 1988, taking in just over $653,000 with another 40 cities added by the end of the month.

It was originally titled I Mo it U Sucka and deliberately downplayed its on-screen violence, specifically avoiding any bloodshed on camera. Even the current revised title caused some grammatical confusion, with one New York City theater listing it as I'm Going to Get You Sucker. Legendary costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who worked on numerous Spike Lee films as well as Black Panther (2018), had a particular challenge finding vintage '70s clothes before they came back into vogue, so she had to sit down with vintage catalogs and have the threads made from scratch. The incredible six-inch, goldfish-filled platform shoes worn by Fargas were based on ones worn by former footballer John "Frenchy" Fuqua, who insisted on $2,500 a week to rent them out. Instead Carter had her own shoes made, and the result is movie costume history. She was thrilled with the results, telling LA Weekly, "I knew it was right when he put that costume on and immediately turned into Starsky and Hutch's Huggy Bear.'"

One aspect of the film heavily promoted at the time was the soundtrack, featuring the Four Tops' and with Aretha Franklin's "If Ever a Love There Was" pushed as the first single. Other songs included the Gap Band's title track, K-9 Posse's "This Beat Is Military" and "He's a Flyguy" by Curtis Mayfield with Fishbone. One eager patron who wanted to see the film was Prince, who was off touring in Japan and asked for a videocassette to be specially sent over for viewing. The film was popular enough for a potential TV spin-off called Hammer and Slammer to be announced in the trades, featuring the two main characters from the film, with Wayans executive producing and writing a one-hour pilot for MGM. Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, Steve James and Ja'net DuBois were set to star with Bernie Casey and Eriq La Salle, and the unsold pilot eventually turned up in syndication in 1991 under the title Hammer, Slammer & Slade, featuring no story connection to the film in its finished form. Particularly popular via TV airings and DVD availability, the film proved to be a big stepping stone for Wayans, who would go on to direct the first two films in the Scary Movie series and, most significantly to pop culture, would go on to join his brother, Damon, in creating the groundbreaking multicultural sketch comedy series, In Living Color.

By Nathaniel Thompson

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