LIST CANDIDATE: DISCO GODFATHER (1979)

AKA Avenging Disco Godfather

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DIRECTED BY: J. Robert Wagoner

FEATURING:

PLOT: When a local business magnate begins selling Angel Dust, he’d better watch out for Tucker Williams: an ex-cop turned… Disco Godfather.

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: This was a borderline case right up until the final minutes, its tone kept a bit off-kilter by recurring PCP-hallucination interludes. With the protagonist (unwillingly) dosed to the eyeballs for the climax, Disco Godfather grooves into avowedly bizarre territory, culminating in a strangely unsettling closing shot.

COMMENTS: “He’s alone. But how? That’s what I call balls!”

Rudy Ray Moore, as the Disco Godfather, does have balls—and a mission to “attack the Wack!” That’s right. This “wack” threatens to ruin the Godfather’s dance-loving city, and more personally, to ruin his nephew’s NBA prospects. From the opening disco dance sequence, to the later disco dance sequences, even to the climactic martial arts raid, there is a lot of disco. Quotable lines twang forth like a steady bass-line. Hair is tall, as are the shoes, with heels as elongated as the collars are wide. (Face it, you already know from the title whether you want to see this.)

After the opening number wheels out the titular hero (nearly always referred to as “Disco Godfather”, even by his former boss, police Lieutenant Whitey Hayes), it then introduces Bucky: swell guy and aspiring basketballer who has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Through Bucky, the Disco Godfather is made aware of a new scourge assailing the city’s youth. The subsequent action is fairly by-the-numbers: the Godfather visits a PCP ward full of swaying crazies; he hits up the police station to confab with his ex-partners; he’s targeted for a hit by evil business; and, of course, he jives through a “cleaning up the city” montage, laying down some righteous violence on the dope peddlers while on a hunt for information leading to Mister Big. (All of this being scored, of course, to disco.)

So, Disco Godfather has more than enough disco to live up to its name. The question becomes: does it have enough weird? This is a question it takes its sweet time answering. Bucky’s hallucination sequence on the dance floor—having puffed an Angel Dusted cigarette—is a hint of the weirdness to come. Bucky exhibits strange tics, spastic behavior (remember, disco is supposed to be all about the Smooth, with a capital “Smoo”), and strange exclamations. But we are also shown what Bucky is enduring: an odd dark-room madness with red-eyed demons, basketballers wielding six guns, and a recurrent nightmare dancer brandishing a machete. Every time we witness a PCPerience, it’s a different variation of this macabre theme, with the most elaborate and sustained trip being that suffered by the Disco Godfather himself. Fusing low-rent effects, sinister voice-over, karate chops, the boogying bopper “Shermanizing/One Way Ticket To Hell” blaring in the background, and a Wacked-out Godfather, things get way out there, man.

Part disco dance movie, part blaxsploitation, and part evangelizing, Disco Godfather is an uneven experience, but whenever the choreography stumbles, it instantly bounces back into stylish saunter.  It’s got too much funk to be sunk, too much soul to feel old, and enough velour to ensure that when Tucker comes calling, the baddies start falling.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…in the final 20 minutes or so, the story goes off the rails—in a good way, like off the rails onto another set of sturdier, glossier rails. If Rod Serling ever had a bad trip, it might look a little like the psychological hall of mirrors that Tucker finds himself in. “–Hunter Lanier, FilmThreat.com

2 thoughts on “LIST CANDIDATE: DISCO GODFATHER (1979)”

  1. Hm. Somehow I never dug into Disco Godfather. A few nice tunes, but rather normal Scarface-mobster scenario.

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