Blaxploitation History Month Review #2: Boss Nigger

Yes, you read this right, there is a Blaxploitation western movie called Boss Nigger. 

It’s actually the last movie in a trilogy, the other two films being The Legend of Nigger Charley and The Soul of Nigger Charley. I know you must be thinking: “Why would you want to watch a film with such an offensive title?!” The interesting thing about this film is that it was written and produced by a black man—the talented Fred Williamson to be specific. He also plays Boss, the lead character in the movie and does a hell of a good job. I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into this film but I was pleasantly surprised by how funny and clever it was. It’s a quality western but more along the lines of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western as opposed to a more traditional John Wayne era movie.

Fred Williamson is definitely the highlight of this film. The man exudes charisma and just plain owns every scene he is in. He wears a sweet all black leather outfit and saunters around with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. What I liked best about his character is he mocks audiences assumptions of what a black man should act like. He often goes into “minstrel mode” and acts like the stereotypical submissive black man (“Yessa sir!” “Oh lawdy!”) to bring down his enemies’ defenses and then reverts back to a smooth bad ass to shoot them up. It’s hilarious to watch and a very clever commentary of how race relations were viewed at the time. This movie throws around the word “nigger” A LOT. It’s jarring to hear it said out loud so much but since the movie takes place in the 1800’s, I’m sure it’s accurate to the era.

One thing I absolutely loved was the soundtrack and score to this film. The title song is absolutely hilarious and embodies the best of 1970’s music. Everywhere the characters travel there is a groovy soundtrack thumping away in the background. The juxtaposition between the old-fashioned look of the film and the modern (at the time) soundtrack is amazing and makes the film so much better. The film is action-packed and actually fairly standard as westerns go. Side note, I think Tarantino took a lot of elements from this film and put them into Django as I noticed a lot of similarities between the two.

If you can get past the admittedly offensive name of this movie you will find a pretty good western with a Blaxploitation flair. It actually addresses race in an intelligent manner but under the veneer of a safe and familiar film genre.

-Review by Michelle Kisner