By David Was
The Mack, a 1973 pimping epic, is at once a laughable, schlock
classic and a harbinger of more serious black-themed films to come.
Starring the now-forgotten Max Julien as Goldie, the preening ex-con whose
dream is to rule the streets with a fine Cadillac and a fleet of topnotch
hookers, this film is full of whip-crack, mostly improvised dialogue and
hilarious stereotypes (the evil white cops, a wisdom-spouting blind man,
and more trash-talkin' pimps than you could shake a walking stick at).
Not only is the film one you can chuckle at in the postmodern, ironic
mode, it is also a window on the world of today's rap superstars, many of
whom have sampled, invoked, or quoted lines from this gaudy paean to
pandering. In other words, The Mack is a kind of godfather to a
future stark frankness about life on the streets. But forget the
sociological hooey and dig into the piece as an urban costume picture with
greasy/funky score by R&B genius Willie Hutch.
Also, it features an amazing supporting turn by Richard Pryor, who,
playing Tonto to Julien's Lone Ranger, unleashes torrents of nearly
incomprehensible verbiage in the film's finest moments. Mind you, such
brilliance is a direct comedy-organ transplant from Pryor's stand-up act:
he was performing his "Pimp on Blow" routine at about the same
time The Mack was filmed. Seventy percent of this piece is dross,
but the other 30 is the apex of urban surrealism. One vignette to
tantalize: Goldie hypnotizing his "ladies" into docile
submission as they sit in a planetarium, mechanically repeating his words:
"I will remain a lady at all times..."