Dolemite: The ‘Citizen Kane’ of kung fu pimping movies

AJC Sepia Black History Month

Since 1975, there has been only one kung-fu-kicking pimp in film.

That’d be Dolemite.

Dolemite was the creation, and maybe true expression, of raunchy comedian Rudy Ray Moore. The film, now three decades old, is chief among the canon of blaxploitation.

In 2002, when writing about the funk revival, The New York Times said the no-budget film “remains the ‘Citizen Kane’ of kung fu pimping movies.”

It has everything that made the genre popular.

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Rudy Ray Moore starred in several Dolemite movies, including the original, “The Human Tornado, “ and “The Return of Dolemite.” “Dolemite was the cat all other cats wish to be, and all the kittens wish to be with,” said “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley.

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The plot goes like this: After 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Dolemite wants some justice.

Don’t confuse Dolemite the character with dolomite — you know, the anhydrous carbonate mineral used in concrete production.

The movie contains lots of things: kung fu call girls, lots of hats that are cool as heck, and much butt-kicking.

Complex ranked it No. 9 on its list of best blaxploitation films.

“Dolemite was the cat all other cats wish to be, and all the kittens wish to be with,” said “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley, according to black cinema label Xenon Pictures.

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Xenon’s webpage dedicated to Dolemite spoke to how wide his appeal was: “At a recent event, several Goth girls asked him to autograph their breasts.”

A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 song “Whateva Will Be” samples a choice line of Dolemite’s from the film, “Girls, this (expletive)’s got rhythm!”

Dolemite’s name is invoked by artists old and new, from Eazy-E and Snoop Dogg to A$AP Rocky and ScHoolboy Q.

So many sampled him that he dubbed himself the “Godfather of Rap.”

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Though Moore died in 2008 at age 81 from complications of diabetes, the film and character’s influence on pop culture spans genres and generations.

Shortly before he died, Rudy Ray Moore , star of  the Dolemite films, performed a standup routine at the Starlight Drive-In. (BEN GRAY/Staff) (Ben Gray/AJC)

Oh, and a nerdy side note: The French geologist Deodat de Dolomieu, who first identified dolomite’s chemical composition, was also wrongfully jailed. He was sentenced to death at age 18 for killing a fellow soldier in a duel. He was pardoned and decided to spend the remainder of his life pursuing rocks. One of the areas where he worked was a mountain range in northeastern Italy that was later named the “Dolomites” in his honor.

Throughout February, we’ll spotlight a different African-American pioneer in the daily Living section Monday through Thursday and Saturday, and in the Metro section on Fridays and Sundays. Go to for more subscriber exclusives on people, places and organizations that have changed the world, and to see videos on the African-American pioneer featured here each day.

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