• Boss (VCI Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: VCI Entertainment/Kit Parker Films
    Released on: August 28th, 2018.
    Director: Jack Arnold
    Cast: Fred Williamson, D'Urville Martin, William Smtih, R.G. Armstrong
    Year: 1975
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    Boss – Movie Review:

    Part Devil... Part Legend... All Man!

    Directed by Jack Arnold and better known under the more infamous title of Boss Nigger, this 1975 western picture revolves around a cowboy named Boss (Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson) and his right-hand man Amos (D'Urville Martin). Tired of being constantly harassed and hunted down by the man, Boss and Amos decide to start new careers as bounty hunters. Soon enough, they’ve shot down four men, bank robbers the lot of them, and it just happens that boss finds on one of the dead men an interesting letter. This letter was signed by the mayor of nearby San Miguel and it serves as a job offer for the sheriff’s position, as recommended by the notorious Jed Clayton (William Smith).

    This gives Boss an idea, but before he can act on that he has to save a hottie named Clara Mae (Carmen Hayward). With that out of the way, he and Amos mosey on into San Miguel and talk Mayor Griffin (R.G. Armstrong) into giving Boss a tin star. It turns out that Clayton and his gang have a bit of a stronghold over the town, stealing what and who they want whenever they want. As such, Griffin isn’t really so interested cooperating with Boss, but he and Amos are determined enough to make a go of it. While Boss concentrates on trying to bring Clayton to justice, Amos sets into place a town fine levied against anyone who uses the ‘n word.’

    Sooner rather than later, Boss is being chased around by hot to trot Miss Pruitt (Barbara Leigh) and, when not dealing with that, trying to figure out who he can trust and how he can bring Clayton in for good.

    This is Williamson’s show all the way. While he was and still is clearly known for his Blaxploitation pictures like Hammer, Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem, this was not the only western he’d make. He appeared in The Legend Of Nigger Charley in 1972, Antonio Margheriti’s Take A Hard Ride in 1975 and Joshua in 1976 (though you could argue all of those are Blaxploitation pictures in their own right as they deal with many of the same themes that those in a modern urban setting address). Williamson seems comfortable in the wild west setting, he’s got an effortless cool to his performance here that works really well and he looks great strutting about with all the confidence in the world. As a black man he may be very much in the minority in this setting, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he carries himself, and a lot of what makes this movie work simply boils down to Williamson being Williamson.

    The supporting players, however, are also a lot of fun. Dolemite’s D’Urville Martin is pretty great as Boss’ sidekick. He’s there for occasional comic relief but he plays his part well. William Smith, of Andy Sidaris’ Seven and Conan The Barbarian fame (and yeah, we’ll throw Geteven in to the mix as well), has always been a fine choice for slimy villains and his take on Clayton is slimy and villainous enough to work. Lovely ladies Carmen Hayward and Barbara Leigh (who shows up all over the place in the seventies – Sidaris’ Seven again, Pretty Maids All In A Row, Mistress Of The Apes and a lot of TV work) play their respective roles really well and also give the movie some welcome sex appeal.

    Arnold’s direction is tightly paced and we get some nice camera work by Roberto Caramico (who shot a few Williamson movies as well as horror pictures like Eaten Alive and Lemora – not to mention he served as director on Sex Rituals Of The Occult!) that gives the movie a reasonably stylish look. The locations used for the feature hold up just fine and you’ve got to give full marks to the score from Leon Moore (and the theme song sung by none other than ‘Terrible Tom!’).

    Boss - Blu-ray Review:

    Boss arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. The movie is watchable enough but it is definitely on the soft side. There doest appear to be some noise reduction here, but some of the softness could be due to the elements used (the original press release noted this as coming from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative but that information has been omitted from the info on the back cover of the Blu-ray itself). Colors look okay, if slightly faded in spots, while black levels are decent enough. There are some spots where compression artifacts are noticeable and mild print damage does appear throughout – but this does show a reasonable amount of increased detail and texture, mostly in close up shots more so than in the really wide shots that are used throughout the movie.

    The LPCM 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s original English language, sounds okay. Dialogue is clear and while there’s some minor hiss present in a few spots, the track is pretty clean for the most part. Levels are balanced properly and the score sounds good. Optional English subtitles are included.

    Extras start off with A Conversation With Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson,' a twenty-seven-minute interview conducted with the man himself by Joel Blumberg. This isn’t ‘Boss specific’ so much as it is a career retrospective piece, covering Williamson’s sports career and then his early days in the film industry but also touching on his education and his career as an architect! The piece then covers his movie and TV work and then how things took off for him in a pretty big way after appearing in M*A*S*H.

    A Boss Memory spends eight-minutes with Producer Myrl Schrelbman who talks about landing her job working on this one right after finishing university. She shares some insight into how the film was funded, what it was like working with Arnold and Williamson, as well as how and why the shooting locations were chosen. Schrelbma also shows up in a Jack Arnold Tribute that runs just short of four-minutes. Here she shares some details on his career and memories and of what it was like collaborating with him on various projects.

    Outside of that, the disc also includes a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. The disc also includes reversible sleeve art with the original poster art on the reverse side.

    Boss – The Final Word:

    Boss is a solid western that deals with racism both bluntly, and effectively. Williams is great in the lead, playing the macho Boss with all the flair and style you’d expect from the man, and there’s a good supporting cast here too. VCI’s Blu-ray looks okay and features some alright extras, even if it isn’t super packed. It’s not the best the format has to offer, but it offers a modest upgrade over the DVD releases that have come out over the years.

    Click on the images below for full sized Boss Blu-ray screen caps!