DISCO GODFATHER TEASER TRAILER: A Hot Mess from 1979

Following a string of three successful independent films, Rudy Ray Moore’s Hollywood career effectively ended with the release of Disco Godfather. Although the demise of Blaxploitation and anti-disco backlash contributed, the movie failed chiefly because of the absence of Moore’s raunchy aesthetic. In an attempt to adjust his style for mass consumption, Moore produced a “message” movie, situating elements of past work (mainly Kung-Fu oriented action films) within a disco setting.

The story goes like this: Moore is a hot (albeit geriatric) DJ at an equally hot L.A. nightclub. His nephew, an aspiring basketball star, gets hooked on angel dust which threatens to derail his athletic career. Moore attempts to infiltrate the drug ring (operated by respected political leader) while leading a group of like-minded martial artists cum community activists. The film culminates in a drug-induced freak out sequence that’s among the most bizarre in the Blaxploitation oeuvre.

Here’s a breakdown of the teaser:

Composition: Clocking in at just over two minutes, the trailer is organized into three acts: 1) Moore cavorting with various women (machismo); 2) a montage of fight scenes (uber machismo), and 3) disco boogie-oogie-oogie bliss (moderately feminized).

Music/Dialogue: The promo is driven by a generic disco tune (the film’s repetitive theme music), punctuated by the sounds of karate punches and kicks. There are only two instances of audible dialogue. Instead, Moore narrates the trailer with a first-person rap that extols the “funky” virtues of the film. Right on!

Editing: The cutting is faced paced and action packed, spliced together in a blitzkrieg of 99 cuts, none lasting longer than 3 seconds. Perhaps a more effective approach would have been to synchronize the fighting and dancing with the percussion-heavy sound- track, using the beat for emphasis, energy and emotion.

Graphics: Design elements are simple: yellow sans-serif titles zoom in four times at the start and/or end of each act.

Marketing Effectiveness: This Disco Godfather trailer (there are two, this is the shorter) is misleading and doesn’t accurately convey the tone of the motion picture, although that may have been a marketing choice rather than a marketing error. While it does highlight fun, topical elements in a blatant attempt to attract younger moviegoers, the teaser undermines the film’s semi-serious anti-drug theme.

For example, the trailermakers included several shots of mounds of cocaine in the first act. These images, in conjunction with the fighting and dancing sequences, suggested that the movie would be a coked-out disco-karate fantasy when in fact, Disco Godfather is heavier, darker and “redemptive” in intention.

If you are a fan of bad films and worse trailers, you will want to add this teaser to your collection. In the canon of “sleaze tease,” it’s a masterpiece of mess.

GUEST BLOGGER: Tony Best
An alumnus of UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies masters degree program, Tony is a researcher, digital media producer/archivist and aspiring TV promo creative director based in Los Angeles. Currently, the video assets archivist for PromaxBDA, the professional organization for the TV promo business, Tony previously worked for the UCLA Archive where he contributed to several high-profile preservation projects, including digital restoration of “lost” television programs and coordinating the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s “L.A. Rebellion” initiative (under the aegis of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time). He is also a regular contributor to the music and film quarterly Wax Poetics. Tony can be reached at tonyvision@me.com.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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