Its 10:00 pm
Going back once again into the wayback machine for this review. Last year my fellow film buff Romey and I were watching a cool movie called “Black Belt Jones” which starred Jim Kelly,a famed martial artist who starred with Bruce Lee and John Saxon in “Enter the Dragon”. As we watched that movie,I asked Romey he knew who Calvin Lockhart was and he said “Hell yeah I do!”
As we started talking about Calvin,I mentioned seeing him as the lead in a movie called “The Baron”. Not only did “The Baron” have Lockhart as its lead,it also the great Richard Lynch as the heavy and featured Charles McGregor,who was also in another blaxploitation classic and one the cheetah and I reviewed,”Super Fly“.Romey ended up getting a copy of “The Baron” and reviewed it on his blog.
While I was floating around the Warner Brothers Archive,I saw the cover for “Melinda” and when I saw that not only was Calvin Lockhart the lead actor but also the film debut of Jim Kelly,I knew the cheetah and I had to watch and review it. As you can see,I am a big Lockhart fan and I think Romey put it best when he said “He was Denzel before Denzel”.
Frankie Parker (Calvin Lockhart) has it all,a kick ass radio show he deejays at,a local TV show he films,a smooth crib and brand new Corvette. People love Frankie,especially the single ladies of Los Angeles.
Frankie can be at home where ever he is,be posh parties or dropping by a club and making it a “place to be seen at”. Of course with fame comes all sorts of folks who could a little the smooth charm of Frankie Parker and that includes the local inner city dojo run by Frankie’s sensei Charles (Jim Kelly). After a tough sparring session where as Charles handles Frankie,he asks for Frankie’s help in posting a PSA on Frankie’s highly rated radio show that will help Charles and the kids he is teaching. Despite knowing the radio station owner wouldn’t like it,Frankie helps out before getting for a public appearance at a swanky club.
Its at this club that Frankie meets the beautiful Melinda (Vonetta McGee). Frankie is instantly attracted to her and sits down at her table. As the two talk,Frankie is impressed by the cool mystery lady who seems quit hip to his jive. As Frankie looks to examine Melinda’s gold cigarette case,she panics a little and snatches it back,we know something is going on with that case.
Frankie then takes Melinda to a huge party on his friend’s boat. Tank and Frankie have been friends for a while but the fact Tank is seeing Frankie’s old girlfriend Terry (Rosalind Cash) has strained their friendship a bit,especially since Terry still has feelings for Frankie. Its then that we see that Melinda is being followed and now Frankie is with her,so is he.
Frankie and Melinda hit it off and Frankie is crazy for her but Melinda is holding back. She doesn’t want to be a notch on the bedpost,she and Frankie spend several days together before they make love and start acting as a real couple. Things are going well,Melinda is comfortable at the apartment as Frankie does his radio show and heads over to tape his TV show.
But when he returns to his apartment,he finds it ransacked and Melinda has been brutally murdered. Before Frankie can move,the police show up and take him into custody.
After Frankie gets bailed out,he begins to start looking for Melinda’s killer(s) not knowing they already have a head start and not only that,they are connected to a Syndicate family who will stop at nothing to find out what Frankie knows about Melinda……
Did we like “Melinda”? Of course we did! This movie had it all,action,mystery,betrayal and Jim Kelly kicking much ass!! “Melinda” was a rarity in the blaxploitation era in that it was produced,written and directed by an all African-American crew. The story was written by Lonne Elder who also played a cop in the film and Hugh A. Robertson did a fine job as the director. My only “complaint” was I wish there had just been a little more action. The music is also outstanding as legends Jerry Butler and Jerry Peter keep “Melinda” gliding along its twists and turns.
The acting ranges from great in Lockhart and McGee to steady with everyone else. Long time character actor Paul Stevens plays a fine bad guy who finds out that while Frankie may not be able to handle Jim Kelly,he is more then capable of beating a Syndicate boss!
This was Calvin Lockhart’s next to last leading role,he did “The Baron” in 1977 and that was it,he was only found occasional work on TV shows like “Good Times” and “Starsky and Hutch” as well as popping up in a rare film role. Lockhart was born ahead of his time because he would be a huge star in today’s Hollywood.
McGee would go on to have a solid career as well,she starred in the cult classic “Blacula” as well as “Shaft Goes to Africa”. She too,like Lockhart,ended up doing TV guest spots but she was much more active including starring on 5 short-lived series.
“Melinda” isn’t a film that is seen very much and for that we can thank Warner Brothers Archives for not only putting this movie back out to be re-discovered but other classic blaxploitation films like “Super Fly” and “Cleopatra Jones”.
“Melinda” is rated “R” and has a run time of 1 hour and 49 minutes. Sadly,there is no special features other then the original film trailer. The cheetah and I gave “Melinda” two thumbs and 4 paws straight up…
You can go to the website of Warner Brothers Archive and pick up a copy of this little slice of cinema goodness.
Do you have a favorite blaxploitation film? Tell us what it is and what makes it special.