At their most eye-socking, movie posters in the 1970s mimicked the hard sell of pulp-paperback covers, promising a complete combo package of sex, violence, and uptown flair exploding from the screen. And no other genre of movie poster flexed and flashed its gleaming muscle and hardware with the taking-care-of-business bombast of “blaxploitation,” as urban action films with major Black stars and blistering soundtracks came to be known.
“Jim Brown is ‘SLAUGHTER,’” proclaims a poster showing the former footballer in a tux, firing a double-barreled shotgun. “It’s not only his name it’s his business and sometimes—his pleasure!” Damn right it is!
The Slaughter poster is featured in the exhibition “You Won’t Bleed Me: How Blaxploitation Posters Defined Cool and Delivered Profits,” curated by Adam Howard, which pays tribute to the pride and splendor of blaxploitation iconography, where everything looks syruped with honey-gold and James Bond luxe. “This exhibit is rated M for Mature for depictions of violence, nudity, and profanity,” the program advises, so don’t say you weren’t warned, sucka. —James Wolcott
“You Won’t Bleed Me” is on at Poster House, in New York City, through February 6