GETTING OVER (1981; Just For the Hell of It).
Years before John Daniels starred in the blaxploitation duo of BLACK SHAMPOO and THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN, he was the founder and longtime owner of South LA's Maverick's Flat nightclub -- a booming hotspot in the late-'60s, highlighting the city's black music scene -- as well as creating and managing an all-female, disco/soul ensemble called The Love Machine, which put out a handful of albums in the 1970s and toured with Tom Jones, but petered out by 1980. Leave it to the enterprising Daniels to concoct a project that would highlight both of these passions, with himself tackling the lead (of course), in what turned out to be his final major screen role. Written by Daniels and first-time director Bernie Rollins, the result was this earnest but cliché-riddled 'feel good' rags-to-riches melodrama with music... Hard-working but annoyingly enthusiastic Mike Barnett (Daniels) has had zero luck breaking into the Los Angeles music biz. Undaunted that no one wants to sign his off-key female quartet, The Heavenly Sisters, Mike instead starts his own label, Impossible Funky Records, despite being so broke that he can't even afford a phone. Meanwhile, sleazy corporate record exec Arnold Stanfield Stone (John F. Goff) is being forced by recent federal Affirmative Action rulings to hire minorities at Tremendous Musicorporation. His bright idea is to purchase a cheap token subsidiary and use it as a tax write-off. Unaware that Stone doesn't plan to actually release any of his music, naive Barnett sells his label and rents himself a swanky new office/nightclub/recording-studio combo (i.e, Maverick's Flat). Subplots include Mike romancing the club's single-mom cleaning lady, Gwen Gibbons (Daniel's off-screen wife, Gwen Brisco, who performed as a solo act throughout the 1980s, with hubbie producing her shows), discovering that she's a natural singer/dancer and adding her to his ever-growing musical group. He also signs pompous music superstar Deff Jeff Marvelous (Buzz Cooper, previously one of LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE's blackout players), antagonizes a local Mafia-style thug (Don Edmonds, who directed Daniels in TENDER LOVING CARE) and submits his newly-christened septet The Love Machine for a live "citizen's choice" show (with a diverse line-up that includes rock band E.F. Shotgun, the Asian Persuasion quartet and WHAT'S HAPPENINGS' Mabel King belting out a snippet of "We Got Love")... Thoroughly predictable and padded out with overlong musical numbers, the film's unapologetic, upbeat cheesiness is its only saving grace. Daniels is just as wooden as ever, but minus the cheesy action and violence of his earlier films; Goff plays despicable-racist Stone with all the subtlety of a Saturday Morning cartoon villain, even resorting to kidnapping in order to win that local music contest; none of The Love Machine ladies are given much opportunity to act; while young Donneice Jackson as Gwen's daughter is grating in a precocious sitcom-kid way. With a strictly-PG approach limiting its potential, the film barely played theatres -- though in LA, its premiere engagement was accompanied by a live performance from The Love Machine.
© 2019 by Steven Puchalski.