Black Samson feels more serious than either of the Jim Kelly movies I watched in the last few weeks. Samson (Rockne Tarkington) has his nightclub, and he keeps his neighborhood clean of drugs and crime. Of course, because the neighborhood is not controlled or influenced by any gang, all the gangs want to claim it, the strongest of which is the Nappa family. Giovanni wants to try and make a deal, cut Samson in on the profits, which almost ends very badly for the Nappa family attorney. His nephew Johnny, bigoted, misogynist scumbag he is, prefers the direct route, and keeps trying to kill Samson. Even though the goons are largely incompetent, the fight scenes aren't played for laughs, or to let Samson show off how much better he is. He struggles to win at times, and there's no scenes of him hurling each guy through a different window or humiliating them by turning off the lights.
What was interesting is the film rejects any notion Samson can handle this alone. He tries, but it's pretty clear to everyone, including him, that he's only holding on because Nappa is only gradually increasing the pressure. He sends two guys after him, and even after they hit Samson with the car door, they still lose. So he hires 4 guys to jump him and his lady Leslie. When they fail, he tries three guys in a car. Samson keeps winning out, but the margin for error is getting narrower. There's more than a few times one of the goons got him down and I wondered if he'd be able to get back up. He throws one off, another comes at him. The whole "one man as the savior" thing is a no go. One man as an inspiration for others to rally around, that works, but one man against an army is a losing proposition. It's not a wholly unique approach, but there are an awful lot of movies where One Guy blows up the right thing and saves everything. So seeing one that dismisses that was unexpected.
I knew from reading a review of the film last year that Samson's pet lion does not eat anyone. Even so, I was disappointed that it doesn't do anything at all. Even when Nappa comes strutting in and tries to intimidate Leslie while Samson's out tracking some leads, the lion does nothing. Even when Nappa decides to show off by breaking a glass by sticking his fingers in it and flexing, the lion just gets this surprised look on its face, but otherwise won't even hop off the bar. No matter their size, cats are lazy and useless.