Both of these films were directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, a British filmmaker, which was rare for the Blaxploitation genre. He wasn’t well known, with That Kind of Girl being one of the few films he’s remembered for—he was the producer on that one, which was considered a bit scandalous when it came out, and has been released under BFI’s imprint Flipside.
Black Gunn (1972) is certainly the better of the two, with a more overt Blaxplotation plot. It stars Jim Brown, always a good sign, with Brown playing Gunn, a nightclub owner who is a Hugh Hefner-esque character. Gunn’s brother Scott has committed a robbery of a Mafia bookmaking operation—not the smartest idea—and he is also involved with BAG, a militant Black action group. Scott comes looking for help from his brother; meanwhile, Capelli, a Mafioso who is also a used car dealer (Martin Landau), hires a demented assassin (Crispin Glover) to recover the money by any means neccessary.
It’s got a run-of-the-mill plot, but Black Gunn has enough quirks to elevate it a bit above average. It won’t blow your mind by any stretch, but the solid cast of good character actors definitely helps. It’s a very enjoyable watch.
The Take was Hartford-Davis’s next film, and is a much more typical mid-70s cop thriller: a Blaxploitation-tinged crime story, but without the flare of that genre. The thing that kind of makes it unique is that it features Billy Dee Williams in one of his first leading roles. Williams had mainly done bit parts on TV from the late 60s until he finally started working in film around the middle of the 1970s.
There’s also no “good guy” in The Take, which makes it kind of interesting. Williams plays Terry Sneed, a San Francisco cop who is summoned to Paloma, New Mexico to take down a crime syndicate. However, Sneed is just as corrupt as everyone else, so the plot plays out in a series of double-crosses. I would guess that this performance is what got him his role in Star Wars, which makes sense as Lando Calrissien is also an ambivalent character.
While The Take is a perfectly fine movie, Black Gunn has the edge, as it’s just a bit more wild and a bit more fun.