After Fred "The Hammer" Williamson carved out a stellar career as a defensive back in the National Football League with teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs (Williamson played in Super Bowl I), The Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers, Williamson tackled Hollywood and became an accomplished writer, producer and director.
Williamson, along with Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Ron O'Neal and Jim Kelly became the undisputed kings of action hero films in the 1970s.
The handsome, hunky actor who even formed his own "Po' Boy Productions" company, played everything from a gangster ("Black Caesar" and "Hell Up In Harlem" 1973 ), private detectives ("No Way Back" 1976 and "Black Eye" 1974) to even a James Bond type spy in ("That Man Bolt").
And while Williamson has more than 75 movies to his credit, he says "That Man Bolt" is one of his favorites. The reason? "That Man Bolt" was really ahead of its time," Williamson told N2Entertainment.net during a telephone interview.
"It was really the first authentic black James Bond type movie. Universal pictures planned to make a three-picture deal out of "That Man Bolt," but it never came to be. Black actors weren't looked upon as a James Bond type character or leading men during the '70s. So Universal didn't pursue making the additional movies."
Still, Williamson says "That Man Bolt" was actually a bigger film than "Black Caesar." "It was a big budget production and it grossed very well in America and overseas," he said. "It happened before the so called blaxploitation explosion hit. It was really a different type of film. Audiences hadn't seen this type of black action spy hero before."
In "That Man Bolt" Williamson plays a secret spy named Jefferson Bolt (similar initials to James Bond). Bolt is asked by a mysterious British man to transport a briefcase with one million dollars in it from Hong Kong to Mexico City or he'll be brought up on trumped up charges.
Naturally along the way everyone wants the money and thugs come after Bolt to try and take him down. Things really get heated when Bolt visits his lounge singer girlfriend, Samantha Nightingale (played by the late Teresa Graves ("Get Christie Love.") in Las Vegas where he learns the money in the briefcase is counterfeit. Bolt has been set up and Samantha gets caught up in the drama and is killed.
Now Bolt is beyond mad and is on the hunt for her killers. He doesn't know that there's also a contract out on him by a vicious assassin named Spider (Ken Kazama). But Bolt is no pushover.
He easily takes care of his foes largely due to his mastery of martial arts and cunning spy techniques. In real life, Williamson actually has black belts in karate and was trained by the legendary Bruce Lee.
We know too that Bolt is going to prevail here because Williamson has three rules that he demands in all his movies. The first is that he wins all his fights, doesn't get killed and ALWAYS gets the girl(s) if he wants to.
In addition to the explosions and fight sequences in "That Man Bolt," the movie has some beautiful scenes of Hong Kong and Japan where the film was made.
And while "Black Caesar" and "Three the Hard Way" are perhaps my favorite Fred Williamson movies, I enjoy "That Man Bolt" because as Williamson says it was ahead of its time.
Williamson steps out of the so called "blaxploitation box" and reveals a different side of himself to audiences. It would have been interesting to see how this spy character, Bolt would have developed had Universal made more films.
There was a bit of chatter that MGM might do a remake of "Black Caesar." There seemed to be a stir of interest in the whole blaxploitation genre. Queen Latifah was rumored to star in a remake of Isaac Hayes' "Truck Turner." I remember talking with Halle Berry about stepping into Pam Grier's role as "Foxy Brown."
All of these would be great to revisit, especially Williamson's Tommy Gibbs character in "Black Caesar."
"I have the script ready to go," says Williamson who would no doubt still look good in that trademark Dobbs hat that he rocked in "Black Caesar." "There's no question that there is a huge audience for these types of films. The studios are finally coming around and realizing this."
Eddie Murphy kind of jumpstarted things with the 2019 critically acclaimed comedy, "Dolemite Is My Name."
We at N2Entertainment.net sure hope Williamson is right and studios consider revisiting these entertaining, golden oldies.