Hello again, Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World! You may recall a few months ago when that unholy fucker of mothers, Wes Allen, asked me to contribute a tribute piece on Pam Grier. Well, Brothers and Sisters, it got me thinking about who else deserved a tribute article. I came up with a list; today, we’ll be looking at football star (that’s American Football), actor and director Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. First off, let me just say that anyone who can pull off having the nickname “The Hammer” is either the Norse God of Thunder or otherwise a certified stone cold badass. And let me just say, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson is a STONE COLD BADASSSSSSS.
And how did he get the nickname “The Hammer” you ask? Well, when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers after college, his attitude towards being asked to play defense caused him to hit his target too hard, leading the coach to tell him to stop “hammering.” The nickname stuck. in 1960, he spent a year playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, then switched to the Oakland Raiders for four seasons, followed by three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He played in the very first Super Bowl before ultimately retiring from football in 1967.
Following his retirement from football, Williamson tried his hand at architecture, though ultimately decided that it wasn’t for him and tried his hand at acting. His earliest role was in an episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cloud Minders.” His earliest film role was in 1970, the film version of M*A*S*H*.
in 1972, Williamson appeared in HAMMER, the story of a black boxer who rises to the top with the aid of the Mafia, before being ordered to take a fall — or else his girlfriend gets it. This was Williamson’s first Blaxploitation film, but far from his last. He followed HAMMER with a trio of Blaxploitation Westerns — THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY, THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY, and BOSS NIGGER (1972, 1973, and 1975, respectively; BOSS NIGGER is currently on DVD as simply BOSS) and urban action films such as BLACK CAESAR — a Blaxploitation updating of the Edward G. Robinson classic LITTLE CAESAR — and its sequel, HELL UP IN HARLEM.
Films like JOSHUA, ADIOS AMIGO, and TAKE A HARD RIDE continued Williamson’s Western work, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS brought him into war movies, and by the 1980s, with Blaxploitation’s star waning, Williamson traveled to Italy to find work. This lead to such post-apocalyptic greats as THE NEW BARBARIANS, 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS, and WARRIOR OF THE WASTELAND. Italians had not had their fill of Blaxploitation, leading to the BLACK COBRA series of films.
In 1996, The Hammer found a new audience with Robert Rodriguez’ FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, fighting vampires, and more recently, he’s appeared in the film version of STARSKY AND HUTCH, the anal-probe-centric SPACED OUT (which he admits “I don’t know why I did it”) and 2011’s ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: REDEMPTION.
March 2011, I was lucky enough to get to meet The Hammer at Monster Mania 17 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. As I approached his table, Fred Williamson looked at me skeptically, and asked, “Are you even old enough to know who I am?” He pointed to a few of the 8x10s he had at his table, asking me to identify the movies they were from. I did so, because hey, I know my shit. I wouldn’t be asking for an autograph if I didn’t know who he was, right? Impressed, he made out the autograph to me, and I went to shake his hand. He stopped me, took my hand, curled it into a fist, and fist-bumped me. Pure class. When I asked for a photo with him, he gripped my hand and cracked a lopsided grin, flashing the peace sign with his free hand.
Look at that jacket. Black buckskin fringe and Amerindian beadwork? You have to be a badass to sport a jacket like that confidently.