Melvin Van Peebles had set the tone with “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” his independently made 1971 box-office hit about a performer in a sex show turned revolutionary. Gordon Parks’s “Shaft,” less transgressive but still wildly popular, appeared the same year.
By the late 1970s, the blaxploitation category had fizzled out. A decade later, young cinephiles and hip-hop artists would devour VHS tapes of “The Mack” and other gems from that era — a trove of movies with powerful Black imagery that also included “Super Fly” and “Black Caesar.”
“Because of Hollywood’s racism,” Dr. Boyd said, “at the time there was just not that much else. And the tale of an underworld figure like Goldie, working outside the system, was enormously appealing to the young rising stars of a new musical genre, gangsta rap.”
Mr. Julien worked as a screenwriter, too. “Cleopatra Jones” (1973), which he wrote, featured a different kind of hero, on the right side of the law. It starred the statuesque Tamara Dobson as a machine-gun-toting, martial-arts-swirling model and undercover agent on a mission to rid her community of drugs. (Shelley Winters played a drug lord named Mommy.)
He also wrote “Thomasine & Bushrod,” a lightly feminist western, released in 1974, and starred in it with Vonetta McGee, his girlfriend at the time. The film brings to mind a sweeter and goofier version of the 1967 movie “Bonnie & Clyde.” Mr. Julien said he was inspired by the exploits of a great-grandfather, a bank robber named Bushrod, to turn his family history into a love story.
Maxwell Julien Banks was born on July 12, 1933, in Washington. His father, Seldon Bushrod Banks, was an airline mechanic. His mother, Cora (Page) Banks, was a restaurant owner. She was murdered in her home in 1972, and Mr. Julien said that his grief over her death influenced his performance in “The Mack.”