Murder Was the Case: The Movie (1994)

Posted on June 16, 2012


For rap fans too young to remember, there was a time when Snoop Dogg could truthfully be called the Michael Jackson of Hip Hop. From the low-key magnetism he displayed throughout the landmark Dr. Dre full-length The Chronic; to the widespread hysteria he caused with his debut album (1993’s DoggyStyle), Snoop Dogg wasn’t just the brightest Hip Hop star in the galaxy; he was a force of nature, affecting myriad sectors of the entertainment world. In the fall of 1994, as DoggyStyle held firm on the pop charts, Snoop’s sponsors – and Death Row Records founders – Dr. Dre and Suge Knight issued Murder was the Case: The Movie, a successful straight-to-video release that included a mini-film, in-depth interviews with Snoop, and music videos from both DoggyStyle and Murder Was the Case: The Soundtrack, a multi-platinum compilation that accompanied the film. In 2001, Suge Knight re-released Murder Was the Case: The Movie on DVD; and this video is still impeccable, even after two decades in circulation.

Overall, the material encompassing Murder Was the Case: The Movie is a mixed bag. The video opens with an in-depth look at Snoop Dogg; the molasses-voiced, Long Beach, California hustler who conquered the pop world in 1993-94. The DVD begins with interview clips of Snoop, detailing his roots and evolution in the rap game, while his mentor (and producer) Dr. Dre watches over him in the background. In between interviews, the doc moves into other areas. There’s a brief-but-memorable clip of a Dre-and-Snoop performance at the 1994 Soul Train Music Awards; with the Dynamic Duo driving on-stage in Dre’s maroon Chevrolet Impala, performing a few of their hits (“Nuthin But A G Thang”, “What’s My Name”), and getting the entire audience up out of their seats. There’s also a quick shot of Snoop’s performance at the ’94 American Music Awards, with Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound performing “Gin & Juice”, and Dr. Dre working the turntables behind them; which is followed by another timeless Snoop performance, on Saturday Night Live in early ’94, performing “Lodi Dodi” with Tha Dogg Pound in tow.

After the performance pieces come the videos: three full-length clips for the singles from DoggyStyle. The Fab 5 Freddy-directed “Who Am I (What’s My Name)” is as entertaining as it’s ever been; with canines that gangsta-boogie and disrupt neighborhood barbecues, dogs morphing into humans and vice versa, Snoop rhyming from the roof of Long Beach’s V.I.P. Records, and Snoop and his friends grooving the night away as the song fades out. The clip for “Gin & Juice”, which features a 6-year-old Bow Wow in its intro, is as debauched as the song it supports; finding Snoop staging a free-for-all party when his parents are away, his friends losing their inhibitions, and all of them turning Snoop’s home into a den of sin. And the “Doggy Dogg World” clip pays admirable tribute to the blaxploitation era. Comedian Ricky Harris plays Ta-Dow, an old-world player who owns the Carolina West club; several of the 1970’s coolest film icons appear, including Pam Grier (Foxy Brown), Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite), Ron O’Neal (Superfly), and Fred Williamson (Black Caesar). And Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, and legendary soul group The Dramatics then take the stage and turn the club out.

Murder Was the Case: The Movie also includes one more video from the DoggyStyle album: an extended clip of the song “Murder Was The Case”. The video comes at the tail end of the Murder Was The Case film. The 18-minute movie, co-written and directed by Dr. Dre, is an engrossing but violent affair. It stars Snoop Dogg, who’s caught in a love triangle that turns deadly. The always-engaging Charlie Murphy, of Chappelle’s Show fame, plays a man whose girlfriend is impregnated by Snoop, who then plots and carries out Snoop’s killing as payback. It’s an orgy of violence; as gun blasts interrupt the midnight calm, and the streets of Long Beach turn into a warzone. As Snoop is wheeled into intensive care, the video begins to play; and Snoop goes from the brink of death to paradise, and from paradise to prison. The movie might be a bit much for some, but Dre does a great job on the direction; the actors, particularly Charlie Murphy and Cylk Cozart (White Men Can’t Jump), who plays a distressed EMS driver, give credible performances; and Dre and his co-writer Philip G. Atwell pen a tight script as well.

This DVD also includes bonus videos, starting with the director’s cut of “Natural Born Killaz”, the Dr. Dre & Ice Cube banger from this film’s soundtrack, is here. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set it Off), the clip is furious and unrelenting; with Dre and Cube pulling off crimes of the century, veteran actor John Amos leading the police hunt for them, and an uncredited Tupac Shakur as an LAPD sniper. The DVD also houses two unreleased videos from Doggumentary, Snoop Dogg’s shelved 1997 album. “Head Doctor” is an R-rated clip; with suggestive situations, plenty of skin shown, and a bit of gunplay at the end. And “Midnight Love”, the silky first single from Doggumentary, closes out the DVD. It’s a simple clip, with Raphael Saadiq‘s smooth vocals filling the chorus, and Snoop and his cousin Daz Dillinger cruising the darkened streets of L.A. after sundown.

Murder Was the Case: The Movie was pretty good the first time around; but it’s even better with Suge Knight’s millennial additives. This DVD encapsulates Snoop Dogg’s historic stint with at Death Row Records from beginning to end; and would be a great addition to your Hip Hop DVD collection. Check it out.

Review by Syd Caesar

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