Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let's Review, A Movie Called "Sugar Hill" (1974) Not the one with Wesley Snipes

Okay so I watched Sugar Hill over the weekend and as promised here is my review of the Blacksploitation-Zombie film made in 1974 in HOUSTON, TEXAS no less! FYI, The Heights Branch of the Houston Public Library was used in the film as a "Voodoo Institute".
The Gist: Basically, white gangsters want to take this black dudes nightclub (Club Haiti). He refuses, and of course they kill him and find that his club has been left to his foxy lady (Sugar) who vows revenge and gets her mom (a 100 yr old voo-doo queen—who also played George Jefferson’s Mother) to stick it to the culprits. The zombies come and avenge her lover’s death and as payment the king of the zombies gets the girlfriend of the lead gangster dude. The Foxy Lady offers him her soul but he doesn’t really “do” souls and she refuses to go live in the underworld with him sooooo, that other chick kinda has to go.
Some Background: This movie had some serious racial overtones and some taboo concepts especially for the time it was filmed and the place (Texas). I mean if you’re gonna give the black king of the zombies a white woman after killing off all the white gangsters (typically referred to as Honkies, Whitey or Cracker in the film) then yeah, you’ve really decided to “go there” as the kids say. The movie has the “N” word liberally distributed which would be disturbing except and I know you may not believe me, but, it was sort of necessary because it was an attempt to illustrate class inferiority and racial tension as fast and effectively as possible (the movie was only about 90 minutes including credits). The zombies are actually slaves circa 1700 Louisiana who were buried in a mass grave with their chains still on after  some sort of outbreak.
The Good Stuff: The writer of this flick gets his zombies the good old fashioned  way; VOODOO, Jive Suckas! Yeah that’s right, no tainted burger meat or nuclear accidents. Just homegrown, chicken feet, African dance, snake handling, crazy drums that simulate the beat of a racing heart as it runs from the clutches of the undead and of course stuff with Blood. Oh and machetes! Lots and lots of machetes! I mean almost ALL of the dude zombies have machetes. Oh and the Zombie King is apparently a “great lover” and has Zombie honeys with which to “get-down” with.
The zombies were pretty impressive if you ask me. I mean they had these silver eye covers and make-up that must have been a show-stopper in 1974! If you want abs painted on a damn zombie, call whoever the hell painted the abs on these zombies! What I didn’t get was the zombies covered in cobwebs…was there some zombie spider in that mass grave sucking the zombie blood from these things? If so, I WISH they had shown it!
Lame Stuff that I LOVE: B-ROLL! I freaking love B-Roll! You know that footage of like people getting on a city bus, A soccer Mom buying tomatoes or some random stray dog walking down the street…yeah, that’s the stuff! The B-roll for this film is fantastic! It was relevant and meshed perfectly with the film and I am gonna go out on a limb and say its because at the time of the filming, that Mutual Of Omaha Wild Kingdom (1963-1988 and restarted 2002 on Animal Planet) show was pretty popular. Hell I remember racing to the television to watch those nature shows with my brothers. This film had footage of some huge gators emerging like bullet trains from some shadowy swamp and one of those crazy sidewinder looking snakes skimming the murky waters of some swamp. Yeah, its called non-specific “but hella relevant” B-roll fools! Get some!
More Lame stuff I love: Now at first glance the movie seems campy, over the top and downright bad BUT I think what this film does right is FASHION honey! (I just gave you my best right handed finger-snap ala Men-On-Film from In Living Color). These actors are dressed to the NINES in this film). I love the King of the zombies (Baron Samedi), because he was dressed like the Conjure Man from the Princess and The Frog (somebody get my lawyer on the phone—finally we got Disney by the…frogs legs). And what blacksploitation film would be complete without a brother named Valentine (played by a dude who has been in everything! Namely, as Dr. Ben Taylor on the 1983 version of “V”, my least favorite episodes of “Sister-Sister” and oh as Mr. Bostic on that episode of the Cosby Show where cousin Pam applies to college! You remember Pam right? She was Maxine Shaw on “Living Single”). What was I saying, oh yeah, Valentine is a Leiutenant who apparently has no detectives working under him because he does all his own leg work and also pines for Foxy Lady (Her name is Diana “Sugar” Hill in the movie). Valentine’s suits are out of control, even for the early 70s.
The Acting: Let’s not play games here, the acting was ridiculous. Crazy, awkward, pregnant pauses everywhere. People trying not to look into the camera, and my personal favorite, people doing weird stuff with their hands. Like in that Supernatural where Sam and Dean are actors on a set and Sam has No clue what to do with his hands so he keeps lifting them up and out from his body while looking past the person he’s speaking to, remember that? Yeah, LOTS of that stuff so I of course loved it! 
Rating: 3 out of 5 Dyno-mites! The gore is actually kept to a minimum and you don’t really see the bodies until after they have been attacked by zombies and even then it isn’t very graphic or anything. It’s too funny to be graphic, not as funny as say…Swamp Shark was but still pretty funny. The only reason this isn’t rated higher is because you can’t watch it with little ones. The language is just really gritty and racially charged although not particularly lascivious or explicit. But unless you’re ready to have a conversation about race and such with the kiddos, you might leave this one in your Netflix queue until the kids are asleep. I say check it out at least and tell me what you think.

Karma out
Us!

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