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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Sugar Hill (1974)

When a movie begins with The Originals singing Supernatural Voodoo Woman you know you have to be onto a good thing. Then again, how can you go wrong with a blaxploitation zombie movie? How many blaxploitation zombie movies are there? Not enough, that's how many.

This one is an American International release starring the wonderfully named Marki Bey who has such exotic features that I'm surprised to find that she didn't make more than five films and a handful of TV episodes. Her biggest role was probably in a recurring role in Starsky and Hutch and that's unfortunate. She's certainly no great actor but she's very easy on the eye, even when she's overacting up a storm, and she looks like a whiter version of Pam Grier. She's the Diana 'Sugar' Hill of the title and she works at the Club Haiti because her boyfriend Langston owns it and because it gives us some nice easy voodoo scenes to back up the opening credits.

However Langston doesn't have much of a part. He gets killed pretty quickly by a bunch of traditionally outrageous blaxploitation bad guys (though some are white), who flounce into the club like they own the place then hide in the car park with see through nylon stockings over their heads but wearing the same instantly recognisable outfits. Not that anyone recognised them, of course. Anyway, Diana has plenty of hate in her heart for the killers, so she visits Mama Maitresse who is a scary white haired black voodoo queen played by the mother from The Jeffersons. Mama Maitresse conjures up Baron Samedi, who in the form of Don Pedro Colley would have looked pretty cool in the role had I not seen a few Coffin Joe movies in my time. In turn Baron Samedi conjures up an army of zombies and our film is rocking and rolling.

I'm spoiled for zombies too having watched a couple of Lucio Fulci classics recently, and while I can't really speak as to just how good Zombie 2 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters) really is, given that I watched it with Dutch subtitles and no sound, but the zombies looked freaking awesome, especially compared with these ones with their eyes that look like steel balls. At least they all come out of the grave already equipped with machetes and coated in cobwebs so big bad boss man Morgan is in trouble. And he's played by Robert Quarry, Count Yorga himself! Hey, one of them even looks like Michael Jackson, ten years before Thriller.

This is great fun, though it's no great film. Then again you wouldn't expect great films to have walking severed chicken legs attacking people. This is the sort of film where people get killed by zombie masseuses or get fed to pigs or get locked into snake filled coffins. It's the sort of film where a branch of the Houston Public Library becomes the Voodoo Museum and Research Library, with its resident expert on all matters undead. It's the sort of film where the heroine is called Sugar and her ex-boyfriend is called Valentine. If that appeals, then you'll find an enjoyable exploitation flick with all its over the top dialogue and awesomely bad 70s dresses. If that doesn't appeal, then you'll think the whole thing is nuts. Me? I loved it though the score was pretty terrible, Supernatural Voodoo Woman excepted.

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