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Black Exploitation, Blaxploitation I guess, as it has for some time been adopted as a real word, wasn't a new thing in 1975. I should note that the term "blaxploitation" was coined because of the continuation of the low-budget "exploitation" film making of the 60s. It wasn't about the big studios using black actors and actresses, it was about fantastic alternatives to those less than daring movies. Black Exploitation films satisfied the demand oozing from inner city audiences for movies made by and for blacks. Most blacks in the period didn't really buy any of that Sidney Poiter bullshit that Hollywood was pumping out. Melvin Van Peebles flipped the world a bird when he produced SWEET SWEETBACK'S BADAASS SONG, a film that so alienated white audiences, the film rarely showed outside of major metropolitan cities and aside from the few established white critics who were praising it, few crackers had the balls the brave the long lines of darker hued patrons crowding the streets waiting to get in. And so it all began, black man could enjoy watching other blacks in less than mainstream movies, exploitation films were no longer just for us honkys, they (African-Americans) got their own shitty movies, with crazy funk soundtracks, the wackiest day-glo clothing and actual dialogue that sometimes barely resembled the King's English. There are great films on all levels that fit the mold. From the Oscar winning SHAFT to the fantastic horror of SUGAR HILL and ABBY to the straight up exploitation of BLACK SHAMPOO, black films just like their pasty brethren, were going all over the map, no film proves this any more than DARKTOWN STRUTTERS.

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is one of those "what in the Hell were they thinking" moments you rarely see so effectively transferred to the big screen. You jaded fucks out there who think you've seen all the true, great films in the Blaxploitation genre and have not taken this brain-bending wonder work in are just lying to yourselves. DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is in a league all its own.

A mishmash of Hanna-Barbara-like costumes, colors, choreography and characters, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is a comedy that utilizes the taboo subject of racial prejudice as a wacky backdrop. You heard me right, the film finds a way to make racism funny, and not just to us whiteys! In DARKTOWN STRUTTERS stereotypes are not only brought to life as characters, they are overtly exaggerated and spit back at us in a way that is so fucking smart, you might just miss the message. Great fucking satire is built on those pretenses. Taking something potentially volatile, refusing to dumb it down or in some cases dumbing it down to retarded level and delivering the goods in a risky but nonetheless funny manner is something DARKTOWN STRUTTERS does very well.

The plot is not one of conventional filmmaking. Syreena is looking for Cinderella (Syrenna's mother) who has come up missing. Syreena is the leader of an all girl motorcycle gang, the film's title is the name of the gang. Darktown Strutters is a reference to the Benny Goodmen Classic "Darktown Strutters Ball" as well as the minstrel troupe of the same name. These Darktown Strutters all dress in semi-matching biking gear consisting of skintight, polyester suits in various unmentionable shades of the rainbow, helmets customized with wings, sequins, fake fur, feathers and foil and of course the rage at the time "stacks." Fucking stacks, if you only knew how I begged my Mamaw for a par of multicolored, thick fucking soled, slip-on STACKS! I finally got a pair, hand-me-downs, about the time the craze was over. (Sigh, you can bet I wasn't gonna miss that Jazz Oxford phase when I got the chance, fuck you Stacks, these are Punk…kinda…are these as gay as I think they are?) Anyway. You get my point these gals are decked out like an explosion happened at The Sylvers house! And the bikes, oh the bikes, those big-assed trikes with VW engines, CragerTM wheels and fiberglass, George Barris wet-dream body moldings. These ladies are the penultimate, flashy group of biker babes. But my description is nothing, you have to see them. From the opening sequence where a few marines try and play a little grab ass, we see film manipulated by jump-cuts and fast-motion effects that lends itself more to the classic silent-era comedy than the expected SHAFT type posturing. It makes sense that William Whitney, who is best known for his work in the 40s on great serials like RED RYDER and THE CRIMSON GHOST was brought in to add a unique visual style reminiscent of the "good old days." He mixes the palette of Peter Max and the slapstick of days gone buy beautifully. I mean the fucker manages to get a fart joke in and a couple keystone cops, neither for any particular reason. DARKTOWN STRUTTERS strangely was Whitney's last directing credit. With a career that had begun in the mid 1930s, maybe he was just really tired.

As Syreena begins her quest to find Cinderella, a cast of wacky characters fill screen from all corners. You've got the rival/come-love interest male gang, their leader, Mellow (TV's MAGNUM, P.I. chopper pilot Roger Mosely) cruises around on a Vespa. You've got the cops who are part of the Ghetto Alert Squad, who for some reason have a flashing red light on their cruiser the size of the top of the crusier. Hugo, one of the cops is easily the most recognizable, the cult icon himself Dick Miller, who has graced the shit stained screens of great productions like IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, THE STUDENT NURSES, ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and multitudes more. Hugo's squad has a giant Terminator-type character, a fat ass who can never get through a door and a loose cannon. When a fellow office dons black face, a wig and a tight dress to lure a rapist who is preying on "nigger faggots." The whole squad fires on him in the police station, killing him, because he looked like a "nigger faggot." Wow. They also have a big crime-computer-map thing that alerts them to anything going on in the neighborhood, when it sounds a blinking red sign flashes "Nigger Alarm." Wow, again.

There is zany fucking plot point after zany fucking plot point. The rib, no pun intended, on chicken king Colonel Sanders involves buckets of ribs served up by the very popular Louisville Cross, with every bucket you get a free slice of watermelon! Cross's patented "Nigger Making Machine" (" a colored cloning device" named Annie) is also an important element in the film (why wouldn't be?) Cross is a closeted racist who makes big inspirational speeches to the blacks who buy his grub and then goes home and has house servants that look like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, she even makes giant pancakes! He also has his own Minstrel show complete with black-faced Rastuses and Remuses. His lackys all dress in pink pig costumes and he also finances the KluKluxKlan in some way. Yeah, the Klan is here, on motorcycles, with goggles over their hoods, the Grand Wizard in a red hood and cape with red underwear and thigh-high leggings. Their bikes even have giant cross sissy-bars on the back. It never ends, I'm telling you, every frame has something visually that boots you in the balls. And it is all tied together with tons of funk and R&B from the cast as well as The Dramatics who perform their big hit "I can't get over you," from a jail cell in a dungeon, in full matching outfits and a tinsel backdrop.

But with all the crazy visuals and a plot that at best, is virtually impossible to comprehend or follow, what makes DARKTOWN STRUTTERS so great is the Blitzkrieg dialogue. With lines like "it's like rape, you got to ask for it!" Political correctness was absent the day they made DARKTOWN STRUTTERS and that is what makes it so unique. Pimps, hos, dope smoking Black Good Humor men selling Pot Sickles, stupid cops and a rib-wrangling racist trying to make his own "niggers" with a big machine to keep his restaurants full of rib-eating "darkies." Don't expect Hollywood to remake this one or any film even remotely like it ever again.

The script was penned by future good director, George Armitage who drafted the screenplay and directed the film based on Charles Willeford's sleazy white trash novel MIAMI BLUE as well as directed the well received GROSS POINTE BLANK. The film also includes quite a few familiar faces. Syreena is played by the gorgeous Trina Parks (the black Bond baddie in DIAMOND ARE FOREVER) Parks is a trained dancer and has the body to prove it. And she can act, there's rarely a scene she isn't dominating. TV's Mother Jefferson, Zara Culley gets a small role as does Uncle Woody from Sanford and Son, Raymond Allen.

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is confusing, contrived, corny and absolutely...classic. A time capsule of the psychedelic 70s, black awareness and true funk tuneage, it is required genre viewing. More outlandish than the DOLEMITE series and twice as smart, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is its own thing. There are so many noggin-scratching moments, flying racial slurs, illogical plot dynamics and stereotypical characters you'll want to watch this damned thing with your thumb on the rewind button. That's about the greatest compliment a film can hope to get. Watch this, with a black neighbor, you'll find you have more in common than just being broke and enjoying a fish fry.
(Official Disclaimer: The words "nigger," "darkie," "colored," "honky," "cracker," and "faggot," were used in the film DARKTOWN STRUTTERS, no one was actually harmed by hearing or reading them even though they have been deemed racist and hate-filled except when used in Hip-Hop. We try hard to be Equal Opportunity Offenders, if you're not offended yet, we'll keep trying.)

Mother Jefferson everyone, I love her.

Sky Hog Ribs, a free slice of watermelon with every bucket!

The Sky High Hog, I'd eat there.

Lousiville's personal Minstrel show...

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BOOOW CHICKA CHICKA BOWWWW......

Chris Wayne
WOWWOWWOO...CHICKA...CHICKA...WOOOOOWWWWW!

The beautiful Trina Parks is Syreena...look at that helmet!

How about this one?

This one ain't too shabby either.

And pink fur, you can't go wrong with pink fur. Notice that siren.

Louisville Cross....he's doing Kentucky proud.

Syreena's mother, Cinderella.

A cop in blackface trying to catch a killer who preys on "black faggots."

You think he might be a pimp?

I don't think I need to explain this one.

Insert Benny Hill theme here or Yakkity Sax even!

The Ghetto Alert Squad is on the job, oops that's the blackfaced cop they just iced.

The Grand Wizard gets slapped around a bit.

That's Louisville Cross in his comfys, relaxing at home.

Hanna Barbara anyone!?

Now that is a fucking hat!
Brains On Film 2003