Blaxploitaation films were a sub-genre of movies in the 1960s and 1970s. They were typically low budget action or horror films with primarily an all black cast. Despite some crazy titles (Blackenstein) there were some really good horror films that can hold their own against similar mainstream B-movies.
JD’s Revenge, Blacula, Sugar Hill are just as fun to watch as Count Yorga Vampire, Night of The Living Dead and Food of The Gods. Blacula even spawned a sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream. The Blaxploitation films had mostly died out by the end of the 70s. They had come under fire for featuring characters and dialogue that perpetuated white people’s stereotyping of black culture in America. Since then, there has been only an occasional film here and there such as the remake of Shaft starring Samuel L. Jackson. But the era was over, replaced by genuine black films by black directors such as Spike Lee.
My favorite Blaxploitation horror film is Sugar Hill. Markie Bey plays Diana Hill, nick named “Sugar” Hill by her boyfriend Langston. The film opens at Club Haiti, a restaurant and club owned by her boyfriend, with Sugar having watched a performance, “Supernatural Voodoo Woman”, which continued the movie’s opening credits song. Later, some men show up trying to persuade Langston to sell his club to a man named Morgan, a small time crime boss played by Robert Quarry (who was the titular character in Count Yorga, Vampire and it’s sequel Return of Count Yorga). When Langston refuses to sell his club, Morgan’s men jump him outside the club and beat him to death.
Devastated, Sugar Hill vows infernal vengeance on the ones responsible for her man’s death. To accomplish her revenge, Sugar Hill turns to the art of the voodoo. She visits the old woman Mama Maitresse who takes her through the swamp to summon the voodoo priest, Baron Samedi (pronounced Sam-Dee).
Sugar tells Samedi that she needs more than one man and Baron Samedi responds “I have an army…of the dead!!” Then the zombies rise from the ground…actually, it looks like they were lying down covered with dead leaves. The zombies are quite a hoot! Cobwebbed 70s afros with big mylar covered eyes.
As funny as the moment is, these zombies are the real thing. They’re reanimated corpses risen from the grave to do the bidding of one person. And that person here is Sugar Hill.
Sugar Hill’s former love, Detective Valentine, shows up to investigate the mysterious, grisly death of one of Morgan’s men. The supernatural Baron Samedi pops up at various times as different people–always with a big smile on his face–playing bartender or a Taxi driver who drives another one of Langston’s murderers out to a pig farm where a couple of zombies toss the goon into a pen of hungry pigs to eat. Sugar Hill: “I hope they like white trash!”
Just as the characters are so stereotypical, the dialogue leaves much to be desired. And back then they were able to get away with a lot of racial slurs that just wouldn’t fly today.
As the zombies take out her enemies, Sugar Hill is approached by Morgan still after Langston’s club which was left to and now owned by Sugar Hill who manipulates Morgan into thinking she is willing to sell the club.
When Morgan grows tired of the games he goes after Sugar himself at Mama Maitresse’s spooky old mansion. While Morgan’s moll waits outside in the car, Morgan runs into a fresh batch of zombies in the mansion…his own hitmen!
Morgan escapes out into the swamp right into Mama Maitresse, Sugar, and Baron Samedi. After Morgan is dealt with, his final associate–his moll–is given to Baron Samedi as payment for his help.
Sugar Hill was the last of the original zombie flicks which reached their high in the 1940s. After this film all zombies have been modeled after George Romero’s Night of The Living Dead…ie zombies hungry for human flesh. Just for the record, this type of monster is usually referred to as a “ghoul”.
Although the Blaxploitation era is over, many good movies can still be seen...the horror films like Sugar Hill, Blacula and Scream, Blacula, Scream often play on several streaming services. I just recently watched this movie on Streampix which is part of my Comcast services. Check it out. And don't miss the chicken foot scene...it's a gas!
Blaxploitation Gem- Sugar Hill: Supernatural Voodoo Woman
Writing - 8/10
Storyline - 9/10
Acting - 7/10
Music - 7/10
Production - 8/10
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