Thursday, December 25, 2008


Reviewed by The Keeper of the Pit

Hey gang, The Keeper here, jest stinking, uh, thinking back to the daze of the oily 70s, when old New World was up to relatively new tricks, like its women in prison flicks, its student nurses/teachers epics, & even a few dynamite blaxploitation films witch hit the screens for one week only before they raced off. There was Cirio Santiago’s SAVAGE, a merc-for-hire item witch boasted the blurb “Men call him Savage…women call him all the time!” & there was THE FINAL COMEDOWN, a.k.a. BLAST! witch featured more flying bullets than the latest inStallone-ment of Rambutt. & lust we forget, there was the incredible TNT JACKSON, with a Dick Miller script that kept the action out of traction. Ah yes, but now the drive-ins are down, the Harrisburg black action theatre district has lickwise become a mall, so the only place the ole Keep can catch a good blaxploitation pic is on video. & believe me, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is nothing like a good blaxploitation pic. It’s a (great white) wonder the video box doesn’t say “Dey doan shake ‘em like dese anymo’!”

Demean, I mean “I mean,” when the 1-sheet says “Better move your butt when these ladies strut,” they ain’t kidding. DARKTOWN was an unreleased product out of Tennessee from Roger Corman’s bro(ther) Gene, witch Rog in turn picked up when he should have dropped it. “Nurse” person George Armitage provided the screenplay, & long time Gene Corman protégé/director William Witney helmed it, or should I say helmeted it? It’s safe to say there’s not another pic like this in the world, & perhaps there shouldn’t be. There’s more our-butt-trary shakin’ of booties in this that CAN be believed, BUTT that’s okay, cuz Roger has gone on reek, uh, record, to say this is a “black comedy.” What it really is: one of those movies so BAAAAD they’re worse. If you like to seek out stuff that’s so bad, it’s good, shake on down no further, this pic is one of them. It even seems like 2 or 3 of them, as a mother of fact.

Butt, let’s STRUT through this baby, the monster & I will let you be the (here come da) judge. Pic opens with a disclaimer that any similarity between this true life adventure & the story “Cinderella”…is BULLSHIT. Ho-kay, fangs for setting me straight. We proceed to see 4 black mamas riding their cuss-tomized hogs to a roadside eatery. Maybe we should say “costume-ized”…one gal’s in a red suit, 1’s in pink, 1 white, 1 yellow, & they all wear these eye-bugging helmets right out of Labelle. A bunch of white Marines watch them strut by: 1 goes “left, right, left, right” as he tries to get BEHIND where they’re coming from. 2nd Marine gets even more brassy & sassy, so our lead mama (Syreena, played by Trina Parks) gives him a pie in the face and jest as he’s saying “The Marines have…” BOOM, pie in the face, he falls butt-first into a garbage can, “landed!” The rest of the Marines run into the foodstand only to get chased out by black guys wearing loincloths and waving spears. To witch our groovy gals walk off humming “Halls of Montezuma.” The whole film plays like this, & from the guy who did THE TRIPoli, shore enuff!

& white, I mean, wait until you see the cops in this! They have these cars with bubble machines the size of nuclear warheads. Their station comes complete with a Ghetto Alert Map, & a siren labeled “Nigger Alarm.” One cop, named Officer Hugo, is played by Dick Miller, which could give you a hint that in THIS race riot the cops will be no victors.

Black, er, back to the plot. Syreena’s mom, Cinderella, has gone missing. (whew…almost said “gone Massa!”). Fear not, in no time our gals have the AIDS, I mean, aid of a gang of black guy motorcyclists who call themselves “The Batch,” 1 of whom goes by the monsicker of V.D. Yeah, right, & when his bike runs out of gas he’ll jest syphill-er up! Syreena & gang soon go social calling on her mom’s old cronies. A prime (rib) suspect is Commander Louisville Cross, white boss/Colonel Sanders look-alike of a food chain called Sky Hog, the original Hog Heaven. Hog Heaven stands roast, er, boast a giant figure of a pig in superhero tights & goggles in place of golden arches, & serve up items named cotton choppers, levee shakes & Swanee Rivers, witch I guess is one way to Foster social love, grease & hominy!

Syreena goes to a cop station during a “nigger alert.” Dick & dorks don’t gun her down, though, since she tells them she’ll “check the woodpile.” Instead they gun down their own inspector, who’s dressed up as a black female prostie because (he tells Trina) there’s a white female rapist out there preying on black faggots. Or is he dressed up like a black faggot in the woodpile? Oh, forget it! It gets worse! Prominent blacks are being kidnapped, & folks are asking questions about Syreena’s mom. “What color are they?” “Red…around the neck!” See: Syreena doing a dance scene right out of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, you know, like a black person without soul. & white, uh, wait until ya see the black gang fight it out with the Klan at an amusement park. Cops break it up, let the Klan get away on their bikes (!???!), then proceed to arrest anyone who isn’t…Irish. Our gang of guys & gals line up & go “Irish.” Next guy: “Irish.” Gal: “Irish.” Next black guy: “Polack,” whereupon the cop blows the whistle on him. Whoa…another routine like that could start up another civil Warsaw!

After a mind-altering bike chase between Trina & the Klan, she gets taken to lunch at the Cross Foundation plantation, where Massa Cross himself wants her to “dine at the sign of the swine” with him as he’s dressed in white super-shorts, little booties, white cape, & a white hood with pig ears. Well, since she won’t let him pork her, he stops the swining and dining bit & shows her his pig prison. Down there he has not only the kidnapped black folks, Syreena’s mom in chains, & his very own disco dungeon, he also has a machine named “Annie,” with witch he’s been taking unwed black mother genes & important black man genes & splicing them together to form, he says, black puppets who look like the real thing (baby!) who’ll vote for him. Annie, meantime, looks like a reject from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. Maybe those producers & the Cormans should get their Genes together & make snow clones!

Really, truly, you gotta see The Dramatics perform “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” behind Cross bars in his disco dungeon. Bet that’s 1 gig they hoped would cell out! & you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Trina’s black motorcycle gang take on the Cross Foundation plantation guards in the (race) riot finale…ya see, the Klan guys wear Sky Hog suits, pink with capes & pig masks to boot. Or curse, when Dick’s dork cops see everybody else hamming it up, they have to get into the act, being porkers, & of curse, being a Corman movie, the cop car with the nuke warhead blows up. All this while black folks shuffle on the same lawn, picking cotton, lifting bales. Like Lenny Bruce used to say, to play the "Star Spangled Banner" you need both the white keys & the dark keys. I stink, uh, think he said that on a guest spot on Cotton Bowling for dollars!

So, there you have it, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (later reek-released as GET DOWN AND BOOGIE), a true cultural rel-ick. Wish I could have seen it in Harrisburg with TNT, woulda been a BLAST! Talk about yer ALIEN NATION…enuff people rent this baby, we could have a bombin’ nation. As to (Weathermen) this is jest racist diatribe, or jest tripe, you got me! I believe the Harrisburg Theatre would have had a good 1-week run with it. I mean, it’s 1 of a kind. They DON’T shake ‘em like this anymore. Perhaps they shouldn’t. Perhaps the ole Keep shouldn’t so much cover it, as (Chuck) bury it. This is the kind of thing witch causes civil pun-rest!

1 comment:

Hal said...

I reviewed this one a while back (February 2007) on my blog. Long overdue for a DVD release, this one can stand toe to toe with I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA and UNDERCOVER BROTHER. Trina Parks had a real flair for comedy that she just didn't get many opportunities to explore. She's still looking great and dancing in the Palm Springs Follies in her early 60's.