DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (director: William Witney; screenwriter: George Armitage; cinematographer: Joao Fernandes; editor: Morton Tubor; music: ; cast: Trina Parks (Syreena), Edna Richardson (Carmen), Bettye Sweet (Miranda), Shirley Washington (Theda), Roger E. Mosley (Mellow), Christopher Joy (Wired), Stan Shaw (Raunchy), DeWayne Jesse (V.D.), Norman Bartold (Commander Cross), Charles Knapp (Officer Tubbins), Edward Marshall (Officer Emmo), Dick Miller (Officer Hugo), Milt Kogan (Officer Babel), Gene Simms (Flash), Sam Laws (Philo Rasberry), Frankie Crocker (Stuff), Della Thomas (Lixie), Frances Nealy (Cinderella); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gene Corman; New World Pictures; 1975)
“Couldn’t get a laugh out of me.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
White B-film veteran director William Witney (“I Escaped from Devil’s Island“/”Young and Wild”/”The Girls on the Beach”), filmmaker for the Roy Rogers westerns, directs his last film. It’s a bawdyblaxploitation film at the height of its craze in the 1970s. The cult film portends to be a spoof on black and white stereotypes. It’s genial in tone, witless in its humor and hyper-energetic, that is an offering of loud music, a silly sci-fi plot and dumb physical vaudeville comedy that couldn’t get a laugh out of me. The title refers to the popular ‘20s jazz “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” (a one-night gathering of black revelers in evening dress).It was retitled Get Down and Boogie.It was produced by Roger Corman’s brother, Gene.
Syreena (Trina Parks) is the leaderof an all-girl black motorcycle gang, who love to sing and dance and shake their booties. The feisty girls, dressed in outrageous garish biker outfits that can kill, are always hassled by men. For instance, the four of them stop at a roadside rest-stop to pick up some lemon meringue pie only to be hit upon by some white Marines, who climb all over their machines. The girls respond with pies in the soldiers’s faces.
When Syreena’s abortion clinic owner mom, Cinderella (Frances Nealy), gets kidnapped, along with other prominent blacks in the community, the four biker gang members try to find Syreena’s mom. They receive no help from the bumbling racist cops, and are hassled by Ku Klux Klan bikers. Don’t ask how, but Syreena ends up at the mansion of Commander Cross (Norman Bartold), a barbeque ribs magnate and lookalike for Colonel Sanders, garbed in pink tights, a hooded white cape and pig ears. He’s the baddie who schemes to undermine the political structure of the black community by using the genes of the blacks he kidnapped in a cloning machine to create a new population of blacks that will vote him into power in the community.Syreena escapes and is chased by the KKK goons, who are Cross’ rivals. She manages to reach her male biker homies, and they return to the mansion for a rumble dressed like Cross and armed with chains, explosives and pancakes.
The slight film is all about pies in the face, Keystone Kops type of chases, sight gags, smutty quips, and bizarre antics that emulate the oddity movies like Help (1965). Darktown Strutters proves to be an equal opportunity offender in crass racial humor, as it depicts all white males as racist and stupid while all black males as sexist and stupid.
It’s watchable as a train wreck you perhaps can’t stop looking at to see its messy aftereffects and wonder how its comedy can be so tasteless and embarrassingly unfunny. This is the kind of bad film some like because it’s so bad it’s good.
REVIEWED ON 6/22/2010 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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