SUGAR HILL (aka: The Zombies of Sugar Hill) (director: Paul Maslansky; screenwriter: Tim Kelly; cinematographer: Robert Jessup; editor: Carl Kress; music: Dino Fekaris/Nick Zesses; cast: Marki Bey (Diana Hill), Robert Quarry (Morgan), Don Pedro Colley (Baron Samedi), Betty Anne Rees (Celeste), Richard Lawson (Lt. Valentine), Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse), Larry D Johnson (Langston), Charles Robinson (Fabulous), Rick Hagood (Tank Watson), Ed Geldhart (O’Brien), Thomas C Carroll (Baker), Albert J. Baker (George), Raymond E. Simpson III (King), Charles Krohn (Captain Merrill), ‘Big Walter’ Price (Preacher), J. Randall Bell (Parkhurst, voodoo scholar); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff/Elliot Schick; MGM; 1974)
“What’s odd about this blaxploitation voodoo horror film is the killer zombies are made the heroes for killing the gangsters.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This was Paul Maslansky’s only directorial effort; he’s better known for producing all the Police Academy films. It’s atacky but entertaining blaxploitation horror movie that graphically features one thug murder and seven voodoo murders. The only good guy in the flick is a cop, Lt. Valentine (Richard Lawson), who is made to look impotent, as he was ditched by the badass heroine as her boyfriend for a swinging nightclub owner and then the same cop is thwarted by her use of voodoo to murder her sworn enemies while he’s unable to solve the murders though he suspects she’s behind it. This amoral film has the forces of evil being taken care of by former victims of slavery coming up from the dead to get their revenge. The screenplay by Tim Kelly plays to a black audience, gleefully showing that it doesn’t have to take a back seat to whitey anymore if it shows it has the power to take care of its own business.
Fashion model photographer Diana “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) is the sexy fiancée of Club Haiti owner Langston (Larry B. Johnson). Their caressing is interrupted by four thugs sent by evil white crime lord/businessman Morgan (Robert Quarry), led by the dressed like a pimp black man Fabulous (Charles Robinson). Langston shows no fear of the veiled threats for him to sell or else, as he angrily sends the slimeball thugs away by refusing Morgan’s offer to buy his club. In the parking lot, the thugs jump Langston and beat him to death. Evidently this must be a difficult case for the police to solve, as no one even investigates with any seriousness. What’s a girl supposed to do who just lost the man she loved to thugs, but consult the local aged voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully) for help. Before you know it Mama conjures up with a few incantations the menacing undead Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), who likes to laugh when he’s plotting mischief, for help on the revenge end of things and as part of her bargain Sugar promises the Baron a bride. The Baron raises up a zombie army to murder all Morgan’s henchmen and the lucky viewer gets to watch it all, as Sugar turns bitter as she confronts each and pronounces the death sentence. Their gruesome deaths include being hacked to death in pieces and beheaded by machetes, white trash fed to hungry pigs and in a voodoo ritual one is forced to stab himself to death. Morgan, along with his nasty racist redheaded girlfriend Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), is dealt with last, as expected. It closes with the Originals singing the film’s Motown theme song “Supernatural Voodoo Woman.” What’s odd about this blaxploitation voodoo horror film is the killer zombies are made the heroes for killing the gangsters and the cops (black or white) are looked upon as just being ineffectual and of no help to the black man. It’s definitely a 1970s themed film.
REVIEWED ON 5/26/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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