Black Snake

February 25th, 2010 by Perfesser Deviant

Black Snake   Black Snake poster 82x120 actionDirector: Russ Meyer
Writers: Russ Meyer & Leonard Neubauer based on a story by Anthony-James Ryan
Release Year: 1973

Despite the title, it’s not an all-black porno.

Sir Charles Walker (David Warbeck) goes undercover on the island plantation of Lady Susan Walker (Anouska Hempel) to find his missing brother Jonathan (David Prowse). He quickly finds the plantation is a horrible place, ruled with an iron fist by Lady Walker through her men: the extremely racist – and very white – overseer Joxer Tierney (Percy Herbert) and the cultured, homosexual, strict military commander – who’s very black – Capt. Raymond Daladier (Bernard Boston). The situation is ripe for rebellion, and this nice young man might well be the catalyst that makes it all happen….

(Spoilers follow…)

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This film attempts to make a semi-comedy about colonialism and slavery. Now there’s no doubt that the great power of the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries was partially based on its control of vast amounts of the world – there’s something to be said for having a totally awesome navy too, though the Bismark had something to say to that – and the UK was loathe to surrender a single colony. Time chipped away at the Empire, but the final blow came after WWII when India and others won their freedom from the Empire after Cüneyt Arkin destroyed the Death Scone. The punishment for colonialism came in the form of the reincarnation of the Sith Lord as Margaret Thatcher, but the British people had captured the sacred curry recipe and were now able to make food that tasted like crap rather than concentrated evil. Thus things were okay, so long as no one makes any goddamned prequels.

I seem to have drifted off-topic into a place that’s part plagiarism and part insanity; I’ll blame the presence of David Prowse aka the guy in the Darth Vader costume.

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If find your lack of faith disturbing.

Undigressing, the film shows the effects of colonialism on the blacks under its delicate care. The house slaves, Cleone (Vikki Richards) and Bottoms (Bloke Modisane), live a life of relative ease compared to the field hands. Cleone serves as maid, lady-in-waiting to Lady Walker, and sexual plaything for the white men on the island; this is a position that most women would prefer not to sign up for. Bottoms works for people he knows are scum and thus seems to see his life as a bit of a dry joke. For some reason, the other natives to the island don’t like being whipped and otherwise abused for the sake of making money for others; it’s almost as if they don’t think being slaves is good enough for them! Well, after some missionary converts them to Christianity, Lady Walker is unwise enough to crucify one of them, Joshua (Milton McCollin), which does nothing positive from her perspective as it leaves her slaves with a martyr and a rallying point. This gets the people revolting in short order, though, because of the primitive sanitation, they probably were pretty revolting from the get-go. There’s little here to mention as the problem with dominating one group of people with a much smaller ruling elite is that, sooner or later, the underclass with superior numbers will get pissed and really wallop the elite.

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OW!

This film seems a bit light on sleaze and other Meyerisms, though the editing does show his usual deftness with lots of quick cuts as individual character closeups are used it interject lines in other characters’ monologues. Oddly, one Fred Baratta is credited as film editor even though he specialized in television shows, but it seems that Meyer probably gave him a lot of notes. There’s a bit of nudity and a lot of tease, but nothing special enough to make the film amazing or anything, certainly less sizzle than I’d like in a Meyer film. The acting is not very good – the leads are bland – but special mention for badness needs to go to Anouska Hempel as the big-titted Meyer leading lady. Her performance leaves a void on the screen as she’s neither brassy enough to be exciting, nor is she even remotely interesting; even her chest wasn’t good enough so stunt boobs are used. Now, it’s not all her fault as the dialog written to her isn’t very good and even a great actress couldn’t have done much with the part. However, it seems that now that Anouska Hempel has married a rich guy, she bought the rights to this film to keep people from seeing her shameful performance.

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I'm sexy. Really.

I think the problem with this film is it was Meyer stepping outside of his personal experience, possibly even trying to make an ‘important’ movie. The problem is that Meyer was, of course, an exploitation filmmaker who wanted to do something different, but all he’d ever done was make movies about people – particularly women – with well-endowed … appetites and, as such, didn’t have the subtlety needed to make anything else. It’s kind of like the way that Steven Spielberg was so desperate for recognition as a serious filmmaker that he started churning out his same old manipulative crap with quality backdrops, like The Color Purple (1985) for example, but he’s able to play on audience’s heartstrings enough to allow the average viewer to overlook the clumsy approach. Meyer didn’t have that revolting fetish for shooting everything through a lens of sentimentality, so his film proved to be box-office poison. Stung by Black Snake’s reception, he took to mining his previous films rather than try anything new. Too bad.

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Leave me alone, I'm squeezing out a black snake.

Oh yes, the titular black snake is a whip.


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