Monday, April 27, 2009

The Black Gestapo

This is one of the more startling titles and posters in movie history. Let's take a look at the poster in question:

Well! That's something you don't see every day.

The movie is pretty bland, except for the occasional shot of the militant black army chanting "VENGEANCE! VENGEANCE! VENGEANCE!" with a soundtrack overlay of "SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL!" At the beginning of the movie, Watts is under the sway of beefy, sunglasses-wearing white thugs, who force businesses to push drugs and gambling. So we get a round of scenes in which the business owners are roughed up for not having enough money to give to the white mob. Then we meet the People's Army, which is not really military. It's sort of a black Salvation Army. Except for the second-in-command, who wants to get real guns and start fighting whitey for real. The leader of the People's Army, General Ahmed, doesn't go along with it until his girlfriend gets raped by the beefiest and most sunglasses-wearing-est of the thugs. So Colonel Kojah gets the go-ahead to train a small group to fight back.

So the next scenes involve Kojah's army shooting up the white guys when they try to pick up their ill-gotten gains. There's a fairly short war and the head of the white mob shrugs and decides to get the hell out of town and maybe try his luck in Harlem. And as soon as that happens, Colonel Kojah (who has renamed himself General Kiongozi) takes over the rackets, leaning on the local shopkeepers to sell heroin and push the gambling and so on. So you've got an Animal Farm situation, where the revolutionaries have become the new tyrannical masters, although it happens a lot faster here.

So now General Ahmed has to invade General Kiongozi's compound, which is suspiciously like a country club, and take out the entire army by himself. First he liberates the tennis courts, then he tricks a squad into running down the road until they collapse, then he kills about forty people. Finally, he takes out Kiongozi and the movie's over. Pretty straightforward sleazy stuff.

Now, it turns out there's a novelization from Holloway House, better known (if at all) for the Iceberg Slim books. Check it:

This novelization is an attempt to make the story mean something. It follows the movie precisely, but it fills in a lot of inner details that the director and actors were unable to do:

Kojah couldn't help but wonder if all great men felt as he did when they made their first stride toward greatness. He wiped his sweating brow and then slipped quickly across the carpeted bedroom to the doorway that led to the rest of the house. His team followed closely at his heels.

Was it possible that Henri Christophe, L'Overture, and Nat Turner felt as he felt? He could hear a distant drum beating out a marching beat, the cadence for his army of liberation of conquest. They must have felt as he did as they set out to destroy the dreaded honkie. The beast that had cowered peoples throughout the world. But he would not run in fear. He would fight and win. Win and become a legend, a hero.

The book is still pretty sleazy. I don't think it has a choice with this title. But it's much, much better than the movie it's based on.

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