Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Sister's Revenge

Directed by Jamaa Fanaka.
1976. Rated R, 100 minutes.
Jerri Hayes
Ernest Williams II
Charles D. Brooks III
Leopoldo Mandeville
Malik Carter
Eddie Allen

Following her mother’s death Emma Mae (Hayes) moves from Mississippi to Compton, CA to live with her aunt and her family. Her first day in town she tags along with her two female cousins and their boyfriends. Being just a naïve and ugly country girl, their words not mine, she’s having trouble meeting guys. Tired of the fifth wheel hanging around, he cousin’s beaus pawn her off on Jesse (Williams II), the local pill-popper who is constantly loaded up on “reds”. Well, like dumb ugly girls tend to do (again, their words), Emma Mae falls head over heels in love with him since he’s the first city-slicker to show her the least bit of attention. So smitten is she that when Jesse gets in a fist-fight with some cops she helps out by kicking away an officer’s gun as he draws. Of course, when Jesse flees the scene Emma Mae is right behind her man. By the way, all of this happens in about two days. Not that any of this makes a whole lot of sense but certainly nothing from this point forward mankes any whatsoever. By the way, director Jamaa Fanaka went on to direct the Penitentiary trilogy.

Blaxploitation flicks are known for being way over the top, are often (not always) poorly acted, funny both intentionally and unintentionally due to microscopic budgets and/or poor production values as well as the mere fact of seeing characters, fashions and hearing slang that’s so undeniably 1970s. For a great deal of them, these qualities give them a lovable silliness because no matter how simply constructed the plots may be or how outrageous the action, there is a rhyme and reason. Black Sister’s Revenge takes the overwhelming message of blaxploitation flicks and the civil rights movement that spawned them and completely misappropriates them. It renders itself a rambling mumbling fool too well exemplified by one of its own characters, Big Daddy (Carter). Both the movie and the character want to do the right thing but their understanding of what that is appears suspect. BSR is a mess and much less enjoyable than others of its ilk. We joke that these movies are about “stickin’ it to tha man” or “down with whitey” or another favorite piece of rhetoric, the vague “upliftment of the community”. However, these sayings give us something to hold on to. We know what all the nuttiness is about. Our black hero, or heroine, has been wronged by someone in the establishment and/or by a black dope dealer or pimp. Both forces work against the betterment of the black community and have to be dealt with. Sometime, it’s a dope dealer or pimp realizing the error of their ways. The dynamics of good and evil remain the same. This movie uses that simple and effective formula so inefficiently that it crafts a very misguided point. It’s the equivalent of a person badly scorching every pot in the house while attemption to hard boil an egg.

What on earth am I carrying on about? Mainly, my gripe is with how the movie deals with Jesse, the object of Emma Mae’s desire. He’s a junkie. He’s not a revolutionary who happens to do drugs. He is just a junkie whom everyone knows is nothing more. Yet and still, when he goes to jail Emma Mae is able to get all of Compton helping her to raise enough money to get him out. They carry on as if they’re trying to bail out Martin Luther King Jr. or some other great leader. All the while she’s spouting the same revolutionary rhetoric of other flicks. It feels like totally misplaced loyalty, like we should fall in line behind the “Free Jesse” movement merely because he’s black even though he’s not done a single thing worthy of our efforts.

When Jesse finally gets out, he’s aware of what’s been going on but he’s not changed at all. This is because he must stay this way for the real purpose of the film. Let’s just say its going for a “hell hath no fury like…” vibe. Even this feels anticlimactic because when Emma Mae finishes her big speech at the finale everyone else on the screen should’ve just turned and said “I told you so.” Why they all went through such trouble on his behalf is mind boggling. This includes an impromptu bank robbery, by the way. My thing is since they didn’t like him on the day he went to jail what changed? Many of the tenets of the genre are present and will cause some laughs. Unfortunately, the script and the acting is ridiculously bad in a painful way. Honestly, some of the supporting cast was okay. Even the guy who plays Jesse isn’t that bad. The problem is Hayes as Emma Mae dominates the movie and she is horrible. She gives us lots of cringe worthy line deliveries. Indeed, this was the debut for our star and she never appeared in anything else. Mr. Williams had a couple of credits before this but never showed up on screen again, either. Sadly, it doesn’t quite complete the trick. It never gets to so bad it’s awesome territory. It’s just bad.


  1. Loved it! Many people like myself do not know a lot about computers so you will never know how much this movie is loved. I had not seen it since it was first played and found it again just a few years ago under this new name. Generations in my family love it.

    RIP Mr. Director....job well done.

    I would so love to hear from the actors. I recently read about Jerri Hayes, and of course Synthia is using her talent and a couple of others, but I wish they could all know how many people think they did a wonderful job even if they never acted before or after.

  2. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your comment, Mizit4. I'm glad you enjoy this movie as it indeed has a bit of a following. It just wasn't my cup of tea. Thank you so much for reading. Hope to hear from you more often.