Sunday, 14 July 2013

MOVIE: Sugar Hill (1974)


"She's sweet as sugar... with a voodoo army of the undead!"

This is likely to be the best zombie blaxploitation flick you ever see. Admittedly, it's not a field with a vast array of competition, but nonetheless it's an absolute hoot.

We start off with what appears to be a full-on voodoo ritual, accompanied by a funky number called "Supernatural Voodoo Woman". However, it turns out to be just a put-on for the tourists, at an establishment called Club Haiti. The black owner of the club has raised a few hackles with the local white Mafia, headed up by Morgan (Robert Quarry) who decides to have him picked off. So far, so usual. However, Morgan didn't reckon on widow Sugar (Marki Bey) taking over the club. Rather than take her revenge in the usual Coffy/Foxy Brown manner, Sugar instead seeks help from a voodoo priestess to summon Voodoo dude Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley).

Thus summoned, Samedi calls on his dead servants to wake up from their slumber in the swamps, and what follows is one of the most bizarre revenge movies committed to celluloid as these zombie henchmen proceed to assist Sugar in some novel methods of dispatching with the guys who did her man wrong.

Wow, I can just imagine them pitching this to Sam Arkoff at AIP...

"So, you say it's like Foxy Brown meets Night Of The Living Dead? How cheaply and quickly can you make it?"

The zombies themselves have a truly original look, covered in dirt and cobwebs and with eyes like silver ping-pong balls (hang on, I think they are ping-pong balls... and sprayed with silver paint...) Marki Bey, meanwhile is sassy and kicks ass in the coolest way possible, whilst Don Pedro Colley knows exactly what sort of crap he's making, and overeggs his performance accordingly. Robert Quarry chews some scenery, whilst being a chauvinistic pig to his superbitch lady Celeste (Betty Ann Rees), who gets some entertaining comeuppance herself. Nobody involved seems to be taking this thing too seriously, but somehow all manage to keep a straight face. Just.

Paul Maslansky (a prolific producer, taking a rare place in the director's seat) seems to be enjoying himself too, and somehow manages to keep this potential mess rolling along nicely to its conclusion - it's a shame he didn't direct more, if you ask me.

So; Mafia hoods, zombies, blaxploitation, a funky theme song, some great one liners, dodgy '70's fashions, a cat fight between Sugar and Celeste, several entertaining deaths and a great "spooky" climax in a swamp - What's not to like? In case you are in any doubt, let me state here - I love this film. You will never see another quite like it. Check out the trailer further down...

Purple Rating: 10/10

US 1974 - American International Pictures (who else but AIP would have made this flick?)

Certificate X (UK, original release)

91 minutes

DVD Releases:
ILC (UK - out of print at the time of writing)
MGM (US)

Original theatrical trailer:

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