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Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

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After saving a Black Panther from some racist cops, a black male prostitute goes on the run from "the man" with the help of the ghetto community and some disillusioned Hells Angels.

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Title: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Simon Chuckster ...
Beetle
...
Hubert Scales ...
Mu-Mu
John Dullaghan ...
Commissioner
West Gale
Niva Rochelle
Rhetta Hughes ...
Old Girl Friend
Nick Ferrari
Ed Rue
...
Biker (as Johnny Amos)
Ted Hayden
...
Young Sweetback / Kid (as Mario Peebles)
Sonja Dunson
Michael Augustus
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Storyline

Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed, produced, edited, composed and starred in this powerful and inflammatory attack on White America. After the body of a black man is discovered, Sweetback helps two white 'acquaintances' in the police force to look good by agreeing to go with them to the station as a suspect. But he is forced to go on the run after brutally attacking the two policemen when they arrest and beat up a young black man. Written by David Claydon <dc6212@bristol.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Sweet Sweetback will never die a natural death. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

22 March 1973 (Netherlands)  »

Also Known As:

Sweet Sweetback  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$500,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$15,180,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was one of Earth, Wind, and Fire's early work. Melvin Van Peebles paid them with a check that later bounced. To this day, the band has still not been paid for their contribution to the film. See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening Credits Dedication: "Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Fugitive Alien (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

As long as you don't study it for its technique...
1 May 2003 | by (The Celluloid Pit) – See all my reviews

This is a film that has several things going for it, none of them technical. The idea of shooting a movie with a largely black cast on dark streets at night without any sort of extra lighting is... well, a bad one, and coupled with its mic-in-the-cameraman's-back- pocket sound mix, an awful lot of the first half of the movie is just shy of being incomprehensible. Add in an editing job that suggests somebody was busy talking on the phone during the cutting of several key scenes, and you could have a real patience- tester of a film on your hands.

Thankfully, the mood of the film is positive enough that its deliriously illogical plot actually works in its favour. Greasy kid Mario van Peebles (minus the "van" here) is transformed into strapping man Melvin van Peebles in a meaningful encounter with a hooker, and you can buy it. On-the-lam hero Sweetback is challenged to a duel by bikers, and nobody so much as blinks when he suggests that it should be a duel of sexual prowess... hell, they don't even seem to care that he doesn't need to move in order to drive his women wild. He's even brought back from the dead by the chorused voices of The Black Community, and it all sort of makes sense, kind of.

In fact, it isn't until the very last shot of the movie, when you realize that 90 minutes and change have built up to... well, nothing much, really, except maybe a shred of belief in the power of an act of will, and perhaps the promise of a sequel, that you feel like taking the movie to task for its gaping technical flaws again. Even then, it's made so earnestly that I don't really have the heart to slag it for its ineptly-blocked camerawork and dreadful acting. I've seen much worse from filmmakers who weren't trying to change the world by giving a damn, so instead I'll talk it up by calling it the spiritual ancestor of the basketball-teleportation ending to He Got Game, and pretty much everything in The Matrix, too. That it was largely the work of one hugely inspired guy makes it all the cooler, so struggling filmmakers, take note! As long as you crib your technique from other places, Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song should be an inspiration to you.


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