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a hard, uncomfortable look at racism in America
abracadaver19 April 2006
Street Fight is a brilliant piece of brutal satire. This is not a movie you just watch for fun. It is not a comfortable experience, although it does have some laugh-out-loud moments. This is a movie you watch when you need food for thought.

To dismiss this film as simply racist is to miss the point entirely. This is not only a satire of Song of the South, it's also a biting commentary on the prejudices that Americans still have as a society. Every ethnic group portrayed in the movie gets shown as grotesque caricatures of their stereotypes, which in turn are grotesque caricatures of real people. Through this wild exaggeration, the filmmaker shows just how absurd these tightly-held beliefs really are.

If you're the sort of person who's willing to acknowledge the ugliness of the prevalent prejudices American culture still holds, and if you're not afraid to look your own prejudices in the eye, this movie may be for you.
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Fantastic examination of Racist Stereotyping
Le Samourai6 December 2000
One of the most interesting movies to be classified as "blaxploitation," Bakshi's "Coonskin" is a rich text full of wonderful insight. He wrote it in collaboration with Scat Man Crothers and Barry White, who appear in the film as well. The racist imagery can often be disturbing, but the message of the movie was so powerful that the NAACP gave it an endorsement (but only grudgingly).

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in an examination of the pervading atmosphere of racism that Bakshi attempts to deconstruct. Wonderful stuff.
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A satire and a very,very urban retelling of the old Uncle Remus stories
I had watched this film from Ralph Bakshi (Wizards, Hey Good Lookin', etc.), one night ago on, and I didn't see anything racial. Well, I do admit the character designs are a bit crude and unaccpectable today, but I think it's a satire and a very, very urban retelling of the old Uncle Remus stories that the Black American culture, created right down to the main characters and the blatant nod to "The Tar Baby" and "The Briar Patch." These aren't bigoted stories, mind you, but cultural icons created by Black Americans, and me being a white woman read and love those stories. And I also found it an interesting time-capsule view on the black culture in Harlem, New York in the 70's.

Well to get to the nitty-gritty of this film: This film is a live-action/animated film, which begins in live-action with a fellow named Sampson and the Preacherman rush to help their friend, Randy escape from prison, but are stopped by a roadblock and wind up in a shootout with the police. While waiting for them, Randy unwillingly listens to fellow escapee Pappy, as he begins to tell Randy the animated story of Brother Rabbit, a young newcomer to the big city who quickly rises from obscurity to rule over all of Harlem. You know, to me Rabbit,Bear and Fox are animal versions of Randy,Sampson and the Preacherman. An abstract juxtaposition of stylized animation and live action footage, the film is a graphic and condemnatory satire of stereotypes prevalent in the 70s — racial, ethnic, and otherwise.

So anyway, it is another good Bakshi movie. And should we sweep films like this under the rug? pretend they never exist? I think that would be a shame. I think we should watch these films entacted, and learn about what goes on back then, just how far we come since then.
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The most enraged animated film I have ever seen in my entire life.
San Franciscan8 October 2001
"WARNING: This movie offends EVERYBODY!"

That was what the cover of the first video release of this tape I ever saw said right on the front.

I first learned about this one over ten years ago, and was determined for the longest time to not see it. Being a sensitive animation viewer, I was positive that it would only upset me with offensive stereotypes and ugly pictures. But after recently learning that Ralph Bakshi had had nothing but the best of intentions when he created this film, curiosity finally overpowered me and I decided to rent it simply because I was curious to see what Bakshi really was attempting to say. If he had stated that he had made it merely as a sarcastic and mean racist statement against African Americans, especially since I am proud to say that I am one of the only two white members of a wonderful all-black church filled with beautiful and kind people who have shown me nothing but the most wonderful love and respect I have ever known, I would ***NEVER*** have watched it.

I was familiar with all of Bakshi's other works by then, many which I found unsettling, to say the least. Bakshi's biggest scream of pain that I had encountered up to that time was "Heavy Traffic", which had been to me his loudest and most disturbing contribution to the industry. The only thing I knew for certain about THIS film was that it had CAUSED a scream of its own, being picketed and disowned by Paramount almost immediately.

So what was my personal reaction to it?

Well, first let me start by saying that this is easily the angriest animated film I have ever seen in my entire life.

And believe me, I've seen hundreds of them from all over the world. I've seen all sorts of outraged statements on all sorts of subjects from the simple to the profound, but I have NEVER, EVER seen anything even remotely APPROACHING the sheer frothing-at-the-mouth disgust that emotionally bleeds off the screen here. Animation has caused joy, laughing, sorrow, concern and even grief, but very rarely can they cause rage towards a particular problem in the way this one does. As a result, it blares across your mind like an ambulance siren. I guarantee you right now that if you should ever choose to do what I finally did-- to prepare yourself the best you can emotionally and watch this film--I hereby guarantee you that you will never forget the experience.

It's very rare that a movie has the power to affect us so strongly. When I first saw "Heavy Traffic" in 1991, I found myself shrinking in my chair shaking because of all the powerful suggestions that Bakshi was showing me--all of his convincing arguments of what it can really be like to live in today's world for those less fortunate than myself. He was showing me how ugly and brutal an everyday existance could really be in the city, something which I had never known because I was born and raised in a polite suburb of the bay area where neighbors all got along cheerfully and everybody was innocently colorblind of each other's skin tones. While watching "Coonskin", I was shrinking in my chair shaking even worse--but this time it wasn't from the convincing arguments Bakshi was showing me, it was from the raw, ugly, horrifying attack that my senses were being assaulted with. Bakshi doesn't use metaphor or mere words here as he did in "Heavy Traffic", here he is instead more in-your-face that you could possibly imagine. This is a film that refuses to be ignored. It doesn't just drift by like most entertainment does on the TV, it grabs you and sinks its teeth into your throat.

Next, let me talk about the character design. The movie has, as has been pointed out by many out there, some of the most chilling animated sequences ever created here. I was repulsed and nauseated by the horrific looks of the characters. It's an all-too-powerful reminder of just how African Americans have been drawn and portrayed by Hollywood in the past, and that's exactly what it's meant to be--Bakshi exaggerates already-exaggerated stereotypes so strongly that he shows even the stonehearted just how cruel it really is.

But around midway into the film, I discovered something--EVERYBODY is drawn this way, not just the African American characters! For example, I had first gasped in horror at "bottle-shaped" heads of the women characters here because I had thought that the shape was meant to be a cruel and grotesque "parody" of the African skull's natural shape. But then I later encountered white boys with THE EXACT SAME DESIGNS! In other words, NOBODY gets out of this film in one piece--but the MOST horrifying design of all here, one so hideous that he singlehandedly makes all the others in this movie look gentle and affectionate in his shadow, is the ITALIAN GODFATHER! When I saw him, I nearly lost my stomach he was so horrendous. I'm serious, I was positive I was going to throw up. For Pete's sake, he even makes Jabba The Hut look downright cuddly! Even the most "normally designed" character, Miss America, is so obviously a symbol of ugliness that has haunted the USA that she comes across as disgusting and a plague to our country.

The main three though (Rabbit, Fox and Bear) gave me a different reaction: Rabbit I thought looked cool except for those awful exaggerated lips (but I wish to state that he looks absolutely tame compared to other characters you encounter later on), Fox looked alright although I kept wondering where his tail and ears were, and Bear...I liked his appearance the most. His looks genuinely flattering and gives a great impression of a well-meaning "loveable lunk" guy (and I don't mean in the stupid Archie comic "Moose" sense either). Unlike all the others, he would have looked outstanding in any cartoon. All three were genuinely likeable characters who had gotten themselves into far worse trouble than they were prepared for.

The voice talent behind all three was absolutely spectacular. Philip Michael Thomas has such a--there's no other word for it--COOL speaking voice that he fuses Rabbit with a slickness and attitude reserved only for the best cartoon characters. Charles Gordone is a natural match for Fox and sounds like he had a lot of fun voicing his part in quite a few scenes, and Bear is voiced by one of my all-time favorite talents, Barry White! In a way, it was good for me personally that White was in the film as one of the "heroes" here because his familiar deep voice which has always sounded so gentle in his wonderful music gave me a comforting little something from my own life--a mental "security blanket" to hold on to during the movie, if you will--that helped a bit to cushion the concussive force of this film.

And that was a good thing for me. I actually started to cry watching this film. It upsets and enrages you so much with the sheer injustice and cruelty that is prejudice that I couldn't help but break down as I watched it (it also made me more thankful than ever that my OWN family's relatives came to America AFTER slavery was done away with, so I can honestly say MY family had nothing to do with any of that!).

This is, in short, a film that is meant to be seen by bigoted people who hate others just because of race--that is the film's target after all. Bakshi obviously never intended for his film to be yelling at an audience already on his side concerning this issue.

But even though this is a movie I would never personally buy or want to watch again, I have to tell you: for what it's created to be, this is an excellent movie. It succeeds all too well in delivering its message, and the creepy visuals make it all the more effective (I have the feeling that people would have been less offended if the characters had been drawn like, for example, the appealing character designs of Filmation's "Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids" instead of the nightmarish ones we see here). Why is it so extreme? Well, that's because this is a movie made in sheer justifiable rage, and that's not the sort of emotion you can keep carefully under control very well when art is concerned.

The movie has forms of icy attempts at gags which are so sharp and revealing that (for somebody like myself) they seem more an example of daring rather than good judgement. That's not meant to be a criticism towards anyone who does find it hilarious, as I know people out there do, but I didn't laugh much. But that's only because I found the film so strong and vicious that I couldn't laugh. The few scenes where I really did laugh came out of the few traditionally cartoony gags that added fun personality to the three main characters, such as the scene where Fox almost carries off the tombstone from the graveyard ("Put him back, Fox!") and the clever tar baby sequence.

As for the animation itself, its movement and craft are superb. No matter what one's opinion of everything else here, one is still forced to admire the skill in putting it together.

While a part of me is relieved to see someone attempt to make such a powerful statement about such a terrible wrong, at the same time I can't really recommend the film. I doubt very much I would ever recommend this film to anyone...except to some jerk I might encounter someday who loves to badmouth people of other races. I personally doubt I would ever watch it again because I didn't "enjoy" it or "like" it but very much admire what it attempts to do all the same. And even if one attempts to put all the most controversial elements of it aside, it *still* carries a huge weight of violence and profanity guaranteed to offend a lot of viewers. But even so, it is a strong and bold movie. One that deserves applause for pointing out injustice.
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Very interesting
zetes2 January 2002
Streetfight (aka Coonskin) is a very unique film directed by animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi. It is an oddity of the cinema, and is very much worth seeing. It is live action mixed with animation, seemingly influenced on Disney's legendary Song of the South, almost as if it is a response to that flick. Philip Michael Thomas, later to become Don Johnson's sidekick on Miami Vice, and Scatman Crothers, most famous for his role in Kubrick's The Shining, are prison escapees. Charles Gordone and Barry White (yes, that Barry White) are Thomas' friends and plan to help him escape prison. They are stuck at a police roadblock, and Crothers tells Thomas a story about a black rabbit, a bear, and a fox who move from the South to Harlem in order to find a more peaceful existence. The story is animated, and provides a lot of wonderous things to see. Like all of Bakshi's films, most will be annoyed and will dislike the animation. True animation lovers will forgive its clunkiness and fall in love with its inventiveness. The movie is very violent, very sexual, and it is mostly about battles between the races. For a long time, I thought I was watching something extremely important, but after a while, especially after I got done watching it, it started to seem more like a run-of-the-mill blacksploitation flick, along the lines of Superfly. It's very sloppy and doesn't really say anything. Besides, isn't Bakshi white? Whatever the answer to that, Coonskin/Streetfight is still very much worth watching for animation aficionados as well as cult movie fans. 7/10.
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Don't Let The Title Throw You. This Is Definitely One To See....
abyoussef25 October 2007
by Dane Youssef

"Coonskin" is film, by the one and only Ralph Bakshi, is reportedly a satirical indictment of blaxploitation films and negative black stereotypes, as well as a look at life black in modern America (modern for the day, I mean--1975). Paramount dropped it like a hot potato that just burst into flame.

But this is a Bakshi film, controversial, thrilling, and a must-see almost by definition alone. Not just another random "shock-jock" of a movie which tries to shock for the sake of shock. It's by Ralph Bakshi. Anyone who knows the name knows that if HE made a movie, he has something big to say...

Although it's roots are based in cheap blaxploitation, "Coonskin" isn't just another campy knock-off of mainstream white film or any kind of throwaway flick. "Coonskin" wants to be more. It aims it's sights higher and fries some much bigger fish.

The movie doesn't just poke fun at the genre. Nor does it just indict black people, but actually seems to show love, beauty and heart in the strangest places.

"Coonskin" tells a story out of some convicts awaiting a jail-break. The fact that it's even possible to break out of a prison in the "Coonskin" world alone makes it old-fashioned.

One of the inmates tells a story about a trio of black brothers in Harlem named Brother Bear, Brother Rabbit, Preacher Fox who want respect and a piece of the action and are willing to get it by any means necessary. The Itallian mob is running all the real action.

Big name black musicians star: Barry White and Scatman Crothers, as well as Charles Gordone, the first black playwright to take home the Pulitzer. Something big is happening here obviously.

The movie plays out like a descent into this world, this side of the racial divide. From an angry, hip, deep, soulful black man with a hate in his heart and a gun in his hand.

Bakshi's films never know the meaning of the word "sublety." This one looks like it's never even heard of the word. But maybe a subject like this needs extremism. Real sledgehammer satire. Some subjects can't be tackled gently.

Bakshi is god-dammed merciless. Here, no member or minority of the Harlem scene appears unscathed.

The characters here are "animated" to "real" all depending on what the mood and situation are. The animated characters and the human ones all share the same reality and are meant to be taken just as literally.

Bakshi never just shows ugly caricatures just for shock value. He always has something to say. Nor is black-face is gratuitously. Here, unlike in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled," he seems to be using it to try and really say something.

Like 99.9% of all of Bakshi's films, this one incorporates animation and live-action. Usually at the same time. Bakshki isn't just being gimmicky here. All of this technique is all intertwined, meshing together while saying something.

Somehow, this one feels inevitably dated. Many of these types of films (Bakshi's included) are very topical, very spur of the moment. They reflect the certain trend for the day, but looking back of them years later, there's just an unmistakable feeling of nostalgia (as well as timeless truth).

Even though the music, clothes, slang and the city clearly looks like photos that belong in a time capsule, the attitude, the spirit and the heart remain the same no matter what f--king ear it is. Anyone who's really seen the movies, the state of things and has been in company of the people know what I'm talking about.

Even some of the of the black characters are a bunny (junglebunny), a big ol' bear and a fox. One of the most sour and unsavory racist characters is a dirty Harlem cop who's hot on the trail of these "dirty n-----s" after the death of a cop. But for him, it's not just business. Nor is it for the rest of the brothers who wear the shield. It's just pure sadistic racist pleasure of hurting blacks.

The sequence involving the Godfather and his lady is one of the most moving pieces in the whole film, of which there are many. It plays out like an opera or a ballet.

The promo line: WARNING: "This film offends everybody!" This is not just hype. Proceed with extreme caution.

You have been warned...

--Happy Viewing, Dane Youssef
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Brutal satire on stereotyping and racism
tomgillespie20028 February 2012
Randy (Philip Michael Thomas) and Pappy (Scatman Crothers) escape from prison and await a pick-up from their friends Sampson (Barry White) and Preacherman (Charles Gordone). Pappy begins to tell a strange story about three crooks, Brother Rabbit (voiced by Thomas), Brother Bear (White) and Preacher Fox (Gordone), who rise up throughout the Harlem crime ring. They come up against an evangelistic maniac who teaches his followers to kill whites, a crooked white cop with a hatred of Brother Rabbit, and a fat, Italian-American, Godfather-type who put out a contract on the trio.

Ralph Bakshi, one of the most revolutionary cartoonists in recent times, had a long history with the making of Coonskin. He experienced segregation first-hand growing up in Brooklyn where he was forced out of an all-black school due to the fear that the whites may discover it and cause havoc. These racist attitudes seem to have left their mark on Bakshi and he wanted to satirise it brutally, leading to the birth of Coonskin, a film that was picketed and protested against by various groups before any screenings of the film had been arranged, and a film that remained so misunderstood by many until recently.

Bakshi savagely attacks stereotyping and racist iconography by using, well, stereotyping and racist iconography. He employs characters in minstrel show blackface that were so popular in Civil War-era America, and portrays the black characters as loud, crude and violent. Yet no one is safe here - homosexuals, Italians, white-trash, Jews - all are portrayed as wildly over-the-top stereotypes. Bakshi conquers the problem by facing it head on, exaggerating it ten-fold, and then throwing it in our face. If you don't get satire or if you completely miss the point of Coonskin, then this is possibly the most offensive film ever made.

The animation is crude and dirty-looking, but I believe this was Bakshi's intention. By giving it a grimy, almost sloppy feel, he brings the story closer to the street, where his characters live out their lives. The mixture of animation set against real backdrops evokes Disney's still-banned Song of the South (1946), a film that Disney are so ashamed of due to the fact that it could be construed as racist, that they placed the ban on it themselves. The film is also quite strange, jumping between different styles and tones, and the result is as often confusing as it is mesmerising.

They are some truly inspired moments, such as the scene when our animated trio enter Harlem (the "home to every black man") to be greeted by a wailing saxophone in the street, as well as Scatman Crothers' rendition of Ah'm a N****r Man over the opening credits. I would recommend anyone with a fleeting interest in racial history to watch this film as long as they can stomach the viciousness of the satire, as it is as powerful as it funny, and as smutty as it is sophisticated. How this film was managed to be made escapes me, and how it was made by a white man simply perplexes me. Essential viewing.
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an exploitation film on the surface, but really about exploitation, and done in a crazy, free-for-all satirical form
MisterWhiplash26 July 2008
Coonskin might be my favorite Ralph Bakshi film. Like the best of his work, it's in-your-face and not ashamed of it for a second, but unlike some of his other work (even when he's at his finest, which was before and after Coonskin with Heavy Traffic and Wizards), it's not much uneven, despite appearances to the contrary. Bakshi's taking on stereotypes and perceptions of race, of course, but moreover he's making what appears to be a freewheeling exploitation film; blaxploitation almost, though Bakshi doesn't stop just there. If it were just a blaxploitation flick with inventive animation it could be enough for a substantial feature. But Bakshi's aims are higher: throwing up these grotesque and exaggerated images of not just black people but Italians/mafioso, homosexuals, Jews, overall New York-types in the urban quarters of Manhattan in the 70s, he isn't out to make anything realistic. The most normal looking creation in looking drawn "real" is, in fact, a naked woman painted red, white and blue.

In mocking these stereotypes and conventions and horrible forms of racism (i.e. the "tar-rabbit, baby" joke, yes joke, plus black-face), we're looking at abstraction to a grand degree. And best of all, Bakshi doesn't take himself too seriously, unlike Spike Lee with a film like Bamboozled, in delivering his message. This is why, for the most part, Coonskin is a hilarious piece of work, where some of the images and things done and sudden twists and, of course, scenes of awkward behavior (I loved the scene where the three animated characters are being talked at by the real-life white couple in tux and dress as looking "colorful" and the like), are just too much not to laugh at. It's not just the imagery, which is in and of itself incredibly "over"-stylized, but that the screenplay is sharp and, this is key for Bakshi this time considering, it's got a fairly cohesive narrative to string along the improvisations and madness.

Using at first live-action, then animation, and then an extremely clever matching of the two (ironically, what Bakshi later went for in commercial form with Cool World is done here to a T with less money and a rougher edge), Pappy and Randy are waiting outside a prison wall for a buddy to escape, and Pappy tells of the story of Brother Rabbit, who with Brother Bear and Preacher Fox go to Harlem and become big-time hoodlums, with Rabbit in direct opposition to a Jabba-the-Hut-esquire Godfather character. This is obviously a take off on Song of the South with its intentionally happy-go-lucky plot and animation, here taken apart and shown for how rotten and offensive it really is.

Yet Bakshi goes for broke in combining forms; animated characters stand behind and move along with live-action backgrounds; when violence and gunshots and fights occurs it's as bloody as it can get for 1975; when a dirty cop is at a bar and is drugged and put in black-face and a dress, he trips in a manner of which not even Disney could reach with Dumbo; a boxing match with Brother Bear and an opponent as the climax is filmed in wild slow-motion; archive footage comes on from time to time of old movies, some and some from the 20s that are just tasteless.

Like Mel Brooks or Kubrick or, more recently, South Park, Bakshi's Coonskin functions as entertainment first and then thought-provocation second. It's also audacious film-making on an independent scale; everything from the long takes to the montage and the endlessly warped designs for the characters (however all based on the theme of the piece) all serve the thought in the script, where its B-movie plot opens up much more for interpretation. To call it racist misses the point; it's like calling Dr. Strangelove pro-atomic desolation or Confederate States of America pro slavery. And, for me, it's one of the best satires ever made.
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Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin is indeed a movie that would "offend EVERYBODY"
tavm21 November 2008
After finally watching Walt Disney's Song of the South on myspace, I decided to watch Ralph Bakshi's response to that movie-Coonskin-on Afro Video which I linked from Google Video. In this one, during the live-action sequences, Preacherman (Charles Gordone) takes his friend Sampson (Barry White) with him to pick up Pappy (Scatman Crothers) and Randy (Philip Thomas, years before he added Michael for his middle name professionally) as the latter two escape from prison. During their attempt, Pappy tells Randy a tale of Brother Rabbit (voice of Thomas), Brother Bear (White), and Preacher Fox (Gordone) and their adventures in Harlem. As expected in many of these Bakshi efforts, there's a mix of animation and live-action that provides a unique point-of-view from the writer/director that is sure to offend some people. Another fascinating animated character is Miss America who's a big-as in gigantic in every way-white blonde woman dressed in skin-tight red, white, and blue stars and stripes who has a hold on a little black man and has him shot in one of the most sexually violent ways that was shockingly funny to me! There are plenty of such scenes sprinkled throughout the picture of which another one concerning Brother Bear's frontal anatomy also provided big laughs from me. There's also a segment of a woman telling her baby of a "cockroach" she was friends with who left her that was touching with that part seeming to be a tribute to the comic strip artist George Herriman. I was also fascinated hearing Grover Washington Jr.'s version of "Ain't No Sunshine" heard as part of the score. Most compelling part of the picture was seeing the Scatman himself depicted with his head in silhouette during the opening credit sequence singing and scatting to a song that has him using the N-word in a satirical way. When I saw a VHS cover of this movie years ago, it had depicted Brother Rabbit in insolent mode in front of what looked like the Warner circles with the slogan, "This movie will offend EVERYBODY". That is ample warning to anyone who thinks all cartoons are meant for children. That said, I definitely recommend Coonskin to fans of Bakshi and of every form of animation.
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QKnown10 November 1999
Hard to believe that this flick ever did get made. It doesn't take much for people to label this as racist material, It came out at a time when black folks were able to get revenge on cinema. Well, they accomplish it well here.

Ralph Bakshi's half animated, half live-action flick is actually a memorable one. Though it benefits from the Uncle Remus Tales as was already mentioned, Coonskin does have its own original elements that it seems no one else would touch. Watch for the clever voice-overs which perfectly fit the characters.

I would'nt recommend this movie for everyone, thats for sure. But for die-hard animation freaks, here's one for ya!
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An alright film but I preferred Fritz The Cat
gangstahippie7 August 2007
MPAA:Rated R for Violence,Language,Nudity and Brief Drug Use. Quebec Rating:13+ Canadian Home Video Rating:18A

I saw Coonskin today.This film is also known as Bustin Out and Street Fight.After watching Fritz The Cat,I wanted to see more of Bashki's films.I saw Cool World and thought it was mediocre and I saw this.When it was first released, the film was very controversial.It was considered racist and Al Sharpton wanted the film banned, he even led protests outside the theatre where the film was playing.The film was only released on VHS under the title "Street Fight".It is now considered a cult-classic film and African-American celebrities such as comedian Richard Pryor,director Spike Lee and the rap group The Wu-Tang Clan are said to have enjoyed this film.I personally thought Fritz The Cat was a much better film but this is very enjoyable as well.Worth watching for Bashki or Blaxploitation film fans.The film mixes live action and animation sort of like the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.I would have preferred it in full animation but whatever.The film starts off with a reverend and another man racing to rescue two of their friends from prison.While the prisoners wait,the older one tells a story of three men he knew.The film then switches into animation format, we see three black men who sold their house to this man.They decide to make names for themselves in Harlem.So the leader, a black rabbit, kills a big player in Harlem and he basically becomes a big shot.The film moves on as the Italian mafia want him out.The mafia involves the godfather,his three sons who are homosexual and an Italian clown.Coonskin is an entertaining animated film that's worth checking out, if you can find it.
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The Greatest Animated Picture Never Seen
Anthony Iessi5 March 2013
Coonskin has been dragged into the darkest realms of cinematic obscurity. When it was released in 1975, people panicked. Not since the 1940's has such racially insensitive jokes been made on African Americans. CORE and the NAACP screamed for blood and demanded this film to never be released, or shown to anyone for that matter. Leading Paramount Pictures to drop this movie from its original distribution and was forced to be shown in Grindhouse theaters nationwide and distributed by a mafioso production company. How devastatingly ironic, because this film HATES the mafia. Perhaps it was due to its off putting title. But I think more importantly, it was its trailer. The film's theatrical trailer is one of the most surreal, unholy debaucheries of a motion picture you will ever see. Just a bunch of scenes (some of which are pivotal to the plot of the film) thrown aimlessly together without any explanation of what the movie could be about. Of course, people speculated the worst from this film. But it wasn't what anyone thought it was. Coonskin is an absolute trip. It' points out the sad, painful truth about racism as we know it and threw it in our faces whether we could handle it or not. If anything, it advocates for the good of African Americans and slanders everyone that took advantage of it. It's a tale about three brothers, losing their way in the slums of Manhattan, as they try to get back at the "man". It's classic blaxploitation fare with a tendency for screwing with the audience and shocking them with the cold hard truth. Ralph worked his hardest with this film and insisted on making this his masterpiece, and it shows with explosive results. I loved the characters. The three brothers are dangerously cool, especially Brother Rabbit. Miss America is without a doubt the sexiest animated woman ever drawn. Unfortunately, she represents everything bloated, superficial, perverted and wrong with America. Which makes her a wickedly evil villain. The main villain, the Godfather was a little hard to swallow being Italian and all. But the Mafia was just begging for a Hollywood beating, and Bakshi let them have it. If I was to sum up Coonskin in one sentence, I would call it the Pulp Fiction of animation. It has the same level of genius and wit as that movie did, and will grow on you for an awfully long time. It's too bad not many people will ever see it. Hopefully, a home video release will finally surface in the future, and we can all celebrate this controversial classic.
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Not for everybody, but I consider it one of Bakshi's better films
TheLittleSongbird3 April 2012
I had heard much about Coonskin, mostly good, though I do know a fair few who were offended by it. Seeing this film, I can see why Coonskin won't appeal to all, due to its very gritty subject matter(racism) and the fact it is stereotypical. However, I loved this movie surprisingly and consider it one of Bakshi's better films alongside American Pop and Heavy Traffic. The visuals are wonderful, the blend of animation and live action is very clever, and some of the images are brutal but often fascinating. The music is equally great, especially the opening title sequence. The satire really does bite and hit you hard, while the story is rich and multi-layered with lots of insight(correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Bakshi has done anything as ambitious as Coonskin before). The voice acting adds a lot, in particular from Scatman Brothers and the resonant, deep voice of Barry White. All in all, Coonskin is not for all tastes, but I loved it, and appreciate it for its biting satire and its take on a very gritty and perhaps controversial subject. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Don't be offended
Grimlock-215 July 2004
Sure this flick is very racist in content, but it's very entertaining if you give it a chance. The movie begins where we see Preacher (Gordone) talking to God, then go meets up with Samson (White, R.I.P.), as they head out to go break their friends, Randy (Thomas) and Pappy (Crothers) out of prison. While they're waiting outside the prison walls for Samson and Preacher to come, Pappy tells Randy the story of Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear, and Preacher Fox, about how they got runned out of the South and into Harlem. Just as they get into Harlem, the guys attend a *so-called* church social held by Rev. Simple Savior. Brother Rabbit figures out its nothing' but a big joke and takes out the phoney Reverend and tells his ex-cohorts that he and his friends are taking over, but there's one thing. Before he can take over, he must take out a crazy cop named Manigan and the Godfather and his mafia (4 homos, 1 straight, and 1 clown). Very entertaining, I recommend it to anyone who wants to see something unique and different.
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Finally, a GOOD Bakshi movie
No Nukes12 January 2002
This is much better fare than Ralph Bakshi normally cranks out,

probably because most of his other "political cartoon" films are

pretty static and boring. This one acts almost as a self-parody of

Bakshi's style of storytelling. All his pitch-black humor is present,

along with the outrageous character sterotypes that come with it.

But this time, it's put together in a way that does NOT wander into

an aimless mess and actually has something worthwhile to say.

And it has "furries" sprinkled liberally throughout it to keep interest

up (a rabbit, a bear, a fox, a mouse, a lion, an anteater, a monkey,

a duck, etc.). The slapstick routines add a nice touch too, and it

manages to be funny. This is one of those rare occasions Bakshi

got his head out of his butt, stopped whining and complaining

about how no one notices him, and made an actual CARTOON,

dammit. Great viewing for people who are actually mature-minded

and not just over 17 with the brains of 10-year-olds. Keep a sharp

eye out for references to "Song Of The South"!

Definitely worth putting on DVD!
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How does one describe "Coonskin?"
millsmore-327-4310713 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After watching Bakshi's personal drama/comedy Heavy Traffic, I was pleasantly surprised at how one could blend animation and real life together (both figuratively and literally) to make a gritty and vulgar, yet still poignant film. The next film on my list was Coonskin, and after watching the trailer, I admit I was nervous. I was worried this would be an over indulgent, surreal mess like Cool World was. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Coonskin is framed by a live action story of two men planning to escape from prison. As they wait for their pickup, the older of the two begins to tell another, animated story about a trio of black men (so to speak). Brother Rabbit(Philip Michael Thomas), the slick, cunning, intelligent leader, Brother Bear (Barry White), the strong, loyal muscle, and Preacher Fox, the wild and upbeat father figure. The three head to Harlem after their house is sold to an uppity businessman, where they plan to make it big. They take down a corrupt, big name revolutionary on their first night and instantly make a name for themselves. The only thing keeping them from rising to the top is the Godfather and his associates.

What makes this movie better than Heavy Traffic is that it actually has a ground in plot, unlike the former, which more pretended like it had a plot. Coonskin is easier to follow and has some more likable and fun characters, Heavy Traffic's are sleazier and outlined with tragedy. The villains are well done too, The Godfather especially. He's hideous, looking like a bloated sack of flesh, and his voice drips with slime. His cohorts include his five sons (four of which are incestuous homosexuals,) a headless black man, and a small child dressed as a clown who swings from wires wherever he goes. With a creative cast like that, the movie becomes a unique experience, and you really develop feelings for the protagonists and the antagonists. You've also got some clever symbolism, like a voluptuous white woman decorated with stars and stripes and named Miss America, who beats up and tricks helpless black men who try to befriend or stand up to her.

If you can handle the nudity and violence, which is certainly shocking, this is a must-see for people who love animation, blaxploitation, satires, or those just in the mood for something a little different.
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TVBRobotnik at the Movies: Coonskin
rldnlvalentine14 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Remember Ralph Bakshi? The guy that was an animator on Terrytoons, then on Paramount Cartoon Studios, after that, he was a director on Fritz the Cat 1 & 2 and Heavy Traffic? Well, this is Coonskin. And it's actually pretty good. Racist, but good. The movie takes place in Harlem Nights (No, duh, it was a working title.) but with a twist that becomes a lampoon of a Disney movie, Song of the South.

It's about Sampson (Barry White) and the Preacherman (Charles Gordone) rush to help their friend, Randy (Philip Michael Thomas) escape from prison, but are stopped by a roadblock and wind up in a shootout with the police. While waiting for them, Randy unwillingly listens to fellow escapee Pappy (Scatman Crothers), as he begins to tell Randy a story about "three guys, I used to know, just like you and your friends". Pappy's story is told in animation set against live-action background photos and footage.

Brother Rabbit (voice of Thomas), Brother Bear (voice of White), and Preacher Fox (voice of Gordone) decide to pack up and leave their Southern settings after the bank mortgages their home and sells it to a man who turns it into a brothel. Arriving in Harlem, Rabbit, Bear, and Fox find that it isn't all that it's made out to be. They encounter a con man named Simple Savior, a phony revolutionary leader who purports to be the "cousin" of Black Jesus, and that he gives his followers "the strength to kill whites". In a flashy stage performance in his "church", Savior acts out being brutalized by symbols of black oppression—represented by images of John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, before asking his parishioners for "donations".

Rabbit first goes up against Madigan, a virulently racist and homophobic white police officer and the bag man for the Mafia, who demonstrates his contempt for African Americans in various ways, including a refusal to bathe before an anticipated encounter with them (he believes they're not worth it). When Madigan finds out that Rabbit has been taking his payoffs, he and his cohorts, Ruby and Bobby, are led to a nightclub called "The Cottontail".

A black stripper distracts him while an LSD sugar cube is dropped into his drink. Madigan, while under the influence of his spiked drink, is then maneuvered into a sexual liaison with a stereotypically effeminate gay man, and then shoved into clothes that women were representative of the racist archetype, adorned in something racist, and finally shoved out the back of the club where he discovers that Ruby and Bobby are dead.

Then, while recovering from his delirium of being drugged, shoots his gun around randomly, and is shot to death by the police after shooting one of them.

Rabbit, Bear, Fox and the opponent boxer rush out of the boxing arena as it blows up. The live-action story ends with Randy and Pappy escaping while being shot at by various white cops, but managing to make it out alive.

This movie was controversial at that time of release, and was re-edited by the director several times under the title, Street Fight, which is obvious, since Street Fight is a 2005 documentary about racism in the streets. In fact, this movie has the same subject as the documentary.

That caused Bryanston Pictures, the distributor of this film and the original Tobe Hopper classic, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to go out of business. Because Paramount wanted to produce and distribute this film, but due to racism, Bryanston took over Bakshi's production.

Despite the controversy, it was worth the entertainment. The animation was awesome at that time, the plot makes sense, and it's actually funny too.

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Simply Anti-White
ruzhu23 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Coonskin is less about advancing the lives of blacks than it is about promoting reverse racism against whites. Don't believe me? Let's look at some examples.

1. The film starts out with two black men inside a car shooting a white police officer who just stopped them for speeding.

2. The implied leader of the Black Jesus revolution movement is a white accountant - HE'S the one taking advantage of the poor blacks.

3. The talk about how "killing crackers is cool."

4. Making slights of "white people's" music, dancing and dress at a fancy club.

5. And finally, depicting nearly all whites as the bad guys.

The white race is the scapegoat throughout Coonskin - the final source of the black characters' problems. Therefore, according to the film, black people have the right to flip off, yell at, mock, and do harm to white people at every turn. The black characters' racist Sambo caricatures are used to taunt the white audience, as if "clueless whitey" only sees black people as those caricatures. (I, however, don't find that kind of ironic racism clever, but instead as an excuse to draw offensive cartoons.)

There was one scene in the film that came remotely close to explaining the real underlying cause of problems in the black community, and that was the scene of the single Harlem mother with her child, whose husband left her for no good reason. The shame of not providing enough for your family does not excuse you from leaving your family, and leaving only makes them suffer more. But it's not necessarily discriminatory employment from the white man that renders the black father useless to his family - it's his apathy conditioned by generations of post-slavery wandering, and it leads to dysfunctional families with antisocial or even criminal family members. The welfare system also has played its part in splintering black families, and while I grant that it came into being by the hand of white politicians, a level of personal accountability does exist for everybody, and this film seems to be trying its best to exempt blacks from that.

In a cartoon feature, you can't expect to touch on serious issues while your characters are running around with big lips and bow ties. These kinds of exaggerated stereotypes are only meant to be "funny" - they have no business elsewhere. Don't watch this film for any actual constructional social critique or insight.
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The Animated Film of the Blaxploitation era
Joe Stemme13 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Coming off the X-Rated FRITZ THE CAT, you'd think there would be no way for Ralph Bakshi to top it as far as controversy was concerned. Wrong. COONSKIN opened a kettle of controversy that remains to this day, and a DVD release is sorely missed.

From the very first scene where Scatman Crothers soulfully belts out a tune whose lyrics can't be printed here, to the full-on unapologetic racial stereotyping encompassing race, religion, ethnic and sexual preferences (and MORE!), COONSKIN is a document of the times, unfettered by studio tampering that is inconceivable today.

Does it all work? Absolutely not. Bakshi's storytelling has never been his strong suit. The film's plot follows along the traditional black men facing white bigotry gambit of so many of the pure live action efforts. Into that stew are tossed in crime, interracial sex and political repression. It's a very hot concoction, and it's too bad that it doesn't work better on the story level. Also, much of the dialog is wrought with such exaggerated accenting and vocal inflections, that much of the dialog is hard to make out clearly.

The visuals are a vibrant mix of live action, traditional animation, early rotoscoping and, often enough, a mix of all of them. Music is also key, but nothing else matches Scatman's intro.

Grindhouse Fest
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If you have a still functional brain, steer clear of this one.
choochoo-612 May 2005
I like movies.

I like cartoons.

So why wouldn't I like this movie that is also a cartoon? Let me list the reasons.

1. Incoherent. Normally when I use this word, I confine it to being just about the plot, or just about dialog, or just about characters. Not with this movie. The characters never seemed to have a consistent way of acting. The mood of the story changes half way through from a trio of country boys exploring the Big City (a manageable plot) into a ridiculous plot involving different crime bosses vying for control of Harlem. The dialog is completely incomprehensible. Maybe I don't speak 70's jive and that's the reason I didn't understand half the things said, but regardless of the reasons, you might be better off just turning off the sound. In addition, things happen without reason or explanation. For example (spoiler) when the mafia boss's wife is killed, she turns into a beautiful woman, and then is killed again. Why? Do I NEED to take drugs to enjoy this film?

2. Dark. I don't mean the mood of the film was dark (though it was). What I mean is that the color of film was too dark. Every color was a muted, dank variation of brown. It made the film vary difficult to watch.

3. Unnecessary sexual content. Often times sex in a movie deepens the characters, or provides story development, or even a good love scene. This movie had none of those elements, and the sex seemed tacked on, as if the writer/director said, "How can we make this movie more offensive?" If you like movies, do not see this movie. It will make you stupider for having watched it.
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Great title no?
haildevilman5 July 2007
OK, OK, don't get bent out of round. I was kidding.

"Bustin' Out" is actually a better and truer title anyhoo.

Racism and crime dramas get the satiric treat meant from our X-rated animator friend Ralphie boy. And he does one of his better jobs here.

On the crime front it shows the truth. They build it, defend it, then boredom and stronger rivals cause them to (maybe) lose it. See for yourself to see what goes down.

Racist? I don't know. With Scatman (RIP) and the love walrus (also RIP) being black and the main point of view, I saw it as an attack on racism mostly. The fact that Richard Pryor liked it says as much as well. And the younger (pre "Miami Vice") Phil Mike Thomas in there was a nice surprise.

It's an animated "Blacksploitation" film. That's a good thing. Done well and well done. It will make some squirm (like the lynching scene) but unfortunately that's based on fact.

But Ralphie REALLY should have re-thought that title.
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Absouletely stupid so it is!
Irishreviewer5 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Man, I wish I could give this movie a 0 because it's just so chronic! The animation was pure rubbish and by god, I hadn't a clue on what every character was saying. The story and its theme are just so poor. I don't care about the bad language but less words on using "Ni**a" all the time and more concentration on what the hell is going on!

Even the music at the beginning, it made my ears bleed.

That was not even a song from Scatman Crothers, it was more like a bad record player needing to be dusted because it hadn't been cleaned for a while!

I swear, avoid watching this at all costs!
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Still sticks most of its stereotype potshots 40 years later
pebsdad4 March 2016
Just seeing this 1975 blacksploitation film in 2016, it still holds up to its jab at stereotypes of black, whites, gays and, mostly, Disney's "Song of the South". It also isn't as pointed as many of the current late night comedians of the present day are about race and didn't make this honky feel like he needed to close his curtains while he watched it (like Boondocks does). I was surprised how tame it was...but loved the nods to Disney.

It uses a mix of (mostly)animation by the wonderful Bakshi as well as new footage to set a very loose story, as well as using vintage footage for backdrop and storytelling. It doesn't make much sense at times but will quickly move on to skewer another stereotype from the time and it is very entertaining throughout. Very bonus kudos to the fact that Barry White plays a main character, both in new footage and animation. It's surprising he turned down the South Park creators years later when clearly his tongue is in his cheek here.

Don't let the title scare you's worth a look 40 years later.
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I agree. Offensive but very entertaining. Also see Fritz the Cat
John davis8 August 2006
I remember when I was five and my parents thought it was a regular cartoon movie....except when the bras and bullets started flying. I have to agree this movie will make anyone and everyone upset because it is set to discriminate everyone and anyone....but the truth is it is funny as hell as it is deep. I recommend this to anyone who likes cult classics. Also try Fritz the cat and the NINE Lives of Fritz the Cat. If I'm correct Ralph Bashki did that movie too.It involves a cat that goes through hard times with family, streets,jobs , etc. When I was old enough I rented all of these movies out. Because Coonskin was an offensive title during that era it was also labeled as Street Fighter. Ralph Bashki also made Cool World starring a very young Brad Pitt. Heavy traffic was another cartoon that dealt with the street life of a young man.
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