Petey Wheatstraw (1977)
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Enough soapboxing on with my behalf, let's get on with the brief review. Rudy Ray Moore plays a signifying performer who some how manages to get mixed up with the Devil's personal affairs. He makes a deal with old Lucipher (watch the film to get that joke) and tries to welsh on his end of the deal. This film is flat out funny. Loosely based upon one of his stand up skits (Dolemite and the Human Tornado were also based on stand up routines)and technically sound (for a low budget production) Petey Wheatstraw is a must watch.
I highly recommend this film.
Well, "greatness" is too strong a word. Petey Wheatstraw is not great, but rather "amusing" and somewhat "crazy." If you permit yourself to be drawn into the film's wacky universe, you may have a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience.
Petey Wheatstraw, in short, is about a kung-fu fighting stand-up comedian who makes an unwise bargain with Lucifer. It's part comedy movie, part horror movie, part gangster movie, part sex movie, and part kung-fu epic with intentionally (I hope) bad choreography. The film bounces breathlessly between these genres, especially in the early scenes, which are disorienting and seem totally unconnected. But soon enough, the story settles into a kind of weird rhythm.
Needless to say, the production values are poor (Lucifer's demon minions are men in ballet tights and Halloween masks), the editing is choppy, and the acting is of highly variable quality. The script, however, has a weird poetry to it. The comedy dialog, though extremely crass, is sometimes really funny, and some of the "character" scenes when Petey and Lucifer get together are bizarrely effective.
Now I feel all weird, because I'm trying to defend what is, in essence, an extremely tacky bad movie. But it's a *witty* bad movie, and I can appreciate the effort that went into its production. And the film undeniably captures a time -- a place -- a bizarreness. It's sort of hypnotic.
Let me put it this way: I bought Petey Wheatstraw as a bargain DVD years ago, hated it on the initial viewing, and almost pawned it. But I never did get rid of that DVD. It survived several years of DVD trading-in, numerous changes of address on my part, and other seismic events in my life that might easily have caused Petey Wheatstraw's demise. But that DVD survived through it all; I still have the movie, still think about it sometimes, still smirk when I see it on my shelf. And that's the best endorsement I can give it.
** (out of 4)
Rudy Ray Moore is back, this time playing the title character, a comedian who is doubled crossed by a couple jerks. Petey is shot dead in the streets and his spirit is visited by Lucifer who offers him a deal. If Petey agrees to marry his daughter and have a son, Petey can continue life and be given a magical pimp stick. Petey takes the deal and enjoys the powers that the stick gives him but when it comes time to pay he wants no part of Lucifer's daughter.
After DOLEMITE and its sequel THE HUMAN TORPEDO, Moore found himself playing a new character and while it's not nearly as entertaining as the earlier movies, if you're a fan of the comic then there's plenty to enjoy here. If you're coming to this film expecting to see anything like THE HUMAN TORPEDO then you had better check yourself because this film is something completely different. As wild as the story sounds, the film is actually pretty straight-forward without too many campy or over-the-top moments.
The direction they took this film is somewhat shocking because it barely registers a R-rating until the final fifteen-minutes when we finally get some exploitation moments including a weird orgy sequence and some nudity. Everything before that is pretty much a straight but bizarre drama dealing with Petey being murdered but then given a chance to seek revenge on the men behind it. All of this is played rather straight and it is entertaining but I'm just not sure the blaxploitation crowd are going to enjoy something straight when it comes to Moore.
The film finally reaches some high marks at the end when Lucifer and his servants come for revenge. The make up on the devils is quite generic but it makes for some fun. As usual Moore doesn't give a great performance but he's certainly quite the character and he manages to make the role fun and keep the viewer interested in what's going on. The supporting cast is nice and for the most part fans of Moore should enjoy this one.
Also, there's a magic pimp cane.
As I made my way through my collection of Rudy Ray Moore movies, PETEY WHEATSTRAW is about where my interest began to wane but not enough to keep from enjoying the film. It's still chock full of Moore's trademark humor with the added absurdity of the supernatural storyline. Even after two movies and a few years of experience, Moore and his crew still haven't learned how to tell a proper structured story on film. The movie, as with the two previous, is all over the place. The first act is all about Leroy and Skillet's attempts at sidetracking Petey from performing the same night as their grand opening. The second act introduces the Devil plot but continues to focus on Petey's vengeance against his attempted murderers (and discovering his new powers via the magic cane). And then the final act, which almost feels tacked on, is Petey trying to outsmart the Devil and avoid the marriage to the Prince of Darkness's hideous daughter. The whole "Devil's Son-in-Law" portion of the movie is largely unimportant until the final 30 minutes, after the whole Leroy/Skillet plot has been resolved and most movie's would end. It's a shame too because the whole Devil storyline, the part I was most interested in watching has some of the better WTF moments. It should have been the focus of the movie. With its horrible makeup effects and crappy professional wrestling style demons, there are some awesome fight sequences that'll have you laughing so hard it hurts.
There is a lot of promise for a comedian like Moore in such a bizarre concept but it's all wasted for yet another "save the club" plot. Another interesting point I've noticed: the movie is obsessed with watermelon. Seriously, there is a LOT of it here: Petey's mother gives birth to one, characters are always eating it, and a truck load of watermelons is even blown up. It's everywhere, and this is the only Moore film where he plays so heavily on this stereotype. Not important, just something that really stood out to me. Anyway, the cast is really what makes this movie so fun. Moore is doing his usual routine, but the rest of the cast adds some new flavor. Lady Reed is missing from this movie, and you won't hear a complaint from me. For a women who was billed as a comedian, she couldn't act and I was glad to see she sat this one out. Leroy and Skillet are probably the best part of the movie. A couple of goons, their evil scheming and total idiocy are some of the funniest bits. As funny as the duo are, I would have liked to see them show up in more of Moore's movies. And then there's the Devil himself, G. Tito Shaw. I love it the man is chewing the scenery with his bravado and attempt at a commanding presence. The characters are a blast and the humor hasn't quite run dry in PETEY WHEATSTRAW; so while it's a little boring at times and the structure needs serious work, I would still recommend this movie to fans of Moore's movies.
How could the cane given by Satan to Petey be more powerful than Satan himself? And why would Petey break the powerful cane since it was what had saved him time and time again? And how could merely breaking the cane in two render it useless? Why would Petey get into a limo, thinking it's one of his posse's car? There's only so much suspension of disbelief I'm willing to grant.
As I mentioned, the film has its moments, like when Petey combs the nappy-headed boy's hair, and the little boy's t-shirt that said 'I'm a little devil' was a nice touch. I also give credit for putting in politically incorrect stuff like watermelon and fat jokes. I did laughed when Petey's mom delivered a watermelon, when the bomb blew up a truck full of watermelons, and when the heavy chick struggled to fit into a lawn chair.
The biggest laugh for me came when the club singer's wig flew off. Wig's coming off are always good for a laugh with me. And there are a few hot brothers in polyester suits that show off their fine butts. Props for that.
But the parts are much greater than the sum.
Rudy Ray seems to have done alright for himself, being ambitious and being in the right place at the right time. I'm happy for him, but I'm just not a fan of this movie.
_Petey Wheatstraw the Devil's Son In Law_ was by far the worst movie I have ever seen. And believe me, I gave it a chance. It was recommended by a friend who knows what I want to see, and suggests both the best and the worst movies ever for me to see. He had already seen it once, and when we watched it, neither of us could finish it. I ALWAYS finish movies. I hate leaving, even to go to the bathroom, from even bad movies. This one just couldn't do it for me. The low budget nature is negligible. The poor acting is expected. But the acting is not just poor, it is terribly excessive overacting at points, and at other points cardboard-cutout-esque.
I had a hard time getting my mind around the stereotypes displayed.
The worst part of all is, it is not a bad movie you can make fun of. I mean, a scary movie, a drama, an action film... if done poorly, you can make these a laugh riot, either with a bunch of your pals or by yourself. But when a no budget comedy is horrible, you can't laugh at it. It is impossible.
Alan Alda's character in _Crimes and Misdemeanors_ says "If it bends, its funny. If it breaks, its not funny." This broke before the movie started and consistently waves the broken pieces in your face.
Look at it like this: A friend tells you a bad joke. It is uncomfortable to listen to, but the reward comes when you pretend to laugh and then they feel good about themselves. These jokes are even worse, so they are more uncomfortable to listen to, and then, since it cannot receive your reaction, assumes you are laughing hysterically, and kicks the horribleness up a notch, trying to top the last joke. And since the filmmakers are ignorant to your response it is not endearing, but annoying. You feel no reward for attempting to laugh. Its even hard to make your own jokes about it, because this film goes to such great lengths to try to make you laugh anyway but fails at every turn. And I do mean EVERY TURN.
Maybe I missed something, so you can try to watch it. After all, I do advocate trying new things. At least you will be able to appreciate good comedy.
Forgive me, Rudy Ray.