Jeff Gerber, an insurance agent, lives in a typical suburban neighborhood. He is also both racist and a fitness freak. But Jeff's bigoted world of taunting and harassing black people on and off the job is turned upside down when his skin inexplicably turns dark overnight. As Jeff tries to come to terms with this unexplained phenomenon that has befallen him, he soon becomes the victim himself when all of his friends and neighbors suddenly shun and harass him. This puts a strain on his marriage and loyal wife Althea, who begins to crack under the pressure. When all medical attempts to change his skin back to his former color fail, Jeff accepts that Kharma has caught up with him. Jeff tries to see the light of being a persecuted black man in this cruel and segregated world with the help of some of some new black friends, some of whom were people he, as a white man, taunted and harassed.Written by
First - WHO's Godfrey Cambridge?!?! Yeah - he was a comedian. And a VERY funny one. Sigh.
OK, now that I've said that, let me make a couple of things understood. A lot of people who've written comments about this are either too young to remember the 60's/70's or are trying to relate to this film from today's perspective.
This film was written/directed by Melvin Van Peebles, who - at the time - was (and, by some - unfortunately) considered a 'controversial (black) artist. Second; yes, the makeup is not as good as the wonderful job done on Eddie Murphy in various films/skits, or the Wayans' brothers, but - for the make-up tech of the day - it was VERY good (look at the scene in the beginning when Godfrey's exercising (naked!), and then going to the shower. I just watched it on HD, and it still holds up VERY well (and as an aside; I saw this film first when I was about 10 - on TV. I thought upon seeing it that REALLY was a white man who became black. So, just remember that while you might not think his make-up's up to snuff now, it sure did convince an earlier generation).
Understanding when this film was made, the 'situation' of race relations at the time, and the ability for a (black) artist like Mr. Van Peebles to MAKE this film is necessary in understanding how shocking this film was - in all those areas.
Yes - the film's a bit dated (but who isn't?). But watching this film - and understanding what I've just explained makes it all the more extraordinary. Alex P (miskatonic86), and Definitedoll (just to name a couple) are some of the few who understand this film's importance.
Mr. Cambridge is/was one of the best comics. His 'babbling' - or more accuratley, his riffing on a subject was part of his stand-up style (if you'd like to see Godfrey not as a 'babbling' person, but as a (slightly ominous - and funny) character, check him out in THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST, or in COTTON COMES TO HARLEM. , amongst other appearances.
He's sorely missed, by me and many others who've seen him either on such shows as ED SULLIVAN, THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, I SPY amongst MANY other shows. If not, you can see this huge talent's work on YouTube (YouTube's a GREAT resource for educating yourself about not current performers and artists. It's NOT just a place to look at ...cat's playing pianos, and other garbage).
As a glimpse (by a black artist!) into the 'white man's world,' and the world in general - at that time - Mr. Van Peebles should be given his deserved recognition (and Godfrey, we miss you!).
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