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Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

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1:30 | Trailer
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.

Director:

Melvin Van Peebles

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Cast

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

You bled my Momma--You bled my Poppa--But you won't bleed me. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 March 1973 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Sweet Sweetback See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Yeah See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

The fire truck that appeared at the end of the car explosion was not originally supposed to appear. Due to a permit still not filed, the fire department was unaware and proceeded to appear unannounced. See more »

Quotes

Beetle: Like you gonna have to kinda lay out, stretch out a little while, be real cool. Kinda lay dead. Ol' Beetle'll let you know what's happenin', what's goin' down. You don't have to worry about nothin'. If you need anything, anything at all, brother, just keep the faith in Beetle, ol' Beetle goin' to bring you through, cause this is just a skirmish. You know how the game goes, baby. But you keep the faith in me and you my man. You my favorite man. Can you dig it, baby? Together, you know, maintain....
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Alternate Versions

The 1998 UK video version was passed fully uncut by the BBFC after receiving a written assurance from Melvin Van Peebles that 18 year old Hubert Scales was playing the role of young Sweetback during the opening sex scene. When the film was re-released on DVD in 2005 it had been revealed to the BBFC that the information was false, and that the role had actually been played by then-14 year old Mario Van Peebles. Owing to the Protection of Children Act 1978 the scene had to be cut and 1 minute 9 secs were removed by the distributors, using black imaging to replace the offensive footage. However the edit was insufficient and a further 5 secs of cuts were requested by the BBFC. See more »


Soundtracks

Sweetback's Theme
Written by Melvin Van Peebles
Performed by Melvin Van Peebles featuring Earth Wind & Fire
See more »

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User Reviews

As long as you don't study it for its technique...
1 May 2003 | by morakanabadSee 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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