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In 1835, the San Cristobal Island located somewhere in the British West Indies is ruled by sadistic beauty, Lady Susan Walker, who forces the local men to join the black slaves on her sugar cane plantation and either work or die. She's always dressed in black and never lets go of her whip, the black snake. Her latest husband has gone missing making her a real black widow. Her right hand man, impotent, racist and violent Joxer Tierney, is in command of the slaves and he makes sure that they hate him even more than they do her. Young slave Joshua plans a revolt, but his religious father Isaiah is terrified of what might happen if the revolt fails. Sir Charles Walker, the brother of Susan's late husband, goes undercover as Ronald Sopwith to investigate what really happened to his brother. She hires him as the plantation accountant, gives him a black sex slave named Cleone and eventually tries to seduce him. Her sadistic gay assistant may no more about Charles' brother's fate.
Made one year before ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS, BLACKSNAKE could have easily been called SUSAN, SHE-WOLF OF THE PLANTATION and it probably inspired the producers behind the Nazi sexploitation epics to go ahead with their more infamous films because the stories are identical: a gorgeous, horny, head strong (but stupid) blonde woman degrades and kills many people under her control, whom all hate her and want her dead. Sounds familiar? Director Russ Meyer and David Friedman, the producer behind the ILSA flicks, are good friends and they started their careers together. So, obviously, there's a connection there. Looking at BLACKSNAKE, I can't help but think that Russ Meyer wanted to move on and do something else than his typical busty women epics because XXX movies were all the rage during the mid 1970s, and Russ Meyer films, though filled with nudity and kinkiness and violence, were never even close to real porn. His films started to look positively quaint next to DEEP THROAT and other hard-core porno blockbusters. Meyer knew he couldn't compete with such films and BLACKSNAKE is sorta the end result of such a quandary in his career. He obviously wanted to branch out into different uncharted territory. But BLACKSNAKE bombed at the B.O. and Meyer quickly returned to making VIXEN type of films that, even if they still weren't pornographic, they were most definitely more over-the-top than any of his previous films.
It's no wonder BLACKSNAKE was a B.O. failure. It's just terrible. Trash-o-rama. Jaw-droppingly bad. It's a quasi-campy take on slavery, if you can imagine that. The end result is jarring. One minute, we're in typical Meyer territory: exuberant, playful and silly, and then the next minute, super serious meditation on slavery and violence. Huh? It just doesn't work. The slavery/racism aspect is woefully mishandled and veers this movie in the true exploitation category. But BLACKSNAKE is not as sleazy as ILSA SHE WOLF OF THE SS and those kind of films, so I imagine fans of the latter were disappointed by it, which would explain the almost lack of interest in this movie from either exploitation fans or Russ Meyer fans. Meyer blames the failure of BLACKSNAKE because, and I quote, "It didn't have enough breasts in it." Well, I'm sorry Russ, but the film is just bad, breast or no breasts. But he's right though about the low breast quota. Except for Anouska and the maid, the film's cast is male. Meyer replaces his usual bevy of buxom babes with throng of hunks with massive pecs, in the form of anonymous black actors playing the slaves and the big David (Darth Vader) Prowse. And with Anouska's right hand man around, who is portrayed as a ruthless but clever gay man who enjoys the power he has over the men, one can only wonder what Meyer was really trying to create here.
BLACKSNAKE stars David Warbeck, who is lusted after by Anouska and her right hand man. Poor David. He looks totally befuddled by the whole experience. He did seem to have fun making the movie but you can clearly see that, at times, he has no idea what's going on. And then there's Anouska Hempel. She's a beautiful woman...for the 1970s, not the 1870s. With her makeup and hair, she looks like a typical 1970s Brit pin-up babe than a turn of the century dominatrix. And her wardrobe is hilarious. At one time, she actually unzips her leather boots! I didn't know they had zippers in those days. But the character she plays is, in itself, really degrading (no pun intended). She's nothing but a cipher to the object of lust and scorn of every men (and that woman) on the island. For example, one night, when David and Anouska are getting it on, her annoying slave driver walks in the room, knocks David unconscious and tries to rape her, groping her savagely. The next day, the slave driver is still working for Anouska and the two act as if nothing had happened. It's totally ludicrous. Under any circumstance, had her character been a real person, Anouska would have whipped the slave driver senseless and kicked his butt off the island. Or even killed him. But the fact that the woman keeps him on her plantation after he tried to rape her is stretching the flimsy story and characters' credulity to the max.
Ridiculous details like this, and the thoroughly startling blaxploitation angle makes BLACKSNAKE a strangely unpleasant but watchable movie. Watchable in the train wreck variety. I just couldn't help but watch the film for the utter baseless aspects of it all (the excellent cinematography sorta makes it easier to watch). So, this being an exploitation film, I guess it succeeded in doing what it was supposed to do. But BLACKSNAKE is mainly for Russ Meyer completists.
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