Sugar Hill (1974, directed by Paul Maslansky) is a blaxploitation zombie movie from 1974 that works better as a blaxploitation movie than it does a horror movie, but in all honesty, the two are like chocolate and peanut butter: terrific on their own, fabulous together. The elements should be familiar to anyone who's seen a few blaxploitation movies--at its most basic, it's a revenge film with racial overtones. The zombie elements are a throwback, though, eschewing the George Romero-style zombie in favor of the voodoo zombie.
The story here follows the titular Diana "Sugar" Hill, who seeks revenge on the mob who killed her lover in order to muscle themselves into the ownership of his successful night club. Sugar turns to Mama Maitresse, a voodoo priestess, who introduces her to the legendary Baron Samedi. She strikes a bargain with Samedi, who gives her a platoon of the living dead with which to knock off her enemies, which she does one by one with a fair amount of relish, until only the big boss, Morgan, remains. The structure of this film, like almost all revenge films, comes from The Count of Monte Cristo, but there's no regret for her vengeance. Within the world of the film, the men she destroys deserve everything they get. It's a lot of fun to watch, actually.
Marki Bey plays Sugar and she's a piece of work. Frankly, the movie turns her into a kind of fetish figure, poured into a spectacular white jumpsuit during the murder scenes and sporting a huge afro ONLY during these scenes. She gets the rage right. Here primary opponent, Morgan, is played by genre veteran Robert Quarry, who did a lot of movies for AIP during this period. Richard Lawson gets the largely thankless role of the policeman investigating Sugar's murders, while, on the flip side, Don Pedro Colley overacts shamelessly as Baron Samedi (as well he should). The filmmaking itself is pretty flat in that early seventies AIP sort of way--apart from the exploitation elements, the style isn't a lot different from the television of the day--but the movie does have an interesting vision of zombies. They are certainly unique to this film, and mark it distinctively.
On the whole, a fun movie, and it has an absolutely killer title theme by The Originals. But that's common enough in blaxploitation movies. Worth seeking out, in any event.
Current Challenge tally:
Total Viewings: 13
First Time Viewings: 13