It is the film that launched a movie genre. It got an X-rating from the MPAA for its violence and graphic sexual content (which was used to the film’s benefit in more ways than the obvious X-rating itself). Some theatre owners even did their own censoring of the film, which prompted at least one major lawsuit.
It was political and exploitative at the same time. It was a monster box office hit — all without studio financing — and a sequel was promised, but it never happened.
Vinegar Syndrome has It! A new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative will be released as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on May 29.
And exactly what is “It?” The film that launched the Blaxploitation genre was none other than writer, director, producer and star Melvin Van Peebles’ 1971 film release of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Melvin Van Peebles pre-Sweetback biography is the sort of thing that a crafty publicist might create … college-educated, Air Force vet, San Francisco cable car gripman and maker of short films. He then went to Europe, taught himself French and wrote novels and plays in that language and made more short films, only this time in French, which got noticed in Hollywood.
He gets hired to direct writer Herman Raucher’s racial satire, Watermelon Man, because the studio (Columbia Pictures) felt they needed “cover” and wanted a black man to direct the film. He was of the opinion that the film didn’t go far enough, but was prevented from taking artistic license by the powers that be.
Which leads us to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and the genius of Melvin Van Peebles. The making of the film, it’s script, the timing of the release and the follow-through, which was all documented in Mario Van Peebles’ 2003 film Baadasssss!, is a story of indie filmmaking that is likely taught to this day in film schools. If that’s not the case, it should be.
As to bonus features, there is a vintage commentary track featuring Sergio Mims (AD on Penitentiary), a vintage video session with filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, a pair of featurettes — “One Baadasssss Woman!” and “The Real Deal” — and a 2013 Q&A session from the Black Panther Film Festival.
Also on the May 29 DVD and Blu-ray release schedule from Vinegar Syndrome is a new 2K restoration (from the original 16mm negative) of writer/director Glen Coburn’s 1984 indie direct-to-video horror comedy, Blood Suckers From Outer Space, will be available as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack release.
Making its debut on Blu-ray, Blood Suckers From Outer Space comes packed with new bonus goodies. Writer/director Glen Coburn provides commentary, and he is joined by actor Thom Meyers and cinematographer Chad D. Smith, plus there is a feature-length documentary titled 34 Years Later and a pair of featurettes — “Back To Bloodsucker Town” and “Bloody Arm Rip 101.”
On the adult-themed front, Vinegar Syndrome has a 2K restoration (from the original 35mm camera negative) of writer/director Roger Watkins’ 1980 film teaming Vanessa del Rio and Samantha Fox, Her Name was Lisa. This crossover adult film — an inventive script to go with the sexual content — will be available as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack product offering.
Bonus nuggets include a featurette titled “His Name was Roger,” which features the editor of Ultra Violent Magazine, Art Ettinger, discussing the film career of Roger Watkins, whose 1977 (1974 as The Fun House) horror shocker, Last House on Dead End Street, remained an enigma for two decades as true identities of the cast and filmmaker were a mystery.
On the DVD front, the next installment in Vinegar Syndrome’s popular “Peekarama” adult film series arrives on May 29 and it will showcase adult filmmaker Leonard Kirtman and Seka starring in The Seduction of Cindy (1980, with Veronica Hart and Serena) and Tera Tera Tera Tera (1981, with Veronica Hart and Samantha Fox).
Lastly, there is a new 2K restoration (from the 35mm camera negative) of director Edwin Brown’s 1983 adult comedy, Naughty Girls Need Love Too, showcasing the ample talents of Hyapatia Lee, Honey Wilder, Rachel Ashley and Tina Marie.