Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Black Gestapo (1975)

A scan of my VHS copy of Black Gestapo 
The Black Gestapo (1975)
Director: Lee Frost
Starring: Rod Perry, Charles Robinson, Phil Hoover
Format: VHS (Prestige Video)

Lee Frost directed everything from 1960s Mondo shockumentaries and softcore roughies to biker flicks and the campy scifi comedy THE THING WITH TWO HEADS. In 1966 he helmed Love Camp 7, which is widely considered a pioneer in the nazi exploitation genre. Nine years later he revisited the nazi theme with a twist, nazi blaxploitation!

At least that's what this movie's title and cover art would have you believe. In truth there's no real nazi content beyond the uniforms worn by The People's Army, a black revolutionary group who dress like a cross between Hitler Youth and the Black Panthers.

And to call it blaxploitation isn't totally accurate either. Sure, the antagonists are African American but The Black Gestapo doesn't really play up black culture in the way true blaxploitation movies do. It's more of a straight up exploitation movie that just happens to have a majority of black characters. And what exploitation there is! Nudity, racism, violence against women, rape, castration... The Black Gestapo doesn't pull any punches.

The plot follows The People's Army as they fight back against a group of white gangsters who're shaking down the black neighbourhood in Watts, Los Angeles. Led by General Ahmed (Rod Perry, THE BLACK GODFATHER, SWAT TV series) and Colonel Kojah (Charles Robinson, best known as Mac in 80s TV show Night Court), the revolutionaries use their training in guerilla tactics to wage a full-out war with the honkey hoods.

Once the white guys are out of the picture, Kojah is quickly corrupted by his new found power. Breaking away from Ahmed, he and his men soon enough take the place of their former white oppressors, shaking down bookies, selling drugs and killing anyone who gets in their way. It's up to the principled Ahmed to try to put a stop to his former righthand man's delusions of grandeur.

Frost regular Phil Hoover (THE THING WITH TWO HEADS) plays bigoted white goon Vito, who gets his comeuppance in a painful way, while Frost himself plays campy toupee-wearing criminal overlord Vincent.

You could say there's a serious message in all of this - that the oppressed can quickly become the oppressors if they give in to the temptations of power. But really, who cares about morales and messages when there's so much sleazy exploitation to enjoy? Especially when it comes wrapped in a parcel of funky 70s music and fashions (I wonder why plaid trousers have ever made a comeback? Or maybe they have and I didn't notice?).

The action is sometimes brutal, sometimes goofy, but always good sleazy fun. The best stuff is during the black-white war at the start and Ahmed's assault on Kojah's compound at the end. The gratuitous shots of naked breasts at regular intervals certainly don't hurt either.

Fans of low budget exploitation will have a ball watching The Black Gestapo. I mean, how often do you get to see black guys dressed like Nazi soldiers raising their fists while audio of mass "Sieg heil" chants plays? Not often, I can tell you that.

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