The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Monday, March 27, 2023

Solomon King (1974)

"Solomon King" (1974) is an action film from the booming 1970s production of black cult movies known as the Blaxploitation era. For the longest, the only thing that ever existed from this film after its initial run in theaters was the rare soundtrack by Jimmy Lewis. Long considered lost, Deaf Crocodile films have brought a piece of 1970s Oakland, California, back to life.

By 1974, the production of black movies was at its highest since the mid-1940s. Moreover, most black films produced came from prominent studio companies like MGM, Warner Brothers, and American International Pictures. However, independent filmmakers were still releasing films too. One of those filmmakers was Sal Watts, an entrepreneur born in Mississippi who eventually moved to California. He had a vision and passion for bringing his ideas to the big screen. In addition, Sal took part in various productions of TV shows, which helped him gain experience in creating "Solomon King."

So, for many people, "Solomon King" is a new-old film. That's different from movies that existed on home media, but you never got to see. If you didn't see this production while it was in theaters in '74 - '76, as well as its retitled run as "Luck Agent (a.k.a. Black Agent)" in 1977, then this is a brand new movie for most. Sal wrote this film with different intentions than many black films saturating the market while simultaneously influenced by famous fictional characters such as "Shaft." The film has a glamorous style of fashion where each character exemplifies the image Sal was conveying. The movie also gives an excellent nostalgic look at Oakland, California. Sal shot several scenes in the film throughout the city, ensuring that he pulls you into the environment.

The actors in the film are primarily novices, but they do a decent job of bringing their characters and the story to life. The storyline is well-thought and promising. This movie isn't an ordinary "stick it to the man" film that was regular during the 70s. There was messaging and righteousness involved, and Sal was making a statement. The action in the movie is fantastic and funny in parts. The action does give off "Dolemite" vibes, but Sal made his movie before Rudy Ray Moore's "Dolemite" conception. In addition, the soulful and funky soundtrack takes this movie to another level.

If you're a fan of those old-school 1970s black movies, then "Solomon King" is the film you need to watch. It's always great to resurface a lost black film so the filmmaker and his family can see their work in a new world. Thanks to Sal's wife, Belinda Burton-Watts, and Deaf Crocodile for bringing this black film history to people. "Solomon King's" release was made possible by Deaf Crocdile's Kickstarter campaign that raised over $50k, resulting in an excellent Blu-ray transfer and clearance granted by Sal's widow, Belinda.

Directors: Jack Bomay, Sal Watts
Writers: Jim Alston (story by), Sal Watts (screenplay by)

Starring Sal Watts, James Watts, Samaki Bennett, Claudia Russo, Felice Kinchelow, Louis Zito, Bernard B. Burton, Richard Scarso, Tito Fuentes, C.B. Lyars, Tanya Boyd

Ex-Green Beret Solomon King, an Oakland, California, club owner, swears vengeance when a former lover, Princess Oneeba, is murdered in his house by agents from the oil-rich Middle Eastern sheikdom she once escaped. With the help of brother Maney King, CIA agent O'Malley, and several fellow Vietnam veterans, Solomon conducts a commando raid into the Arab country and kills the hit man.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Glory (1989)

"Glory" (1989) film directed by Edward Zwick about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the Union Army's earliest African-American regiments in the American Civil War. Kevin Jarre wrote the screenplay based on the books "Lay This Laurel" (1973) by Lincoln Kirstein and "One Gallant Rush" (1965) by Peter Burchard and the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The film features a fantastic cast, including Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Andre Braugher, and Jihmi Kennedy. Denzel won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

After the Academy nominated Morgan Freeman for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his abrasive character, Fast Black, in "Street Smart" (1987), Freeman's career reached another level. In 1989, Freeman not only appeared in "Glory," but also starred in "Lean on Me," "Johnny Handsom," and "Driving Miss Daisy." He earned another nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in "Driving Miss Daisy." Similarly, the same year the Academy nominated Freeman in '87, Denzel Washington also earned a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in "Cry Freedom." In addition, Washington appeared in several T.V. shows and films, including "The Mighty Quinn," released in 1989. 

For Andre Braugher, "Glory" was his first theatrical film after appearing in two "Kojak" T.V. movies. Afterward, he had an illustrious career, including winning two Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in "Homicide: Life on the Street," in 1998 and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie in "Theif," in 2006. Lastly, Jihmi Kennedy appeared in several T.V. shows and films before starring in "Glory." He starred in four films in 1989, with primarily minor roles.

All four actors represented different characters in the movie. They brilliantly perform their character portrayals in a film with a great story. However, since it's a historical movie, many aspects require additional research for deeper understanding. Nevertheless, it's beautifully shot and does a great job of putting you into the environment. I highly recommend the movie for viewing.

Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Kevin Jarre (screenplay), Lincoln Kirstein (book "Lay This Laurel"), Peter Burchard (book "One Gallant Rush"), Robert Gould Shaw (letters)

Starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Jihmi Kennedy, Andre Braugher, John Finn, Donovan Leitch Jr., JD Cullum, Alan North, Bob Gunton

Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is offered command of the United States' first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. With junior officer Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), Shaw puts together a solid and proud unit, including the escaped slave Trip (Denzel Washington) and the wise gravedigger John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). At first, limited to menial manual tasks, the regiment fights to be placed in the heat of battle.