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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Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Mighty Quinn (1989)

"The Mighty Quinn" (1989) is an action crime-thriller starring Denzel Washington and directed by Carl Schenkel. Hampton Fancher is responsible for the screenplay, which he adapted from the 1971 novel "Finding Maubee" by A. H. Z. Carr. The film has an established cast starring Robert Townsend, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Mimi Rogers, James Fox, Esther Rolle, M. Emmet Walsh, Art Evans, and Norman Beaton. 

One of Denzel Washington's most underrated movies, "The Mighty Quinn," is a highly amusing film with much to offer. Filmed in Jamacia, the movie has a lush tropical vibe that draws you in with the upbeat Reggae music. Washington leads the way as chief of police in Jamacia, where he is investigating the murder of a hotel resort owner. Among the prime suspects is the longtime friend of the police chief. Throughout the movie, you get an experience of a simply entertaining performance from all involved. 

The movie features Michael Rose and Bob Marley's wife, Rita Marley, singing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" and Sharyl Lee Ralph performing "It's a Living" with two of his daughters, Cedella and Sharon Marley." In addition, Washington gets down on the piano singing Taj Mahal's "Cakewalk into Town."

Robert Townsend plays Maubee well and charmingly. However, he deserved more time on the screen than he got. Esther Rolle was lovely and vibrant as Ubu Pearl. Her screen presence was as strong as ever. In addition, there are a couple of well-known international stars, such as Guyanese actor and longtime United Kingdom resident Norman Beaton and pioneering Jamaican actor and producer Carl Bradshaw. Many of the extras within the movie were natives of Jamacia. 

Overall, the movie is a fun who-done-it film. The cinematography is fantastic and colorful, and the music is energetic. It's a movie you can watch and enjoy. Of course, you can be critical of the accents of some of the American actors, but they did well, and it shows how dedicated they are to their crafts. So, if you're looking for a movie to watch and enjoy, "The Mighty Quinn" is it.

Director: Carl Schenkel
Writers: Albert Z. Carr, Hampton Fancher

Starring Denzel Washington, James Fox, Mimi Rogers, M. Emmet Walsh, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Art Evans, Esther Rolle, Norman Beaton, Alex Colon, Robert Townsend, Tyra Ferrell, Carl Bradshaw, Maria McDonald, Fitz Weir, Baldwin Howe, David McFarlane, Bernie McInerney, Keye Luke, Ron Taylor, Sharon Marley Prendergast, Cedella Marley, Rita Marley, Michael Rose

Police chief Xavier Quinn (Denzel Washington) investigates the gruesome murder of Donald Pater, one of the wealthiest residents on a Caribbean island. He was found decapitated in his jacuzzi. Although the local political establishment, especially crooked Governor Chalk (Norman Beaton), insists that small-time thief Maubee (Robert Townsend) is responsible, Xavier doubts it. However, this view is complicated by the police chief's personal history with Maubee: The men have been friends since childhood.

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.