Dante’s Weekend Double: Week Four Of “Justice For Juneteenth” With Two Classics ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song’ & ‘Slaughter

Sweet Sweetback's Bad Ass Slaughter
Melvin Van Peebles as Sweetback in Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) & Jim Brown as the title character in Slaughter (1972)

We are on the penultimate week of the month’s theme, and it’s time to introduce the ones from the beginning, so kick back, get hydrated, and meet a couple of the “OG” of OGs.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song (Cinemation Industries)

The granddaddy of them all was released in 1971, and it was written, directed, partially funded, produced, edited, scored by, and starring the great Melvin Van Peebles as a sex worker-turned-outlaw.

His story begins as a boy (played by Melvin’s son, Mario) in a Los Angeles bordello during the 1940s where he’s groomed by one of the prostitutes. There’s no sugar-coating the Mario moments at the beginning of the film; it gets pretty cringe.

It was not in the worst direction it could’ve went, but still enough to make the flesh crawl of anything that identifies as human. Luckily, it doesn’t last long. 

After that, there’s a time jump, and the towel boy (nicknamed “Sweetback”) is fully grown, fully damaged, and brought in to do live sex shows for clients – some of which, it is said, wasn’t acting. Two cops show up and demand that the bordello’s owner, Beetle, let them bring Sweetback into custody to placate their commanding officers.

Sweetback be runnin-from the Man
An example of the split-screen technique in SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAAD ASSSS SONG (1971), Cinemation

Things are going smoothly until they decide to arrest a Black Panther by the name of Mu-Mu on the way back to the police station. He doesn’t come as quietly as their first perp, they go all LAPD, and that’s when Sweetback fights back. On the run from the law, he keeps fighting to stay alive.   

It’s gritty. It’s harsh. Van Peebles delivers a groundbreaking performance as a man whose innocence was devoured at a young age, and raised in a world where depravity was commonplace: from his body movements to his line delivery, and most importantly the vacant, soulless eyes.  

Despite being low-budget, Van Pebbles applied a lot of techniques that were still novel at the time – split screen and double exposure photography, jump cuts, montage sequences, a non-linear narrative structure, and let’s not forget the music by Earth, Wind, & Fire.

It’s not so much a blaxploitation movie, but rather an arthouse film steeped in the starkness of real street life. Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song is a provocative cinematic landmark that laid the foundation for many greats to come after.      

Sweetback can be found hiding out over on Prime Video.

Slaughter (American International Pictures)

NFL legend, Jim Brown, stars as the titular character in this tapestry of violence from 1972 by director Jack Starrett (Run, Angel, Run!, Cleopatra Jones).

Slaughter is an ex-Army Green Beret who doesn’t have a last name… But he most certainly does have a chip on his massive shoulder when his parents are murdered by the mob in a car explosion.

He goes on a shooting rampage and greases every wise guy he comes across to find out who whacked his folks. This tornado of fists and lead lands him in hot water when he inadvertently blows a federal case that gets him arrested for murder, but never fear.

With the power of suspending disbelief, it’s not too hard to get past how the Treasury Department cuts a deal with Slaughter to have all charges dropped if he goes to South America to track down the mobster responsible for his parents’ car bombing, and the “supercomputer” that allegedly helps streamline his boss’s criminal empire.

Fifty-two years later, and AI can’t even figure out human anatomy in art, but remember to keep that disbelief suspended.

He gets down there and then continues his song of retribution complete with bad dialogue, stiff acting, and the unique joy that comes with pulling an enemy’s main squeeze right in front of them.

The movie ends in a bloodbath with Slaughter’s bullets getting the MVP for most rushing yards. Jim Brown smashes through every scene like a judge’s gavel: blunt, hard, and without mercy. It comes off as both comical and badass at the same time, but mostly the latter.

Rip Torn is the mob
Yes, that’s a young Rip Torn in Slaughter (1973), American International

The movie also opens with a theme by Billy Preston that has to be the most stolen soundbite in the history of low-budget killfests. But just like many of its predecessors, Slaughter invites the viewer to bury their logical questions beneath a pile of aired-out bodies. The killing starts on Prime Video.

NEXT: Dante’s Weekend Double: Week Three Of “Justice For Juneteenth” Bleeds For ‘Ganja & Hess’ Followed By ‘The Last Dragon’

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