Fine collection of Pre-Spike Lee Black films
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 01/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Granted, these films are not in top-notch visual conditon and may require some eyestrain, but Spencer Williams (best remembered as Andy of "Amos and Andy") was a director, producer, and star who preserved some pretty good slices of Black American life in cinema in the years around WW2.
"Juke Joint" is a very likeable comedy. Presaging his work with Tim Moore and Alvin Childress of Amos and Andy, Spence teams with July Jones as a couple of goodhearted con men wh help their boarder Mama Lou. The jitterbug contest is the highlight of the film, but unfortunately is shot from a distant and stationary camera. Plus the dialogue skips a bit in the early scenes.
"Go Down Death" has Spence as the bad guy who tries to frame a crusading preacher. Based loosely on the James Weldon Johnson poem of the same name. The scene where the devil goes after Spence is a sight to behold, albeit with stock footage.
"Bronze Buckaroo" has Spence back to villainry again, as the bad cowboy to Herb Jeffries' good guy. Pretty typical western, the fact that it is a black cast being the only distinguishing feature.
"Blood of Jesus" is a sentimental favorite. My mother and aunts saw this film at their church in 1941 when they were teenagers and I fondly saw it with my mother recently and she joyously remembered it! Basically, a Black Southern fundentalist morality play as Spence plays no-so bad sinner man Razz Jackson (he would rather go hunting on Sunday than to church!-Shame on you Spencer!). He and his wife also have to face the choice between "born again" and beelzebub. This has a low-budget, down home charm that keeps it likeable.
Overall, these are great period pieces, though not in the best condition. Enjoy."
Spencer Williams Extravaganza
Richard A. Nardi | 11/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Black movies by, of and for black people. Much like Alfred Hitchcock, Spencer Williams shows up in the films he directed, usually getting significant screen time. Juke Joint has a young vocalist going to the big city to make her career. Music breaks out in living rooms and stages at the drop of a hat. Some great swing and jitterbug! Go Down Death seems religious, but the sins of Babylon are interesting. Great visions of Dantes Inferno or Hell. Bronze Buckaroo is typical of (Gene Autry) cowboy movies of the era. Singing cowboy, slow witted sidekick, claim jumpers and beautiful girl in peril. Blood of Jesus goes back to the religious theme. Don't worry, some sinning is going on. Angels, devils and visions of the Pearly Gates are boffo! America populated by black people."