I didn’t do one last week so why not get a bit of a jump start, a couple of hours ahead of time? Today’s feature is a unique double feature becuase one flick is about the making of the other. It’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, 1971.
Produced, written and directed by Melvin Van Peebles, this film is considered to be the flick that started the “blaxploitation” genre. Although techincally, blaxploitation movies previously existed (The Big Doll House and When Cotton Comes to Harlem–to name a few) this was the most paramount and controversial, rendering it an almost unheard of (at the time) “X” rating. It’s the tale of Sweetback (who earned his name at 13 while losing his virginity to a grown woman–a prostitute who came on to him) played by Melvin’s son Mario, who saved a Black Panther from the cops by killing the harassing office, then going on the run from “The Man” and successfully getting away. The tagline for this flick is “The film the man doesn’t want you to see.”
Created with Melvin Van Peebles’ personal money which eventually ran out, he had to borrow about 40 Gs from Bill Cosby to complete the film (which was paid back after it became a success). Most of his crew were either really good friends and associates or novices looking to get put on in the film industry (and that includes the actors too). Earth, Wind & Fire got their break when Van Peebles allowed them to score the film.
Another interesting fact about this movie is that Shaft was originally written for a white man but when Hollywood big dogs saw how popular Sweetback got, they took a chance by casting Richard Roundtree in the lead, thus spawning the portrayal of black Super Heroes and Sheroes on the big screen.
Baadasssss! is a biopic by Mario Van Peebles about how his father created the original ground-breaking film. In case you’re wondering where I got those “interesting” facts from, you can get that from this flick. Check them out and stick it to The Man.