Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vinegar Syndrome - SUPER SOUL BROTHER and THE MUTHERS on DVD ""

Sunday, April 12, 2015


SUPER SOUL BROTHER (1978; Rene Martinez Jr.)
Sometimes we movie fans aren't always looking for the next great classic of cinema, but rather something that's unlike the movies we've been seeing for years. Sometimes we just don't need the most polished filmmaking and acting and story to be enormously entertained. One debate that continues all the time among cinephiles is in regards to "bad" movies . There is an argument that if a film is not well made or if the craftsmanship seems to be on a lower level (due to budget constraints and perhaps filmmaker inexperience) that the movie somehow not objectively "good" and therefore it's alright to laugh at the movie. Then we can get into the whole laughing at or laughing with a movie thing and it's really a fine line. Many would argue that Mystery Science Theater 3000 wrecked movie watching to some extent in that it legitimized making fun of poorly made or poorly acted films. It's a tough thing, because behind most every film is a director and cast who were probably trying to make something objectively good. Now I get that it does seem mean to laugh at a movie in places where the filmmakers often may not have intended for us to laugh, but I also think one can laugh at a film because it's silly and still be thoroughly engaged by it and strangely respectful of it. While laughter may not often be indicative of respect, I do believe there is such a thing as "affectionate laughter" in the case of movies that some may deem "bad". I believe that entertainment is the goal of most movies and if they achieve that through intentional or unintentional means, they have done their job and are worthy of respect, and affection. I won't even get into the "so bad it's good" argument because I feel like it is a shorthand that people use nowadays to talk about this kind of movie and while I don't totally agree with that idea I concept, I get that it's the way folks refer to a certain kind of film. They may or may not mean to be condescending, but I choose to look at as harmless until the person proves to me that their intentions are mean spirited or affectionate. Apologies for the long prelude, but whenever I see a fascinating film such as SUPER SOUL BROTHER, I often worry that people may misinterpret my enjoyment for condescension. If I like a movie and recommend it, I'm saying that I recommend the experience of watching it. I'm not saying, "Oh man, you've got to see how bad this movie is so you can feel super your to it". I recommend a movie like SUPER SOUL BROTHER in very much the same way I might recommend an art film. Not saying the two are the exact same thing, but if you are used to watching a certain kind of movie, then an art film or SUPER SOUL BROTHER will hit your brain in a totally different way.  BROTHER may be an interesting and perhaps entertaining change of pace. I'm not sure if I am helping of hindering my case with all this chatter so I will move on. 
SUPER SOUL BROTHER is a film that goes by several names. I'll leave you to look them up, but the original title is still on the print that was used for this DVD. It's kind of a low-budget, blaxploitation Bionic Man/Captain America type story. Basically, a scientist who is looking to great a super thief that is impervious to bullets finds a street bum and gives him a serum that gives him super abilities. That's the basic premise, but this movie does not resemble a present-day Disney/Marvel movie in any way. It could be reductively called a blaxploitation version of The Six Million Dollar Man. But as you might expect, it does make a difference who the person is that is being endowed with "super powers". Steve Austin gets turned bionic and we get a certain kind of hero. The investor/scientist team that is working on the special serum in this film has a bit of a lower budget for their project and as a result they are less choosy about their test subject. They find a wino on the street (Steve "Wildman Steve" Gallon) that will suffice. Put all this stuff together and the resulting film is something that feels like Ed Wood made a Blaxploitation film. I don't mean to sound condescending, that's just the general feeling I get when I watch it. And it's a fun watch don't get me wrong.  
Wildman Steve has also been in some other films like THAT GUY FROM HARLEM and PETEY WHEATSTRAW, both of which I recommend as well.

THE MUTHERS (1976; Cirio H. Santiago)
Almost forty years before Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks took on pirates with CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Cirio H. Santiago produced his own much more sexy take on the subject with his own story of piracy. Lady piracy that is. Yes this movie features a group of gal pirates who end up undercover in a prison camp at coffee plantation on a mission to save their leader. Jeanne Bell (TNT JACKSON) and Trina Parks (DARKTOWN STRUTTERS) headline this flick and both are actresses that I like. THE MUTHERS is very much in line with some of Jack Hill's women in prison movies from the early 1970s. I must admit though that both THE BIG DOLL HOUSE and THE BIG BIRD CAGE are a bit more energetic overall. THE MUTHERS is a little flat. This may have to something to do with it not having Pam Grier's vibrant presence to give it an extra boost or the fact that Jack Hill is a better director than Santiago. That said, for fans of the genre, THE MUTHERS is a nice addition and could easily be enjoyed as the last feature in a triple bill with Jack Hill's movies. As far as I know, THE MUTHERS was not available in legit DVD form prior to this, so it's very nice to finally see it come out (I have the VHS in my garage somewhere).


SteveQ said...

You make some interesting points about MST3K and "so bad it's good." I think I'll write a post with my take on the same subject - it may take a while, though, as I have a lot on my plate already.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Thanks Steve!