Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Sweet Sweetback might be what you'd get if Fellini had made a Blaxploitation film. By mixing psychadelic visual imagery and a pulsing soul and funk score, Melvin Van Peebles gives us an exciting, raw cinematic experience from the mind of a black man. This isnt white washed for your viewing pleasure! The film begins with a young Sweetback (Mario Van Peebles) "losing his cherry" to a prostitute. Now THAT'S an opening!!
Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles) is a hustler and sex performance artist who gets picked up by the cops after his nightly sex show. The cops pick up another man as well and they cuff Sweetback and him together. They bring them to a secluded area and they start beating the other detainee, but Sweetback is still cuffed to him, so they uncuff him. While theyre beating the man, Sweetback watches, but then he snaps and he hits the cops with his handcuff chain, over and over. As he does this, we see the blood appear on the chain.
Sweetback's now on the run from the cops. Melvin Van Peebles directs the film so we not only get the story, but we get an artistic, often surreal glimpse into Sweetback's world. It sort of reminded me a little of Easy Rider, the way it was shot. Along the way we meet many of Sweetback's friends and acquaintances. In another memorable scene, Sweetback's friend gets grilled by the cops in a cruel fashion. They shoot their guns off near his ears so he goes deaf. They scream: "WHERE'S SWEETBACK?!" As they fire their guns, the screen changes color and we can hear the whistle just as if we are losing our hearing with him.
Sweetback seems to move through the film like a sort of soul brother Mercury. He almost isnt just a character in the film, he represents the struggles of black men and women throughout American history. He's every oppressed human being thats had to stand up for doing something they felt was right. The way Melvin Van Peebles mixes sex and violence, you can see that this is the truth and its coming from the heart. Its not trying to be soft and nice, its a projection about what really goes on in Black people's lives. Their religion, their relationships are all interrupted by constant paranoia.
Later in the film, Sweetback gets confronted by some bikers and they make him decide what he wants to do to get outta the situation. Sweetback thinks for a second and says: "Fuckin", after all thats what hes best at. The next sequence is one of the most graphic sex scenes in the film as Sweetback and a white biker chick get it on in front of the biker crowd. Sweetback does his thing and we hear the white biker chick scream his name in satisfaction.
In the last scenes of the film, Sweetback is wounded from being shot by a cop. He walks through the desert like a gunfighter in the Old West. He pisses on some sand and presses the wet sand on his wound. He also eats a lizard, which is pretty nasty to watch. He slowly recovers, moving towards freedom. The end titles come up declaring that "Sweetback is coming back so WATCH OUT!" Note: Look for an early cameo by John Amos, who later went on to star in the 1970s TV series Good Times and in several motion pictures including Lock Up and Die Hard 2.
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasss Song is an original and truly groundbreaking work of cinema. Melvin Van Peebles essentially made one of the first solely independent Black counter-culture films. Highly recommended!
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.