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 The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)

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Gorch Brother
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PostSubject: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Fri Jun 04, 2010 11:41 am

A trio of black slaves escape from their plantation after an altercation results in Charley (Fred Williamson), who'd earlier been promised his freedom by his ailing master on his death bed, killing his brutal new owner. Pursued by a band of bounty hunters who specialise in retrieving – or, preferably, killing – fugitive slaves, Charley and his accomplices encounter hostility and non-comprehension as they make their way West. Deciding to make a stand rather than keep on running, they stop in a hostile town, where they gather together a like-minded band of misfits and eventually come to the rescue of a harassed farmer and his half-Indian wife.

According to legend, Fred Williamson convinced Paramount to take a punt on this project at the height of the blaxploitation boom, an attempt to do for Westerns what Shaft had done for the urban crime thriller.

Well, the film was a big hit, so in that respect the gamble paid off (it's astonishing that studio executives gave the green light to such a provocative title), but it's no Shaft. The script is schematic, providing a minimum of context and a fistful of platitudes about slavery, freedom and human rights before dropping its characters into a succession of routine set pieces, and the direction lacks momentum or innovation.

Nevertheless, Williamson and company succeed in carrying us along on their would-be picaresque adventures. He and his co-stars, D'Urville Martin and Don Pedro Colley, give appealing performances, injecting a welcome sense of self-effacement even as Williamson, in particular, puffs his chest out with proud while saying things like, "I'm a free man, and that's the way I'm gonna die."

It's not difficult to see why this film was so popular with its target audience – Charley and co.'s decision to spit in the face of vociferous racism is undoubtedly rousing, even though their victory over the much-feared bounty hunters is far too easily accomplished (we'd only just been witness to their general incompetence with firearms) – but it's equally easy to understand why it failed to cross over in the same way as Shaft. It's too crude, too parochial, perhaps. Few other black Westerns were produced – Williamson made a couple, including a sequel to this that's even more elusive. In any case, mainstream Westerns were in (seemingly) terminal decline at the time; Shaft's urban milieu was more relevant to most people, while anti-Westerns (and, in one sense, this can be counted among their number) scooped up whatever attention the genre was still able to muster. It doesn't help that the funky soundtrack is at odds with the period setting.

Shortcomings aside, it's an entertaining, albeit minor, episode, curiously old-fashioned in some ways – the protagonists are resolutely heroic, unsullied by contemporary cynicism – even as it subverts generic conventions with its black preoccupations and incorporates some of the eccentricities of Italian Westerns, notably a mad, crooked pseudo-preacher with a band of brigands in tow.
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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Sat Jun 05, 2010 12:43 pm

I just try and imagine this film being made today in this politically-correct world!
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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:24 pm

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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:07 am

Of course, equal rights for eveyone is a good thing, but here in Britain, political correctness has been taken to an absurd extreme.
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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:10 pm

In Sweden too, it's very annoying.
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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:53 pm

If you have a chance, you should go check out a webpage called DeeT's 70s page (I'm new here so I'm not able to post any links yet) but there's an old trailer (Audio only) for this film there, it's really interesting and nostalgic.
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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:46 pm

Thanks for the tip, and welcome to the forum Cahill! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)   Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:38 am

Thanks
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