Sugar Hill (1974, 1hr 31 mins)
Sugar Hill is my hero. Once again, I’m biased, but after reading my bestie’s new book (shameless plug) What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal, it inspired me don my shitkickers, be my pixie self, and maybe fight gangsters with my zombie army in an afro. So I pulled out my copy of Sugar Hill, which I found in my favourite goldmine, Suspect Video, and settled in for some bad ass action.
Diana “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) is happy and in love with her handsome, shiny suited boyfriend Langston (Larry Don Johnson). He owns Club Haiti, a groovy nightclub that hosts elaborately choreographed numbers like, um, a voodoo shindig, for a groovy clientele. His club is so groovy that the local gangster, Mr. Morgan (Robert Quarry) wants it. Morgan sends his henchmen to collect but Langston stands up to them, only to be beaten to death by the baddies who wear loud suits and nylons to obscure their mustachioed faces. ‘Cause the awful, awful suits they wear won’t give them away.
Sugar is devastated, and filled with revenge and rage, consults the local voodoo queen, Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully, who played George Jefferson’s mother on The Jeffersons) to avenge Langston’s death. How, you may ask? By calling upon Baron Zamedi (Don Pedro Colley), to whom she offers her own soul for the deaths of her boyfriend’s killers. The Baron is delighted because Sugar is not afraid of him and raises an army of undead slaves to do her bidding.
Enter Valentine (Richard Lawson), who is Sugar’s ex and the local cop on the case once the killings start. He is suspicious of her, but because they have a history, tells her to steer clear of any involvement with Morgan and his men and does his own research to support his hunch that these are no regular killings. He also has a fantastic ‘fro that seems to have a life of its own.
Sugar is a stone cold fox! Seriously! Wearing what seems to be original hot, kick ass outfits by a Norbart Valentino (which I think is a pseudonym for someone else since this is the only movie listed under this name, and this name is kind of ridiculous), Sugar runs her photography business, Club Haiti and exacts revenge. Her killing suit rivals any Elvis onesy I’ve ever seen. And that magnificent afro! So perfectly picked out and worn only when she is doling out the hurt on the racist, and dumb bad guys.
And speaking of bad guys, the head gangster, Mr. Morgan, is extremely entertaining. He is very metro, from his white cuban heels, to sipping champers and kissing his cute little poodle. In fact he treats his poodle better than his girl, Celeste (Betty Anne Rees). Morgan’s bad guy den is also the living room of my dreams. Stripey sofa, day glow pillows and gold table lamps! All I need is my kaftan to entertain my guests! Honorable mention also goes to Morgan’s right hand man, Fabulous played by Night Court’s Charles Robinson. Oh the suits!! He really lived up to his name. I couldn’t figure out whether the fabric came from an upholsterer’s workshop or my mother’s drapes. Wow!!
I’m going to count Sugar Hill as my favourite blaxploitation film ever. It’s got zombies, revenge, Afros, great clothes and decor, and the best theme song ever: “Supernatural Voodoo Woman” sung by The Orginals. Oh, and Sugar is just kick ass. She won’t let anyone walk over her or piss in her corn flakes, and if you try, the killing afro comes out and she’ll feed you to pigs or have a zombie intervention. I will definitely take a page from her book, and while I won’t feed people to pigs or zombies, I will channel some ‘fro power when the chips are down!
Most Memorable Line and Favourite Scene: This is an all in one. When Celeste goes to Club Haiti to tell Sugar that she should back off and sell the club, they exchange heated words. Celeste warns Sugar not to get “uppity” and Sugar replies, “Uppity? With you? My dear, talking to you means I look nowhere but down.” And the ladies go off in the most ridiculous catfight. They tussle and all the while, a stone faced bartender continues to set up for the night. Sugar kicks Celeste’s ass and the bartender calmly hands her a bucket of ice to douse Celeste with. Has to be seen!!