Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bad, Black & Beautiful (1975)



If nothing else, this inept blaxploitation flick has an accurate title: Leading lady Gwynn Barbee is black and beautiful, while the movie around her is bad. The basic premise is fine, because Barbee plays a hotshot attorney who uses her seemingly endless set of skills to help clear a man’s name when he’s accused of murder. Myriad Pam Grier films were made from narrative fabric of this sort. Yet Gwynn Barbee, for all her loveliness, is no Grier, and Bad, Black & Beautiful writer-director Bobby Davis is no Jack Hill, the dude behind Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). Davis’ shortcomings manifest in a discombobulated script and sloppy direction, problems exacerbated by a meager budget. For instance, when Eva (Barbee) hears a description of the accused man’s experiences in Vietnam, Davis cuts to grainy stock footage of generic soldiers in Southeast Asia, rather than a properly filmed narrative flashback. Sometimes the film’s flaws result in accidental humor. At one point, a thug working for the movie’s main villain approaches a drunk whom the villain wants dead, shakes the drunk’s shoulders, and walks away, after which the drunk has a seizure of some sort and dies. Say what? Although Bad, Black & Beautiful has the production values of a first-year student film, Davis unwisely tried to emulate the big-canvas style of better-financed blaxploitation flicks. Eva displays her skill as a pilot, a racecar driver, a singer, and, of course, a trial attorney, but each of these sequences looks cheaper than the preceding. Additionally, Davis’ seeming aversion to creating transitions means that the movie regularly cuts to random characters and events, with viewers left scratching their heads as to what X scene has to do with Y scene. Good luck figuring out why Davis spends so much time following a white reporter whose bedazzled denim ensemble makes him look like he should be Stevie Nicks’ Rumours-era coke dealer instead of an ink-stained wretch.

Bad, Black & Beautiful: SQUARE

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