Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Death of a Snowman (1976)

          While it’s unsurprising that certain genres associated with Hollywood have been emulated throughout the world, it does seem peculiar that blaxploitation—which, after all, grew from idioms and issues associated with inner-city America—made its way outside the borders of the U.S. Then again, if any country in the world could have made a viable claim to the genre in the mid-’70s, it would have been apartheid-era South Africa, where being black was often a matter of life or death. Having said that, whatever innate potential one might associate with the notion of a South African blaxploitation flick is unrealized in the boring Death of a Snowman, which is occasionally marketed by the alternate titles Black Trash and Soul Patrol. (Note the above poster, which has zero to do with the film’s content.) Suffering from a muddy script and sloppy editing, as well as indecisiveness about which character is the protagonist, the movie trudges through a rather pedestrian story about criminals masquerading as social activists.
          The picture ostensibly focuses on the partnership between a black reporter (Ken Gampu) and a white detective (Nigel Davenport), who join forces to investigate the criminals, but writer Bima Stagg and director Christopher Rowley fail to define the characters as interesting individuals, much less a dynamic duo. Meanwhile, recurring cuts to a spaced-out hit man (played by Stagg) add little except explosions of violence. Even though Death of a Snowman is only 86 minutes in duration, it feels infinitely longer because there’s no discernible narrative momentum. Further, Death of a Snowman has an odd vibe because of its international origin. Parts of the movie are reminiscent of Italian crime pictures, some scenes feature Asians performing martial arts, various actors’ voices were replaced in postproduction (creating lip-sync problems), and vignettes with Afros and leisure suits evoke American drive-in flicks. Death of a Snowman ends up feeling a bit like a fever dream of bad ’70s cinema, with flavors from around the world mixed together in the most haphazard fashion possible.

Death of a Snowman: LAME

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