Sugar Hill

Sugar Hill is currently available on instant Netflix.

Sugar Hill (1974) – Rated PG

“When mobsters kill her boyfriend, “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) turns to Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully), a local voodoo priestess, for help in avenging the murder. Mama summons the Lord of the Dead (Don Pedro Colley), who grants Sugar an army of the undead to command in exchange for her soul. Now, the vengeful Sugar leads a zombie rampage in her quest to take out the gangsters who killed her man. Robert Quarry co-stars in this blaxploitation horror classic.”

“What do you want to do with him.” – “He’s just garbage. Leave it there.”

One should always be open to new experiences. I have seen several ‘blaxploitation’ movies but I don’t enjoy blaxploitation so much as more recent parodies of blaxploitation. Black Dynamite (2009) starring Michael Jai White and Undercover Brother (2002) starring Eddie Griffin are both hysterical.

I enjoy all kinds of horror so I think that I should enjoy blaxploitation horror. I watched both Blacula movies and found the ideas sound and William Marshall’s performance very good but the movies were only okay. Sugar Hill, on the other hand, is a delight. Please be aware that, as with most blaxploitation, the ‘n’ word is tossed around with an alarming frequency.

Sugar Hill does not seem to have served the people involved very well. This is Paul Maslansky’s only directorial credit. He would later achieve some fame/notoriety producing seven Police Academy movies and two Police Academy television series – talk about your dead horse. Sugar Hill is Tim Kelly’s fourth and last movie as a writer.

Sugar Hill begins with a bad voodoo ceremony which is thankfully revealed to be a stage performance. This is followed by a scene involving gangsters wearing some jaw-droppingly awesome 70s suits. Later in the film, the zombies are quite creepy, with silver ping-pong ball eyes and cobwebs.

Marki Bey is quite fun, if not good, as Diana ‘Sugar’ Hill. Zara Cully, Mother Jefferson on The Jeffersons, clearly enjoys her role as voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse. Don Pedro Colley is quite a scene-stealer as Baron Samedi.

On the villainous side, Robert Quarry plays Morgan, our head bad guy – The Man if you prefer. Quarry never really became the horror icon AIP wanted but he is still pleasing to watch. Charles Robinson is Fabulous. No really that is the character’s name. Robinson would go on to play Mac in Night Court.

Maslansky keeps the movie moving at a brisk pace and, most importantly, fun. Everyone involved seems to be having a hoot and, of course, almost all the white characters are ridiculously villainous, not only racist but misogynistic as well.

People Watch: Tony Brubaker, who plays Head Zombie here, has graduated from blaxploitation to being a stunt person on big productions like Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Daredevil, Lethal Weapon 4, Spawn and, somewhat amusingly, Sugar Hill (1993), which has nothing to do with this Sugar Hill.