Reviewed by Mike Emery, Fri., Oct. 6, 2000
Soul Vengeanceaka Welcome Home Brother Charles
D: Jamaa Fanaka (1975); with Marlo Monte, Reatha Grey, Stan Kamber. This strange film is worth a peek considering its sick yet very original plot. Also known as Welcome Home Brother Charles (a much better title), it's not the usual Brother-Getting-Revenge-on-The-Man story. The opening credits indicate that. No wah-wah guitar here. Just jarring, awkward tones and an eerie shot of an African statue bearing a large penis. That pretty much sets the pace for a wild ride into freaky Seventies cinema. The plot is centered on Charles (Monte), a drug dealer/pimp who's set up, beaten by a racist cop, and nearly castrated. He's sentenced to three years in the pen, but once out, he has revenge on his mind. Not only has he been victimized by the system, but his old running buddy has taken up with his girlfriend. On the plus side, a reformed hooker is sympathetic to his plight and soon the two are in love. Unknown to her, Charles' time in prison has left him with super powers. For instance, he can use his penis as a hypnotic tool. As if that weren't enough, he can also use it to strangle people. Yes, this is how he exacts retribution on the bad guys. It sounds like porn, but it's not. It's blaxploitation at its most bizarre. Fanaka (the auteur behind the Penitentiary series) probably had some sort of symbolic message behind this crazy concept, but it's lost within the bad acting and crazy script. In fact, it takes a while before this "monster member" emerges. Once it does, the film is instantly unforgettable. For some viewers, this could be a bad thing. For others, it's a B-treasure that's psychedelic, gritty, and funny. Director Fanaka attempts to make this an art film by incorporating black-and-white still shots to illustrate prison scenes as well as random real images of ghetto life. Then, he intermingles usual low-budget elements (drugs, sex, nudie bars, disco dancing) to appeal to a less esoteric audience. It's a unique effort and one that's impossible to match in terms of bad taste and utter weirdness.