Classic, of course, being the operative word here. A “classic’ in the sense that it’s near perfect example of what would be considered the typical 1960’s drive-in or neighborhood theater exploitation film.
I first wrote a piece about The Black Klansman two years ago when it first came out on DVD, but now it’s available for free online (though under a different title I Crossed the Colored Line) But no matter what’s it called, it’s a hoot that deserved to be seen.
But for those of you of a younger generation, you missed a hell of a lot. One thing is that you’ve never experienced the thrill of watching low-budget exploitation movies at the local neighborhood movie theater. Hard to imagine today, but there used to be a time when you could just walk a few blocks to a movie theater. (When I was growing there were four theaters all within a short walking distance. Who went downtown or ventured out to some multiplex in the ‘burbs to see a film?)
No subject was too crass, lowdown or offensive enough, and no budget was too low enough to make an exploitation B movie. Yet somehow I missed The Black Klansman when it was released in 1966, but you can now watch it below free of charge.
The story deals with a light skinned black man, played by white actor Richard Gilden (A white guy playing a black guy passing for a white guy? Just like Susan Kohner did in Dougals Sirk’s 1959 remake of Imitation of Life) who infiltrates the Klan after his daughter is killed in a church bombing all leading up to a violent action climax.
It has all the ingredients of a great exploitation movie – a controversial plot, cheapskate production values, terrible acting, especially by Gilden and laughable dialogue such as: “You got into my Klan! You dated my Carol Ann!” ( Kinda rhymes doesn’t it?)
And did I mention its great theme song?
And there are a couple of familiar faces in the film at the start of their careers such as TV favorite James McEachin (under the name Jimmy Mack in the credits) who appeared in like what was 1000 TV shows from the 60’s to the early 2000’s, Max Julien just 7 years before he because a Blaxploitation Icon in The Mack and Whitman Mayo who went on to immortal TV glory as Grady in Sanford and Son.
Actually the film was a sort of rip-off of an earlier 1959 French film barely released in the U.S. in 1963 because it was considered too anti-American called J’iral cracher sur vos tombes (I Spit on Your Graves – not be confused with the I Spit on Your Grave 1978 original or the 2010 remake of the feminist gore bucket revenge movie)
In that film Christian Marquand a white actor playing a light skinned back man passing for white, who goes down South to find out who killed his brother. Though this being a French movie instead he winds up, naturally, sleeping with several women before finding out who killed his brother and getting machine gunned to death. All very existential and stuff.
But take to time out to check out The Black Klansman. You won’t regret it, I promise.