Until recently, even the most dedicated grindhouse enthusiasts may not have recognized the name “Solomon King.” The 1974 thriller, which follows a Black ex-CIA agent who travels to the Middle East to avenge his girlfriend’s murder, was the only film directed by Sal Watts. Shot on location in Oakland with a cast of non-professional actors and costumes provided by a clothing store owned by the director, the movie is an early example of the DIY spirit that later came to define independent cinema.
The film was thought to be lost, but a highly successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $22,000 to restore it. Backers of the campaign will finally see the effort pay off this fall when Deaf Crocodile Films’ new restoration of “Solomon King,” complete with new color grading and significant audio improvements, premieres at Fantastic Fest in September. With today’s release of the new trailer, many are taking the opportunity to appreciate what this means for the film preservation community.
“I had been praying that my husband’s accomplishments would not go unnoticed but as the saying goes justice delayed is not always justice denied,” said Belinda Burton-Watts, the director’s widow. “Sal would be so pleased that Dennis Bartok and Craig Rogers of Deaf Crocodile reached out to his family and explored the possibility of restoring this piece of Black history. This film will evoke a nostalgic view of life in the 1970s when so much was happening in the Black community and the world. Oakland, California is no stranger to its share of controversy and unrest. Sal was an extraordinary man who remained humble throughout his life and just wanted equality for all. He loved all people and wanted to live in a world that treated people fairly. He would be grateful to know that his film will see the light of day once more. Much like Langston Hughes’ poem ‘Harlem’ where he asks, ‘What happens to a dream deferred?’ we will have an opportunity to see just that. I choose to believe that like a mustard seed, the dream grows and grows. Through Dennis’ & Craig’s efforts, researching the possibilities of restoring this obscure film and coming up with a solution, another generation of young people will be able to see one Black man’s vision. My husband’s vision. I am convinced that Dennis and Craig reaching out to me was a case of divine intervention.”
“Solomon King” was directed by Sal Watts and Jack Bomay, working from a script by Watts and Jim Alston. In addition to Sal Watts, the film stars James Watts, Samaki Bennett, Claudia Russo, Felice Kinchelow, and Louis Zito.
Deaf Crocodile’s restoration of “Solomon King” will premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas in September. Watch the trailer for the new restoration, an IndieWire exclusive, below: