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Sugar Hill (1974)

October 14th, 2010 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

I’m beside myself with enthusiasm for the 1974 supernatural zombie blaxploitation flick SUGAR HILL. My life before viewing it now seems to be, in retrospect, a sham. One time STARSKY AND HUTCH regular MARKI BEY is both ice cool and fiery fierce as Diana “Sugar” Hill, a woman scorned and reborn as a voodoo vigilante in a killer pantsuit. When Sugar’s best beau refuses to sell his groovy nightclub “Club Haiti” to the mob he ends up beaten to death by goons in his own parking lot. Outnumbered and determined to even the score (and then some) Sugar gets by with a little help from her new friends; a geriatric voodoo virtuoso, a top hat wearing, trickster phantom and plenty of silver eyed-cobweb cloaked zombies. No difficulty knowing whom to root for here.

So I guess I thought I was going to enjoy SUGAR as an ironic hoot. I thought I’d bask in its hokiness, take in its eyeball busting fashions and smirk at the corn. Instead I found myself absolutely and fully entertained on every level. It does have a makeshift low budget air and the clothes and acting styles are of a different dimension but that doesn’t curtail the movie from being a hundred percent engaging. The plot doesn’t involve much more than following Sugar around on her EC COMICS inspired revenge spree but SUGAR has got atmosphere and attitude up the wazoo. Foggy, swampy and colorful, it also contributes a refreshingly original take on the living dead. Let’s take a closer look at why I’m all bitten and smitten…

DIANE “SUGAR” HILL

MARKI BEY may lack the overall gravitas of icon PAM GREER but in many ways she’s more down to Earth approachable too. Once Sugar gets rolling she’s an unflinching comeuppance machine and she delivers her BUFFY-esgue pre-stomping quips like a seasoned pro. When asked how strong her hate is Sugar says, “As strong as my love was, my hate is even stronger.” That’s my type of woman!

MOMMA MAITRESSE

I have a real issue with actress ZARA CULLY and that issue is that I think she is the funniest person who ever lived. Yes, that’s mother Jefferson from THE JEFFERSONS and I could not be happier to see her.

Maitreese is a bit reluctant to get her voodoo on initially but as soon as she sees the results of her mojo, she’s all ear to ear smiles (as well she should be). The zombie awakening scene in SUGAR HILL is a showstopper and brings to mind both CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and MICHAEL JACKSON’s THRILLER.

BARON SAMEDI

DON PEDRO CULLY’s turn as the fantastically frocked God of the dead “Samedi” is a twisted treat and a half. Samedi appears at will, in many a guise and is a master of lascivious mischievousness. Imagine Candyman and Freddy Kruegar combined under one top hat and then wonder forever why SUGAR remains without a sequel.

VALENTINE

Just because Sugar’s main squeeze is recently departed doesn’t mean she doesn’t have time for romance. RICHARD LAWSON appears as Sugar’s old flame “Valentine” who suspects foul play but can’t possibly imagine the “fowl” play reality of an animated voodoo killer chicken claw. If LAWSON looks familiar to all you horror fans out there, you might recall him donning a striped sweater in the classic POLTERGEIST.

MORGAN

If you’re looking for a big baddie with some full-fledged horror cred, how can go wrong with ROBERT QUARRY? QUARRY’s resume includes COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE and THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA plus he starred in both DOCTOR PHIBES RISES AGAIN and MADHOUSE with VINCENT PRICE! Like all good revenge flicks SUGAR saves Morgan’s demise for last and squeezes as much satisfaction out of it as possible.

ZOMBIES

Oh, how I love the zombies in this movie. They’re less the decrepit rotty kind you’d find in a ROMERO movie and more the pissed off phantasmal kind like you’ll find in CARPENTER‘s THE FOG. Their eyeballs look like silver ping-pong balls sliced in half and they come covered in cobwebs and accessorized with shackles and machetes. These guys are somehow both silly and strangely scary and I will never not like that combo.

THEME SONG

If I had my way it would be mandatory for every horror movie to have a theme song. SUGAR HILL has a doozy in THE ORIGINAL’s SUPERNATURAL VOODOO WOMAN! What a great way to instantly get in the mood!

IN CLOSING

What more encouragement do you need to visit SUGAR HILL? Although hard to track down on DVD, SUGAR is currently available on NETFLIX streaming. This is ghoulish fun that packs a punch while retaining a gleefully morbid sense of humor. It’s perfect for the Halloween season and fans of CREEPSHOW and TALES FROM THE CRYPT should be doubly pleased with just how sweet SUGAR’s vengeance can be.

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Tags: General Horror · Halloween




5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Oct 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

    You may be pleased to know that my grandmother on my father’s side was a little bit like Mama Jefferson. My dad used to crack up because he said she had that same sort of uppity, removed older woman glamour. AND George was apparently a lot like my grandfather, and they certainly resembled each other in their love of suits! I just need a Weezy in my life and it’s complete! :)

    I have not seen this movie but have always wanted to. Why didn’t the mom from the Jeffersons and the old lady who kept sticking head out the window on 227 make a road trip movie together?!?

  • 2 jamisingsNo Gravatar // Oct 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I wonder if The Shadow Man in Disney’s The Princess & The Frog was based off of Baron Samedi. They look an awful lot a like even if one is animated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6yw2SmG674

  • 3 FatherOfTearsNo Gravatar // Oct 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    I have some memory of this film’s TV trailer.  A good deal was dark…………which was good as the “chrome plated zombies” would have given me the creeps.  Decades later, while surfing through YouTube, I found it.  Once seen I had to get this.  I managed to get a DVD from Amazon-used.  I don’t think it’s authorized.  A blurred out section in the corner of the frame indicates this was taken from some TV broadcast and the station’s logo was blurred out.  In fact, parts of the movie repeat themselves for a few seconds at times.  I think commercials were poorly edited out.  Anyway, I liked this as I was a fan of Robert Quarry’s “Yorga” films*.  Speaking of “Phibes”, a good deal of the revenge killings in “Sugar Hill” may have been influenced by the “Phibes” killings as some of them are elaborately set up.  Some even have humour injected in them.   Fans of the “Blacula” films should check this out.
    *Quarry did a third vampire film in the early 70’s: “Deathmaster”.  He plays a long haired Charles Manson like vampire! 

  • 4 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2010 at 10:17 am

    I did not care for this movie. I think I expected more ass-kickery (Is “ass-kickery” a word? Well, it is NOW!) I went on a HUGE Blaxpoitation kick a few years ago and my husband was buying me these flicks in stacks. The cover on this one promised Kung Fu Zombies. HUH? There were none!

    For me the best part of the whole movie was when my little daughter ran in the kitchen and came back out with spoons over her eyes pretending to be one of the zombies.

  • 5 Billy VNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Well, I loved it. It saddens me that it remains MIA on DVD. Thanks for link to its beauuuuuutiful theme song.

    Did anyone else read Tales of the Zombie from Marvel comics growing up? This movie had that kinda vibe for me.

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