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Darktown Strutters ("Get Down and Boogie")

  • USA
  • 1975
  • 90 mins
  • 16mm
  • English
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In the heart of the Watts ghetto of South Los Angeles, the Darktown Strutters are revving up their eye-catching hogs. The ladies, led by Syreena, are a quartet of amazons with devil-may-care attitudes and fabulously glam jumpsuits and helmets. They cruise the streets in search of Cinderella, their leader’s mother. After a tangle with the US Marines and racist cops, they come across another, moderately menacing street gang — a band of Klan-masked bikers backed by a host of pig-men led by a Colonel Sanders clone. When it becomes clear that the downtrodden citizens of the neighbourhood are disappearing, Syreena joins forces with a variety of black groups to confront the white supremacists — and find her mom!

This amazing cinematic oddity flies its true colours with its opening intertitle: “Any similarities between this true adventure and the story Cinderella … is Bullshit”. Also released as GET DOWN AND BOOGIE, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is about as factual as it is serious. It comes across as a surrealist comedy, a colourful cartoon as imagined by Richard Lester. It even takes a sharp turn into musical-comedy territory with some amazing numbers. William Witney, a veteran of TV and cinema serials, tackled his first blaxploitation flick at the age of 60. His film uses every trick in a book borrowed from the Vaudeville library for this truly out-there effort. From undercranked chase scenes to intense zooms, anything goes. From extravagant outfits to outrageous dialogue, the actors gleefully give it their all. The soundtrack, courtesy of legendary American record label Stax, guarantees grooves of fine-cut funk and soul — and watch for The Dramatics dishing out their hit “What You See Is What You Get” is a basement dive! It doesn’t always hold together but there’s no question that the cast and crew put their hearts into this one. It’s not for all tastes — and not always in good taste, but its uniqueness has earned it a cult following since its mid-’70s release. A gem to some, a jumble of jive to others — you be the judge!

— Marc Lamothe