TNB Night Owl–Darktown Strutters

Maasdam Swiss cheese. Photo by Arz.

This may be the most audacious movie I’ve done for a night owl. Come to think of it, this might be the most audacious movie I do all year. I say might because I’ve learned that there are some strange movies out there. It’s going to be hard to beat DARKTOWN STRUTTERS aka GET DOWN AND BOOGIE (1975). What kind of movie is DARKTOWN STRUTTERS? Well…um…it’s complicated.

On a level, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is a feminist biker flick. Syreena is the leader of a Black all-girl biker gang who normally spend their day making mischief, taunting the white cops and challenging the Black male gangs to lighthearted competition.

On another level, it’s Blaxploitation. Syreena has to find her missing mother (with or without the help of her kung-fu fighting brother) who has fallen into the clutches of Commander Cross (who looks like a Colonel Sanders in pink tights, a diaper, and devil horns). She enlists the city’s pimps, drug dealers, and hooligans to assist her in her mission.

On yet another level it’s a fever dream of psychedelic delirium. Commander Cross is using Syreena’s mother, Cinderella, to help him create a cloning machine to clone leaders of the Black community to get them to convince African Americans to eat at his chicken-and-ribs restaurants. Syreena’s army of Black citizens fight Cross’ army made of hooded klansmen and humanoid pigs in pink superhero costumes. Everything from the sets, to costumes, even down to the motorcycles and helmets are designed with garish colors and space-age sensibilities.

It’s also a biting satire of stereotypes of the Black community. Everything from the “chicken and watermellon” stereotypes, to the notion that all Black people are criminals, and even gender politics are skewered. It crosses a lot of lines that wouldn’t fly in today’s film culture. In the mid-70s it was still walking the balance beam of taste, often falling. But it needs to bring up those stereotypes to point out their absurdities.

This is without getting into the fun, random, funk song and dance numbers, cameos from greats including Dick Miller, Otis Day, Mother Jefferson herself, Zara Cully….I could go on and on. Long story short, this movie is unlike anything else I’ve seen before (and I’ve seen a lot):

Question of the night–what’s your favorite fashion mistake from the 70s?

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