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SOUL VENGEANCE

This “blaxploitation” movie is infamous for a one-minute scene near the end involving a homicidal penis…which is indeed an eye-opener, but the rest of the film is pretty crappy.

The Package
     This film’s actual title is WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES, although it’s better known--in cut form--as SOUL VENGEANCE. It was a student film made at UCLA by Jamaa Fanaka in 1975. Fanaka went on to almost single-handedly create the films EMMA MAE, a.k.a. BLACK SISTER’S REVENGE (1976), the nutzoid PENITENTIARY series, and 1992’s STREET WARS.
     SOUL VENGEANCE remains the most infamous of Fanaka’s films (it was spoofed in SCARY MOVIE 2), even though it’s quite awful for the most part. Then again, the version available from Xenon Video on VHS and DVD has reportedly been edited fairly severely. Hopefully one day we’ll get to see this wild film in its intended form, and so make a proper judgment.

The Story
     The African American Charles is a small-time drug dealer incarcerated on trumped-up charges. He’s also manhandled severely by racist cops who nearly castrate him in the process. Somehow this causes Charles’ penis to grow to an impossible size while in prison.
     Eventually he’s released. Charles attempts to readjust to life in Watts, CA, but he also enacts methodical revenge on his tormentors. He visits the homes of the cops who roughed him up and shows their wives his penis. This hypnotizes them into doing Charlie’s bidding, which includes having sex with the ladies, who then let him into their homes at night--and watch as he strangles their husbands with his cock!
     But Charles makes the mistake of telling a white psychiatrist about his activities (claiming they’re dreams). The latter alerts the police, who descend on Charlie in mass, and force him into a final desperate act.

The Direction
     The homicidal penis scene that lends SOUL VENGEANCE its notoriety lasts approximately one minute and doesn’t occur until near the end of the film. It’s a funny sequence, largely because it’s so out-of-left-field. Up until that point the film is a more or less straightforward (and not a little dull) drama of the protagonist’s attempts at reintegrating into his old life. The dick-strangling, with its campy B-movie air, feels like a different movie entirely.
     The film overall is an odd duck, veering chaotically between sentimental drama and experimentation. Fanaka’s subsequent films are marked by an evident love of the outlandish that began with SOUL VENGEANCE, which outside a lot of typical student film clumsiness contains many bizarre touches. These include the seriously creepy music score (partially composed by Fanaka), and several surreal interludes--and of course the dick strangling. Perhaps it’s appropriate that this scene comes so late in the picture, and seems so out of place: it’s really the only reason to sit through this movie, which is otherwise best viewed as a warm-up for Fanaka’s later, more polished exercises in cinemadness. If blaxploitation cinema has an answer to David Lynch, it’s almost certainly Jamaa Fanaka.
 

Vital Statistics

SOUL VENGEANCE (a.k.a. WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES)
Bob-Bea Productions

Director/Screenwriter/Editor: Jamaa Fanaka
Cinematographer: James Babij
Cast: Marlo Monte, Reatha Grey, Stan Kamber, Tiffany Peters, Ben Bigelow, Jake Carter, Jackie Ziegler, Ed Sander, Teri Hayden, Stephen Schenck, Kamala James, Mordo Dana, Elizabeth McAlpine

     

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