Darktown Strutters

Also known as Get Down and Boogie, this funked up female biker comedy continues to boogle the mind. When the a beautifully badassss biker gang roll into town they find that their leader’s mother has disappeared. She’s not the only person missing. Many prominent Afro-Americans have vanished and its up to Syreena and her gang of sequin spangled, motorcycle mammas to solve the case. In order to get to the bottom of disappearances Syreena and crew must deal with racist, bungling cops, dirt bike riding klansmen, and a Colonel Sanders clone who runs the local rib joint.

George Armitage tackles blaxploitation in this second feature, sort of. It’s hard to qualify this female biker flick as blaxploitation. It certainly exploiting black culture, but it feels so very different than the films that made the genre infamous. Less violent and more comical, Darktown Strutters appears to be a very misguided social satire that looks to send-up every stereotype in the book. Some how this is supposed to make things better. Perhaps George Armitage and the film’s director, William Witney, feel that laughter is the best form of medicine. Remember this was years before Patch Adams proved it wasn’t.

For those film fans who like sterile films that don’t push certain buttons, Darktown Strutters is the wrong film. Hamfisted, Darktown Strutters, smashes away at every politically uncorrect topic in the book. Yet, there is a plausible sense of forward thinking present in the film. The protagonists are all black women, fully in charge of their own bodies. Black males are seen as horny, wimpish, fools and white males are portrayed even worse – racist, sexist fools. As great as this sounds that does not prevent the film from some rather questionable calls. Lines like, “It’s rape, you have to go asking for it,” are so shocking that you aren’t sure if you should laugh or cry, not because it’s Syreena, the heroine of the film making this foolish statement, but because Armitage and Witney felt the film was better for having the line.

If you don’t laugh at the misguided moments in Darktown Strutters, if you try to deny the lunacy of the film, and or if you place yourself above it all you will likely give yourself a heartattack. The brutual attack brought on by this cranium crusher is just too much to brush aside. Trying to rationalize the film will only lead to an aneurysm. Laughter is just a healthy release. And, at every turn this film’s outlandish attempts to generate laughter through very off-color jokes is astounding. Mixed into the mess of tasteless humor are visual gags straight out of Benny Hill. Sped-up motion, food fights, and outrageous costumes bombard the senses. Each scene feels like a sketch, with the action building to a grand finale. Along the way, jokes are tossed about, few connecting, many generating groans. The general attack plan seems to be – throw in everything and the kitchen sink and see what works. No idea appears to be too outlandish to not commit to film. When the film’s villain finally appears in a bright pink pig costume, with a flowing white cap the gloves are off, but by this point in the film one has almost come to expect anything…Almost. There are still more surprises before the film’s end that are sure to surprise even the most perceptive viewer.

Darktown Strutters is comedic anarchy. This term often gets applied to work by folks such as the Marx Brothers, but their humor was always well planned and rehearsed. The humor in Darktown Strutters feels like true anarchy, as if no one was in control of the production, as if everyone on the crew was free to toss of a suggestion. By films end the entire production feels much like a story told by passing around a piece of paper and letting each student write a sentence or two. Trying to guess what will happen next isn’t even worth the effort. It’s best to just sit back in awe and try not to choke on your popcorn or guess what sort of damage a person has to do to their mind to come with with insanity like Darktown Strutters.


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