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6 Film Collection [2 Discs] [DVD]

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The River Niger
River Niger is a Tony Award-winning play turned to a movie. It features James Earl Jones as a house-painter/poet who struggles to support his cancer-plagued wife (Cicely Tyson). This is a realistic portrayal of the difficulties encountered in the poverty-stricken ghetto. ~ Phillip Erlewine, Rovi

Sophie and the Moonhanger
Originally made for and aired on the Lifetime cable network this 1955-set drama centers on a loving, white Southern housewife (Patricia Richardson) whose comfortable life is thrown into turmoil when she learns that her close friend and housekeeper Sophie (Lynn Whitfield) has been targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and that her beloved husband (Jason Bernard) has been living a secret life as the Grand Dragon of the racist fraternity. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Sarny (Allison Jones) is born into slavery and separated from her mother at an early age. She's raised by Dealey (Lorraine Toussaint), who promises early on that "nuthin' too bad" will happen to her young charge. Clel Waller (Beau Bridges), who owns the plantation, is a cruel man, who sees the slaves only in terms of their monetary value. Life on the plantation changes when Clel buys Nightjohn (Carl Lumbly), a hulk of a man, with scars across his back from the whip. Branded as a troublemaker, Nightjohn has trouble earning the trust of the other slaves. But one night when their work is done, he offers to make a trade with Sarny to get some tobacco. In exchange, he begins to teach her the alphabet. Sarny is fascinated and takes to learning with passion, but when the other slaves find out, they are afraid. Old Man (Bill Cobbs) shows Nightjohn how he's been punished for his own literacy; his thumb and forefinger have been chopped off. But Nightjohn explains that he gave up a chance to escape to the North so that he could teach. "Words are freedom, Old Man," he explains. "That's all slavery is: words." Sarny reads the love letters that she delivers from Clel's wife (Kathleen York) to an educated doctor who lives nearby, and she reads Clel's ledger, in which he lists the monetary value of all the slaves. She soon learns that knowledge, for all its dangers, brings a certain power. Nightjohn was directed by venerated independent filmmaker Charles Burnett (To Sleep With Anger) for the Disney Channel. It's based on the young adult novel by Gary Paulsen. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad
Coproduced by two cable-TV servies-The Family Channel and the Black Entertainment Network--Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad uses historical fact as background for a fictional adventure tale. Courtney Vance and Janet Bailey star as slaves on a brutal antebellum North Carolina plantation. Together with two other slaves, Vance and Bailey make a daring escape, travelling northward by means of the eponymous railroad. Though the film isn't as suspenseful as it should be, it provides a valuable educational service in detailing the history of the Underground Railroad, the people responsible for its maintenance, and its modus operandi. Race to Freedom was first telecast on the Family Channel February 19, 1994, in tandem with an encore presentation of Roots (1977). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Tyrone (Danny Glover) is the proprietor of the Honeydripper juke joint. When business at the once-popular club begins to trail off and Tyrone hires unpredictable electric guitarist Sonny (Gary Clark Jr.) against his better judgment, Tyrone's last-ditch bid to draw in crowds during harvest time has surprising results that neither desperate Tyrone nor the ambitious Sonny could have ever anticipated. Blues guitarist Keb' Mo' co-stars in the film, which was written and directed by John Sayles. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Deadly Drifter
Based on a novel by Ronald Sukenick, this off-beat, slyly satirical road movie chronicles two decades in the life of a traveling mercenary who philosophizes about American culture and hopes to find himself while carrying out the orders of his enigmatic employer, who gives him assignments via bowls of vegetable soup. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

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