Spencer Williams Collection [DVD]

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Overview

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Special Features

  • Digitally mastered
  • Interactive menus
  • Scene index
  • Digitally enhanced audio 5.1

Synopsis

Blood of Jesus
Spencer Williams, who had been an actor and screenwriter since 1929, was one of the most important African-American filmmakers of the 1940s, producing dramas with all-black casts that found a ready audience in all-black movie houses. Williams made his directorial debut with this low-budget drama, for which he was also the producer, screenwriter, and lead actor. Highly religious Martha (Cathryn Caviness) is married to Razz (Williams), a ne'er-do-well who has trouble supporting his family and rarely goes to church. Razz accidentally shoots Martha while tending to his hunting rifle, and her fellow parishioners pray over her as she hovers between life and death. Her spirit leaves her body, transported to the Crossroads between Heaven and Hell. There, Martha is tempted from the path of righteousness by Judas Green (Frank H. McClennan), a smooth-talking demon sent by Satan (James B. Jones) who introduces her to the pleasures of liquor and dancing and tries to talk her into a new career as a nightclub hostess, before she realizes that she has begun to travel the path of sin and degradation. Shot in Texas on a budget of only $5000, The Blood of Jesus uses both ethereal gospel music and down-and-dirty blues on the soundtrack is an effective metaphor for the film's battle of sacred and profane influences. Williams would direct seven more films before the decade was over, and in the 1950s he gained fame as Andy on the Amos 'n' Andy TV series. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Go Down Death
Spencer Williams, one of the most important African-American filmmakers of the 1940s (along with Oscar Micheaux), directed this all-black feature, which, like many of his films, explored religious faith in a fallen world. When a young and enthusiastic new preacher comes to town, gangster Big Jim Bottoms (Williams) finds that his juke joint no longer brings in as many customers. He arranges for the preacher to be photographed in a compromising situation with three attractive women, but his scheme has unexpectedly tragic consequences for the preacher and his fiancée, and the crime boss finds himself tortured by his conscience. Though hampered by an extremely low budget, Go Down Death, which was inspired by a narrative poem by James Weldon, displays Williams' bold and inventive visual sense, as well as his compelling on-screen personality; the sequence in which Big Jim is visited with a vision of Hell employs nightmarish footage from the films of pioneering fantasy filmmaker Georges Méliès. This was the third of eight films that Williams would helm in the 1940s; he gained his greatest fame in the 1950s as Andy on the TV series Amos 'n' Andy. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Juke Joint
Juke Joint is one of the better-known films, produced especially for African-American audiences in the 1930s and 1940s. Spencer Williams Jr. and July Jones play a couple of shabby but resourceful gents who hit town with only 25 cents between them. Turning on the charm with various ladies of wealth, Williams Jr. and Jones manage to bankroll a nightclub. The whole plot is, of course, an excuse to spotlight several variety acts. Spencer Williams Jr., the "auteur" of Juke Joint, is the same corpulent gent who played Andrew H. Brown on the old Amos 'N' Andy TV series. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Bronze Buckaroo
African-American cowboy Herb Jeffries (here billed Herbert Jeffrey) headed an all-black cast in this otherwise ordinary Western filmed at the "all-colored" N.B. Murray dude ranch near Victorville, CA. Jeffries plays Bob Blake, a cowboy investigating the mysterious disappearance of his friend, Joe (Rellie Hardin). Joe, it appears, sits on some mighty valuable land and nasty Pete (Spencer Williams Jr.) aims to make him sign over the deed. Bob and his cowboy friends arrive just in time to prevent Joe from being branded with a hot iron. This African-American Western was produced, written, and directed by the white Richard C. Kahn, and included musical interludes performed by Jeffries and the Four Tones. Adhering to every cliché in the book, The Bronze Buckaroo came complete with an idiotic, easily scared sidekick (ventriloquist Lucius Brooks). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Cast & Crew

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    Spencer Williams

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