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Black Gestapo, The
Delivered unto the world by Los Angeles' exploitation team supreme, director Lee Frost and producer Wes Bishop, 1975's The Black Gestapo (also known as The Ghetto Warriors and Black Enforcers) introduces us to General Ahmed (Rod Perry), the man in charge of the Peoples' Army, a Black Panthers-esque organization that has been setup to help deal with the crime, poverty and drug abuse that plagues the black community of Watts.
A gang of white gangsters led by Vito (Phil Hoover) and Ernie (West Bishop himself) are running about the streets making things worse, selling dope and hookers and running a protection racket. When a kindly nurse named Marsha (Angela Brent), Ahemd's one time gal pal who works at the local clinic, gets raped by the two hoods, Ahmed's right hand man, Colonel Kojah (Charlie Robinson), decides that enough is enough. He and some men break into Vito's place and cut his junk off while he's in the tub, assuming it'll serve as a warning to the white gangsters to leave well enough alone. It doesn't work and the gang that Vito worked for ups their game, causing Kojah to take over a mansion and turn the grounds into a training compound. From here, he decides that they need new uniforms and a much more militant approach than what Ahmed's been trying to use to make things better. As Kojah becomes more and more extreme in his approach, and starts taking from the community he was once trying to protect, we know it's only a matter of time until he and Ahmed come to blows…
A gleefully offensive film for many, and obvious, reasons, The Black Gestapo kinda-sorta starts off like a movie that might be trying to provide some sort of serious social commentary on some issues that were legitimately affecting the black community around the time that it was made. That quickly goes out the window and we're left with a film wallowing in its exploitative elements, offering up plenty of female nudity, a grisly rape scene, a surprising amount of genuine Nazi imagery (and even some sound bites from Hitler himself) cartoonish violence and garish fashions. Oh, it's entertaining as Hell, yes indeed, but whatever social commentary Frost and Bishop may have intended be in the film gets steamrolled by the film's frequently salacious content.
Clearly meant to cash in on the Blaxploitation films craze that was sweeping cinemas at the time while simultaneously using the headline grabbing actions of The Black Panthers to put butts in seats, The Black Gestapo is unique, if nothing else. Robinson, who would later go on to play Mac Robinson on TV's Night Court, is wonderfully and constantly angry as Kojah, he's a blast to watch. Likewise, Perry, who played Sergeant David 'Deacon' Kay in S.W.A.T. on TV around the time that this movie was released, is fun as the more righteous of the two. We buy him as a guy trying to do the right thing. The beautiful Angela Brent is genuinely good as Marsha, her acting in the rape scene is honestly quite harrowing, while Phil Hoover and the rest of the white gangsters are all perfectly in their respective roles. Keep an eye out for ‘big bust queen' and Lee Frost regular Uschi Digard as Kojah's main squeeze (she's hard to miss) and Donna Young (credited as Donna Desmond), from The Naughty Stewardesses and Zero In And Scream as the white prostitute who keeps getting abused in the film.
Code Red brings Black Gestapo to Blu-ray for in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taken from a "brand new HD 2k master from the original camera negative" taking up 20.6Gbs of space on a 25GB disc. A frequent staple of bargain bin and multipack releases over the years, this presentation, while not reference quality, does look way better than what we've seen before as far as how the movie has been treated on home video. Colors look great here and black levels too. There are some minor compression artifacts and softness that is noticeable now and then but overall, for an old, low budget exploitation picture, this looks pretty damn good despite frequent, albeit typically minor, print damage popping up in a few spots.
Audio is handled by way of an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono option. The audio is usually pretty clean and nicely balanced, with only occasional moments of any minor, audible defects coming into play and a few spots where the dialogue is a bit muffled sounding (this could very likely stem back to the original recording). There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided here.
Extras start off with a commentary track featuring stars Rod Perry and Charlie Robinson, moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red Releasing. This is a pretty fun track, with the two leading men and longtime friends clearly having a great time strolling down memory lane together. They cover the use of sex and violence in the film, the different locations used, the quality (or lack thereof) of some of the acting in the movie, the dated fashions on display, Frost's cameo in the picture and more. It's a fun and interesting track and a great document of the making of the movie.
There are also a couple of interviews here, stating with a ten-minute piece where actor Charlie Robinson talks about how he auditioned for the role at Lee Frost's house, how he help Rod Perry get the co-starring role, how much he enjoyed working on the movie, getting to hangout on set with a bunch of pretty women, discussing method acting with producer Wes Bishop and not getting paid much for his work.
Actor Charles Howerton is on camera for twelve-minutes to talk about how he was cast in the film, what it was like working with Frost and Bishop and how he views his involvement in the film as a misstep. he then talks about other films that he acted in over the years and some of the people that he worked with on those pictures.
Rod Perry gets seven-minutes in front of the camera to talk about landing the part, getting along with the majority of the cast, his friendship with Robinson, working on The Black Godfather and S.W.A.T. and more.
Rounding out the extras is a completely unnecessary Beauty And The Bananaman where Code Red's Bill Olsen (in a Bananaman costume) fumbles around on camera with the beautiful Katarina Leigh Waters as well as a t trailer for the feature using the alternate Ghetto Warriors title. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.
The Black Gestapo is as entertaining as it is ridiculous, a film that can't quite take the issues it tackles seriously enough but which nevertheless delivers the exploitation goods in heaping dollops. Code Red's Blu-ray release doesn't provide a perfect technical presentation but still offers a pretty massive upgrade over past editions, and the extras are solid. Easily recommended to genre enthusiasts and psychotronic movie fans.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.