Soul Vengeance (1975)
By: David Michael Brown on May 13, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Dark Horse Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English 2.0. 103 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jamaa Fanaka
Starring: Marlo Monte, Reatha Grey, Stan Kamber, Tiffany Peters
Music: William Anderson, Jamaa Fanaka
Writer: Jamaa Fanaka
Country: USA
AKA: Welcome Home Brother Charles
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It's always a wonderful experience when you come to one of those "What the?" moments. Blaxploitation films as a genre are always full of delightfully over the top sequences. Whether it's Pam Grier out for revenge in some delightfully revealing costumes in Coffy, Max Jules arriving at the Pimp awards in The Mack, Richard Rowndtree strutting his stuff as Isaac Hayes croons in Shaft or Jim Kelly and Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson kicking arse in Three the Hard Way. They are the moments that have made many films so memorable and kept them on the edge of popular culture. Then some have pushed the limits of good taste; Pam Grier castrating her brothers killer in Foxy Brown or every second of The Black Gestapo. At the top of all these, however, are the delirious final minutes of Jamaa Fanaka's Soul Vengeance.

Charles, played by Marlo Monte, is a small–time dope dealer who gets on the wrong side of a racist cop who attempts to castrate him. He finds himself in prison after he is deserted by his friends and ends up serving three years in solitary confinement before he is granted parole. On his return he tries to start up a normal life but once a criminal, you are always treated like a criminal. At his lowest ebb he spies one of the cops who did him wrong on the television and begins to make his plans for revenge. His vengeance is where the film goes haywire. As Charles recovers from his injury, his manhood takes on a life of its own. He seduces the partners of the cops who did him wrong and before you can say, "Once you've gone black, you never go back" the cops wives are completely under his beck and call, helping Charles unleash his beast and strangle his enemies.

The pace is laboured to say the least and many will find the film's endless dialogue a drag if they are purely waiting for the 'good stuff.' The interesting thing about the film, however, is the gritty, realistic approach Fanaka takes for the bulk of the film's running length. He uses non-actors as extras to enhance the atmosphere and the naturalistic style of acting doesn't give any hint of what's to come. But when Charles' member begins to make its way towards his enemies' throats, all illusion towards realism is well and truly out of the window.

As a blaxpoliation film, almost of the boxes are ticked. We have some funky tunes, jive talking pimps and afros a plenty, but the introduction of the director's penchant for gritty realistic settings and a giant rubber phallus with a life of its own means that Soul Vengeance is a blaxploitation film like no other.
The age and the budget of the film have to be taken into account but the print, to be honest, is not in great shape. The image, framed at 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement, is grainy, flat and the print shows signs of damage.
Likewise the mono soundtrack is listenable but that's all you can really say. There is a bit of hiss when you turn up the volume during the film's quieter moments.
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The Verdict
Some films get by on the reputation of one scene and Soul Vengeance is no exception. The moment it comes, the film reaches a whole new level. Is it worth the wait? Probably not, but you can be sure you will never see anything like it again. Sticking it to the man has just reached a whole new level!
Movie Score
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