Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I have hard time busting Jamaa Fanaka's balls over "Soul Vengeance" (a.k.a. "Welcome Home Brother Charles") because it is a student film after all, but at the same time, the fact that so many people praise it as a great slice of wild-ass Blaxploitation makes it a necessary task. I will go so far as to say it is noteworthy in the landscape of its genre, but otherwise it’s so droning and dull that by the time they reveal the twist that supposedly pays everything off you really don't give a shit. Conceptually, this movie has a lot going for it, but the focus isn't where it should be.

The story follows Charles Murray, a young brother who is nearly castrated by a bigoted cop following a botched drug bust. Charles is sent up the river despite the assault, and he does some time in a penitentiary. It is here that our protagonist supposedly goes through some experimentation which results the mutations of his genitals, which becomes prehensile and can even grow to extraordinary lengths. Once released, Charles has a hard time adjusting and eventually goes on a revenge spree wherein he uses his killer dick to strangle those responsible for putting him away.

I have only seen the Xenon home video version of this movie, and I have read from various others than the original release is quite a bit different, though I have a hard time believing much could be improved here. For starters, the fact that he’s experimented on while in prison is altogether vague. They never really explain their purpose of exactly what was done to Charles. All you really know is that he now has an insanely long dick he can control with the power of his mind. Now, I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking, "holy shit, that sounds great." And while it DOES in fact sound amazing, the revenge portion of the story is pretty meager. In fact, instead of reveling in the more entertaining aspects of this film, Fanaka decides to focus on Charles' home coming and his relationships. The picture's hook, which humorously explores the myth surrounding black genitals, is limply thrown in the viewer’s lap far too late into the film for them to anything substantial with it. Ultimately, Fanaka falls short of really tapping into the subject's potential.

Once again, I can only speak as someone who’s seen the lamented Xenon version, but the scenes are poorly sequenced. One example of this involves the bigoted cop who cleaves into Charles' manhood. Following his attack on the protagonist, this cop is on a stakeout wherein he discovers that his wife is cheating on him with a black man. He has a breakdown, winds up in a hospital, and later confronts his spouse about her interracial affair. Had this scene occurred much earlier in the story or been presented as a flashback, it would have provided a very clear motive for his hatred toward Charles as a black man. Some stuff could have been exercised completely to help the story flow better, but the sequencing is a huge road block.

Once again, a noteworthy film within its respective genre, but hardly worth your time. Those interested in checking out some of Fanaka's work, check out the "Penitentiary" trilogy instead.

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