When Deep Throat became a media sensation, giving a smidgen of legitimacy to what was otherwise verboten hardcore pornography, the exploitation impresarios were dumbfounded. For decades, they had been delivering the kind of sensationalized pseudo smut that made the raincoat crowd happy. While they pushed the boundaries of permissiveness, they never went “the full monty”, so to speak. But now, a 42nd street phenomenon was looking to supplant their softcore cash cow. Enter various attempts at recapturing the crown, including something called blaxsploitation. It was an attempt to speak to a different demographic than they had before. Heavily marginalized by Hollywood heavy hitters looking to horn in on the profits, the ghetto fabulous filmmaking flared brightly, but like any flash in the pan, petered out before long.
Now, nearly four decades after Melvin Van Peebles put a foot up the Man’s ass with his brilliant Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, indie filmmaker Jonathan Lewis, with the help of some of his more miscreant moviemaking pals, has dreamed up Black Devil Doll. Part homage to the hilarious surrealism of Petey Wheatstraw and, to some, a respectful rip-off of Chester Novell Turner’s Black Devil Doll From Hell, this outrageous example of Joe Bob Briggs’ patented “three Bs - breasts, blood, and beasts” is so insane, so silicon injected and silly that it’s almost impossible to take seriously. In fact, Lewis does try for a bit of social commentary before dragging out the strippers to show off their dirigible-like dirty pillows. From then on, it’s nothing but sex, scatology, and lots and lots of skin.
Heather is a buxom babe who gets bored one night and uses an Ouija board to contact the dead. Unbeknownst to her, an infamous black militant radial serial killer is being fried in the local electric chair. A few incantations later and the spirit of the evil African agitator is transferred to the gal’s goofy ventriloquist doll. With the addition of a Black Panther monster make-over and mandatory jive-ass jargon, the horny horror is born. At first, Heather satisfies all this perverted puppet’s needs. But when one white girl is not enough, the Black Devil Doll demands a humptastic hen’s night. So our heroine invites her friends Natasha, Candi, Buffy, and Bambi over for a little risqué R&R. Little does she know that this trim-seeking terror toy is really out to continue his menacing, murderous ways.
Like a 14 year old suburban rap fans wet dream doused with a heavy helping of skankified sleaze, Black Devil Doll is truly demented. If you’re looking for subtlety, careful characterization, logical plotting, and in-depth political grandstanding, go find Spike Lee and sit him down for nice long chat. Lewis is Hell-bent of being as derogatory, depraved, and disgusting as possible, and he truly does deliver. He finds front-heavy actresses eager to see his wanton vision through, and then has them undress for endless sequences of slut-tastic exposure. These are the kind of chicks that teen boys cream over, who resemble cut-outs from a particularly prurient men’s magazine or workers at a dive bar brothel. There is no denying their flagrant frizzled sex appeal. Black Devil Doll never tries to turn its victims into human beings. Instead, it’s straight up objectification - and these women have the over/under the muscle scars to prove it.
Of course, humor is an integral part of the experience, and Black Devil Doll is very funny indeed. Most of the jokes are aimed below the belt (and sometimes, even lower) and Lewis does go slightly overboard with the race baiting repartee. But for the most part, it’s just mindless burlesque, cheekiness for the sake of satire. While it may have a hard time proving its interest in a high purpose, Lewis does sneak in a bit of ‘70s era earnestness. Whenever the Black Devil Doll “conquers” one of his female victims, a psychedelic montage of Civil Rights symbolism and African American iconography plays in the background. It reminds us that any interracial combo - even one involving a hopped up puppet - creates its own subversive subtext of ethnic controversy.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this film is one not seen on the recently released DVD. When it was making the rounds this last summer, Black Devil Doll received a great deal of bad press for being a horrifically insensitive and morally objectionable work of outright trash. Of course, Lewis embraced said statements, even if many of them were made with the flawed foresight of not actually seeing the film first. Indeed, some even questioned the intent behind the movie, arguing that it was created specifically to instill anger in the African American community. Clearly, anyone seeing the final results will be laughing in the face of those self-ascribed watchdogs. Black Devil Doll is nothing more than a farce, an extended riff on a stereotype taken to ridiculous, raunchy extremes. Besides, it’s hard to see the bigotry with all the breasts flopping into the lens.
In fact, if anyone should be unhappy with Black Devil Doll, it is the current crop of artificially enhanced actress. Reduced to discussing their bowel movements and lesbian tendencies as signs of significant three dimensions, the girls here are nothing more than carnal eye candy for the settled self-abuser. Yet because Lewis never really exploits them, never has them doing things they wouldn’t normally do for a dollar, there’s none of the grimy scumbucket sensation involved.
Black Devil Doll will probably become a must-see member of the direct-to-DVD circuit, something that plays better in the privacy of your own home with a group of like-minded friends than in a packed movie house (though the recently released disc offers a ‘you-are-there’ audience experience that argues for the film’s universal appeal). While the original examples of blaxploitation were hardly this retarded, they would definitely support Lewis’s vagrant vision. The best advice one can give is to simply sit back and let a bedeviled brother work his magic on you. Who knows - you might just enjoy it.