Ladies Night Presents Sweet Jesus Preacher Man (1973)
It may be a week later than usual, but what’s a week when you’re waiting on a couple of ladies like Ms. Directed and Fran Goria? It’s a small price to pay for a review of an offbeat blackploitation flick. So come on in and check out what happens when everyone exclaims…
Sweet Jesus Preacher Man (1973) starring Roger E. Mosley, William Smith, Michael Pataki, and Marla Gibbs. Directed by Henning Schellerup.
Sirus Holmes is a streetwise hitman, and as a favor to some of his contacts he poses as Jason Lee, the Preacher Man. He becomes reverend of a community church in L.A., and he becomes a favorite in the clergy. He pretends to want to clean up the neighborhood, but greed makes him want to run the action himself. Will he learn the error of his ways or will the Preacher Man end up paying the Devil his due?
--Henning Schellerup also directed The Black Alley Cats and The Black Bunch (a.k.a. Vicious Virgins). He is also credited as cinematographer for Silent Night Deadly Night and second unit cameraman for Maniac Cop, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Deathrace 2000.
--Roger E. Mosley is perhaps better known as T.C. on Magnum P.I.. He also appeared in the blaxploitation classic The Mack.
--William Smith appeared in films such as Red Dawn and Maniac Cop as well as being the Lord Zombie in Zombiegeddon.
--Michael Pataki was Dr. Hoffman in Halloween 4 and has provided many voices for cartoons.
--Marla Gibbs was Florence on The Jeffersons, and we love her for it.
The cover art and tag line to this movie will get any fan of exploitation to watch it. How can anyone who loves the films of the 70’s not respond to the tagline “AMEN’ BROTHER!” above a man holding a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. It was as if I was Pavlov dog when I saw the poster on the T.L’s screen. I think the exact words I used were “It is your job to get that movie for me.”
The copy he found had a bad transfer, but the first 15 minutes of the movie was a fantastic burst of well put together violence and an engaging plot. We get a car crush, a man being electrocuted by his own security fence, and a last victim being set on fired and pushed out of a hotel window. We also are introduced to Robert Mosley as Lee, a hardened hit man, and I loved the score which featured an oboe substituting for a funky, funky base line.
However, then the movies fails, and it falls hard. Instead of the story being about a white crime boss and the black hit man taking over his business, it becomes a movie driven by gross stereotypes. Now I know well enough to expect that from blaxploitation films, but in the best movies of this genre, like Foxy Brown, it is worked into the plot without being so clunky. I did not mind so much the jungle drums playing as Lee beat down members of “the Mans“ gang, but it became overkill when it was just a fight against random dudes. Black women are given the choice of being ether Marla Gibbs as the saintly single mother or a wanting woman so desperate for loving’ they will throw themselves at the preacher. This would be understandable if the female characters weren’t so underutilized in the film. Then, suddenly and just for good measure, the movie throws in a riot plot line mimicking the burning of Watts. It was like in the second act the writers tried to apologize for the movie with no regard for the storyline.
When watching all the movies of this ilk, it’s difficult for me to be too hard on them. Even at this time, very few films with a mostly black cast were not populated with these kinds of cardboard characters and situations. As a country, we just weren’t ready to look at people and see people, but if these movies, both good and bad, were not made, a whole generation of fantastic actors and artists could have been lost to our culture. That being said, this is no Shaft. It’s not even Shaft Goes to Africa. I can almost see to good story buried in Sweet Jesus Preacherman, but I have to look way too hard.
I enjoyed watching Sweet Jesus, however if was very hard to watch…literally. The transfer is so bad it looked as if Vaseline had been smeared on the lenses during filming. This made me unsure of what or who I was watching at times. The close ups were not that bad, but distance shots were impossible. As with many blaxploitation films, the stereotypes and racial slurs are overwhelming. From the main character being called “boy” and “pimpy looking” in the same sentence to his congregation being referred to as a “spook” church, it kind if made me hate whitey too.
Speaking of the whitey, the acting from the Caucasian actors is pretty bad, but on the whole, the rest of the cast do pretty well. The dynamics of Roger Mosley’s character is well rounded, and Marla Gibbs turns in a wonderful part as a single mother trying to do her son right. On the whole, it’s hard to fault actors when the script is so all over the place.
I did enjoy the film, but maybe mostly because I like watching movies with Ms. Directed. When I step back and really look at it, this is a bad film. There are a couple of fist fights and the Preacherman carries out a couple of hits, but there’s no real action. The basics of the plot has definitely been done before and no doubt better. I can only really recommend this film if you’re looking to broaden your blaxploitation catalog with an obscure title. Otherwise just skip it and pick from some of the genre’s better titles.
The film is out of print, but can be found through various sources including the magic of YouTube. Here's the first portion of the film for your enjoyment.