Super Sisters On Cycles!

I recently got the chance to watch the terrific William Witney film Darktown Strutters (a.k.a. Get Down and Boogie, 1975) and really enjoyed it. Witney started directing action films and westerns in the ’30s and he’s now mostly remembered for the popular television serials he directed. One of the last films he made was the unusual biker and blaxploitation parody Darktown Strutters, which is undoubtedly one of the most surreal musical comedies made during the seventies. I’ve been interested in seeing this movie for years and I’m glad that I finally got around to watching it.

The film centers around a group of lovely ass-kicking women who ride around the Watts area of Los Angeles on their stylish customized motorbikes. When the mother of the gang’s leader Syreena (Trina Parks) goes missing, the girls find themselves running from hapless law enforcement officers, fighting off the KKK and finally taking down a fast food selling Col. Sanders clone called Louisville Cross in order to find her.

Before Syreena’s mom disappeared she was organizing the construction of an abortion clinic with financial help from Louisville Cross. Unbeknownst to anyone, Cross poses as a benefactor to the black community, but he’s really just a closeted racist who has created a bizarre machine that can clone human beings. He’s kidnapping black leaders with the help of the KKK in order to clone them, and he plans on using these clones to do his evil bidding and in turn wreck havoc on the black community.

Director William Witney uses slapstick humor and lots of cartoonish props to tell his strange tale. The film parodies many clichés found in earlier blaxploitation films, but it’s also a smart and super stylish low-budget comedy that takes a serious jab at white capitalists who often carelessly use the black community for their own good. Darktown Strutters deals with many important issues including racism, sexism, police brutality and abortion, while keeping it’s tongue firmly planted in its cheek at all times. The comedy is often surprisingly dark as well as ridiculously silly, and it’s bound to offend and surprise more than a few viewers.

Trina Parks delivers a unforgettable performance as the biker babe gang leader Syreena. The statuesque Parks stands almost 6 feet tall and it’s easy to believe that this Amazonian queen could knock the hot air out of any creep that gets in her way. The rest of the motorcycle riding ladies are also really good, but they don’t get as much screen time as Ms. Parks.

Other stand out performances include Roger E. Mosley (best known as ‘TC’ from the Magnum, P.I. television series) as the leader of a scooter riding gang who falls hard for Syreena and the great character actor Dick Miller shows up as one of the pitiful keystone cops. The film also features the musical act The Dramatics who get to perform their funky hit single “What You See Is What You Get,” while being held as prisoners in Louisville Cross’ dungeon.

One of the best things about Darktown Strutters is the amazing costume designs by Michael Nicola. I’ve seen a lot of great ‘70s style fashion in many terrific blaxploitation films such as the jaw-dropping designs in Cleopatra Jones (1973), but Nicola’s designs for Darktown Struttersare truly stunning and like most things in this unusual movie, they must be seen to be believed.

The movie is officially out-of-print, but you can still find used copies of the video version of Darktown Strutters on Amazon or selling on eBay.

You can see more images from the movie if you visit my Darktown Strutters still gallery at Flickr.

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10 thoughts on “Super Sisters On Cycles!

  1. Joe D says:

    Quentin Tarantino is a champion of Willian Witney. I believe he put on a retrospective at the Seattle Film Festival a couple of years ago. I’ve seen some of his Westerns but not Darktown Strutters, I’m looking forward to it.

  2. cinebeats says:

    Anna – It’s a great satire and sadly still very relevant today.

    StinkyLulu -I’m glad I could make your head explode! 😉

    Peter – It must have been a blast to see Darktown Strutters on the big screen! I’m sure George Armitage probably had a lot to do with the humor in the film. I didn’t realize he had also written Gas-s-s-s until now, which would make a good double bill with Darktown Strutters. A lot of the comedy in the film was very action based, slapstick and old fashioned. I suspect that the director’s long history working in films from as far back as the ’30s definitely had some baring on the movie’s style of humor too.

    Joe – I’m not surprised that Tarantino is a big fan of the director. The Witney retrospective he put together would have been fun to see. I hope you’ll get the chance to see Darktown Strutters soon yourself!

  3. robertmonell says:

    I was in an altered state of mind at the time but I think I saw part of this at the drive in with several other action flicks back in the days. It has that Surreal Seventies look to it. And that bright tacky color! Two of my favorite serie Z directors, Ray Dennis Steckler and Jess Franco told me that William Whitney was one of their main inspirations for getting into directing when I interviewed them several years ago. I love his old serial work like SOS COAST GUARD and the TV FU MANCHU series. Great blog, Cinebeats!

    robert monell
    http://www.robertmonell.blogspot.com/

  4. Joe Valdez says:

    Great post, Kimberly. You’re by far one of the most intricate working time machines on the Internet. I enjoy how you can write about these movies lost in time with both clarity and brevity. Kudos again on how appealingly your site is designed.

    Darktown Strutters reminds me a little too much of something like The Banana Splits Adventure Hour or Wonderbug. Childhood psychedelics. I get weirded out just thinking about them.

  5. cinebeats says:

    Robert – Thanks a lot for the nice words about my blog! An altered state of mind + Darktown Strutters = Dangerous! I felt like I was on drugs when I was watching it and I had only had one glass of wine with my dinner that night. I’ve never seen the Fu Manchu series but it sounds really interesting!

    Joe – Thanks much for the kind comments Joe! I’m glad you enjoy my reviews. Darktwon Strutters is totally an adult cartoon version of The Banana Splits. If I didn’t know better, I would have to the assume that the movie was a Hanna & Barbera or Sid & Marty Krofft production.

  6. Marty McKee says:

    I find DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ humor to be too juvenile for my tastes (and I’m a MONKEES fan, which should tell you something), yet there’s no question that it’s a truly bizarre, entertaining movie that must be seen to be believed. The cast is delightfully energetic. It’s so odd that this racial satire was directed by an old white dude, who, by the way, never directed again. Several William Witney programmers have been recently airing on Encore Westerns, some of them starring Roy Rogers. Witney’s serials for Republic are among the best ever made, including THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, SPY SMASHER and DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE…highly recommended!

  7. cinebeats says:

    Witney’s last film was actually Showdown at Eagle Gap (1982) according to online sources which was made after Darktown Strutters.

    A lot of the best blaxploitation films were, strangely enough, made by white guys.

    I’d like to see a few of Witney’s earlier serials. They sound really entertaining!

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