Sugar Hill (1974) starring Marki Bey, Robert Quarry, Don Pedro Colley, Zara Cully
Sugar Hill is a blaxploitation zombie film, thats surprisingly enjoyable. At its heart, it’s the story of a young woman’s revenge against the mobsters that murder her boyfriend and how far she’s willing to go to achieve it.
Synopsis of Sugar Hill
Sugar Hill – After her boyfriend (Larry Don Johnson) refuses to sell his nightclub to mobster Morgan (Robert Quarry), he’s murdered. Diana Sugar Hill (Marki Bey) is determined to get revenge on the men responsible. She contacts an old voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Mama summons the worst of her voodoo gods, Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley). With his army of zombies acts out revenge for Sugar Hill for a price. During this, a handsome young police detective (Richard Lawson) is investigating the grisly murders. He suspects that his former girlfriend Sugar Hill is involved.
Review of Sugar Hill
Clearly, this is a blaxploitation film, with the various villains all being racist white men, beating and oppressing African-Americans at every opportunity. However, the film rises above its genre to be an actually interesting zombie movie, for several reasons. The primary reason in Don Pedro Colley, who plays the role of Baron Samedi with absolute gusto. Baron Samedi relishes every moment and bringing the audience along. Some of the other acting is good as well. Notably Marki Bey as the title character and Zara Cully as Mama Maitresse. The other acting is anywhere from average to wooden, including Robert Quarry’s.
Other positive points are the cinematography and the zombie makeup. The cinematography is appropriately atmospheric, especially in Mama Maitresse’s mansion, and in several of the murder scenes. The zombie makeup is very different and effective. Something that helps set the tone is the opening sequence, where the audience seems to watch a voodoo ceremony to the song Supernatural Voodoo Woman that turns out to be an act at the Club Haiti.
Cast of Sugar Hill
- Sugar Hill (Marki Bey) the lovely young photographer whose hatred of the murderers is as great as her love for her dead boyfriend
- Langston (Larry Don Johnson) Club Haiti owner, murdered a few minutes after the audience is introduced to him. A true pity, as he’s one of the better actors in this film.
- Morgan (Robert Quarry, Count Yorga, Vampire) the villainous white mobster. His acting here is wooden, his character two-dimensional.
- Celeste (Betty Anne Rees, Deathmaster) the gangster’s girlfriend, whose ideas he dismisses at every opportunity even though she’s right. Eye candy, until the very end of the film, when it’s time to repay Baron Samedi and he has no interest in souls
- Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley, Beneath the Planet of the Apes) the highlight of the film. His portrayal of Baron Samedi is equal parts gleeful and menacing
- Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully, The Jeffersons) another very good actress, who plays her role as the reluctant voodoo priestess well. I was frankly surprised to find out that this is the same actress who played the comical Mother Jefferson on the TV series The Jeffersons. A tribute to her acting ability.
- Valentine (Richard Lawson, Poltergeist) the honest police detective, investigating the trail of gruesome murders, who gets his leg broken in a voodoo accident for his troubles. Sadly, another wooden performance.