Sunday, August 01, 2010

He's Got His Soul Brothers With Him

Paramount made enough dough from THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY to bring star Fred Williamson back for a sequel, this time directed by the original’s producer and co-writer, Larry G. Spangler. THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY, one of four Williamson movies released in 1973, is a pretty good western and maybe even a little better than LEGEND.

A Confederate Army colonel called “Blanchard the Butcher” (a hateful Kevin Hagen) and his men, who refuse to accept the war is over, slaughters a small town and kidnaps the black citizens. Down in Mexico, Blanchard has set up a new community of Southern aristocracy that raids the poor and uses the blacks as slaves. Charley (Williamson), something of a folk hero after the events of LEGEND, partners with sidekick Toby (D’Urville Martin), Mexican bandit Sandoval (Pedro Armendariz Jr.), Herculean archer Ode (George Allen), beautiful but broken Elena (Denise Nicholas, on summer vacation from ROOM 222), and a ragtag bunch of former slaves to hijack $100,000 of Blanchard’s gold and free his captives.

For a first-time director, Spangler and his cinematographer Richard Glouner (an Emmy winner for COLUMBO) do a nice job stretching Paramount’s low budget to feature a decent look and plenty of bloody action. It’s still rough around the edges in terms of script and editing, but Williamson’s unique style of heroics and the frequent violence make SOUL something of a crowdpleaser. Charley brings out the best in Fred, since he’s a more vulnerable and more human character than the actor played in his later films. Lou Rawls performs two songs, and Don Costa composed and conducted the fine score.

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