The thought alone of Russ Meyer making a period piece is perverse. The man who reduced women to tits, a*s, and trash talk would be sure to exploit any historical detail at his disposal. And, sure enough, Meyer sensationalizes the whip and offers maniacal slaveowners in this screwy vision of a colonial plantation, circa 1835.
At Blackmoor Estate in the British West Indies reigns Lady Susan Walker (Anouska Hempel), who’s role as slave driver has seriously gone to her head. As much as Hempel shrieks the N word and lashes her “black snake” (i.e., whip), her Susan is more of a warden from a women-in-prison film than a piece of shameful history. When not caught up in oppressive mania, she lusts after a new bookkeeper, Ronald Sopwith (David Warbeck, looking downright puzzled by the proceedings around him). Lucky enough for him, you’d think, though he’s also granted the services of a slave w***e (Vikki Richards), who could serve as a number of exotic ethnicities. Lady Susan’s jealousy rages enough for her to get a hold of Ronald, until an aged slavedriver, himself jealous, tries to take her by force. Just when you can make sense of all this, Lady Susan’s dead husband, Jonathan, appears as something like a zombie under control of local voodoo (though we soon learn this isn’t the case).
That’s right: this 1973 film – which gives the racial jokes in “Blazing Saddles” a serious run for their money – has gone certifiably zany by this point, at which time we’ve already had a halted slave revolt. Meyer gets a lot of mileage out of his over-the-top whip-lashers, even if he finds some honest heart in the slaves who yearn for freedom. (One slave’s loopy suicide by shark encounter has some sting.) A successful revolt isn’t far away, and it makes the film into a revenge yarn, with Lady Susan naturally the final target for the vengeance. Even in her final moments, she’s not afraid to howl, “Black and white together – NEVER!” . . . so absurd you just gotta love it.
Meyer deploys the kind of zany dialog that had been his trademark since “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (“Look, I don’t know what your point is, but. . . ” “The point is of no return, and you’ve reached it!” Oh yeah!) Once again, the dialog here is a treat. But it’s head-scratching as to why Meyer stringed all his best lines in an opening title sequence. Why give away the greatest hits when they can shake things up so well throughout?