Also known as: I Crossed the Color Line (alternate), Brutes (UK)
Release Date: June, 1966
Directed by: Ted V. Mikels
Written by: Art Names, John T. Wilson
Music by: Jaime Mendoza-Nava
Cast: Richard Gilden, Rima Kutner, Harry Lovejoy, Max Julien, Jakie Deslonde, James McEachin
SGS Productions, 88 Minutes
“Get control of myself?! Who the hell are you, white woman… to tell me to get control of myself?!” – Jerry Ellsworth
The Black Klansman isn’t blaxploitation, it’s half a decade too early and it doesn’t have the wisecrackin’ street slang of those pictures or the sweet style. However, it does feel like a sort of proto-blaxploitation film. At it’s core though, it is a Civil Rights era thriller in a similar vein to Roger Corman’s The Intruder. This falls more on the exploitation side though.
The story sees a man return to Alabama from Los Angeles after his young daughter is burned to death during a church bombing orchestrated by the Ku Klux Klan. The man is a light-skinned black man and he decides to go undercover, infiltrate the KKK and get revenge for his daughter and for the black community that is terrorized by the violent, hate-filled, murderous bigots.
This isn’t a film that boasts good acting but the acting is still effective and the point is made. It’s hard not to feel for Jerry, the man who’s daughter was brutally killed. While he initially flies off the chain, he pulls it together and orchestrates his plan to near perfection. He even gets to hook up with the daughter of the KKK leader and later gets to boast about it, as racist daddy can’t handle the reality of Jerry’s revenge.
From a technical standpoint, the film also isn’t great. Everything is pretty average though but it does feel like a picture with very limited resources. The cinematography and lighting are fine but nothing special. Surprisingly, the sound has held up well in the prints that have survived the ravages of time.
What is probably the most interesting thing about this movie is that it was directed by exploitation schlock master Ted V. Mikels. This is the guy that gave us awful gore festivals with films like The Corpse Grinders and Blood Orgy of the She-Devils. He also directed Girl In Gold Boots, one of IMDb’s 100 worst rated films of all-time, Dr. Sex, The Astro-Zombies and its sequels, The Doll Squad and several other grindhouse thrillers.
From a filmmaking standpoint, this is probably the best film Mikels has made. It was definitely exploitation cinema at its finest but it carried a strong political and social message and delivered it well. You can’t really say the same thing for The Corpse Grinders.
Pairs well with: Roger Corman’s The Intruder and if you want to up the octane, The Black Gestapo.