The Black Six (1973) / Action-Drama
MPAA rated: R for strong violence, brief nudity and language
Running time: 94 min.
Cast: Gene Washington, Willie Lanier, Carl Eller, Joe Greene, Mercury Morris, Rosaland Miles, Ben Davidson, Lem Barney, Jim Isenbarger, Maury Wills
Director: Matt Cimber
Screenplay: George Theakos
Review published June 30, 2012
The Black Six starts off with the vicious murder of a Black man who has dared to enter into an interracial relationship with a White woman, who, unfortunately for him, is the sister of one the members of a sinister all-White biker gang, who wallop the man to death with bikes and chains. However, the deceased just so happens to be the brother of one of the members of a tough-but-noble all-Black, all-Vietnam Vet biker gang. The all-Black gang is down on hassles, and initially want no part of it, but when it looks like the authorities aren't going to do enough about apprehending the culprits, they decide it's time to take matters into their own hands. They head to the town where the murder took place to question the locals, and with each step closer to the truth, they get one step closer to a final confrontation between deadly biker gangs (on a football field, no less).
The novelty of The Black Six is that it stars six members of the National Football League at the time, including famous future Hall-of-Famer, "Mean" Joe Greene (Lady Cocoa). In addition to the titular six, former Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson (Conan the Barbarian) and former baseball star Maury Wills (The Sandlot) have small roles. When you have this many non-professional actors at the forefront of your film, you're already giving up any pretense of a well-acted film, though the ineptitude does vary depending on the football star in front of the camera at any given time. Gene Washington (Black Gunn), perhaps the only one of the six to have something akin to acting chops, gets the lion's share of the screen time as the (literal) brother out for revenge, Bubba. Director Cimber's (Butterfly) technique isn't much better, as the film is shot in a lifeless and static style, and might only please bad movie aficionados who enjoy laughing at amateurish techniques such as obvious stunt doubles and continuity errors.
The film runs at a relatively shot 90 minutes or so, depending on the print you might encounter, and a good third of the film features shots of bikers riding in formation on the roads while the funky theme song plays. The film's end is practically written from the beginning, though it is interesting, given how obvious the climax will be, that there really isn't an actual ending to the film (reportedly, a somber ending had been intended but proved unpopular, leaving the result ambiguous) other than a big explosion and some words warning "honkies" not to hassle any of the "brothas" or The Black Six will return. I'm not sure if the threat here is in terms of potential bodily harm they might inflict or in the psychological one that a Black Six sequel would provide.
©2012 Vince Leo