Monday, November 26, 2007


Just been watching this:

A 1941 clunker in wh/ a Nazi hypnotist uses Voodoo to interrogate a captured US Admiral. No, really.

Starring the late Mantan Moreland in the ubiquitous, easily spooked black man-servant role (cf w/ Willie Best as Bob Hope's valet in "The Ghost Breakers") - 'course, this can be viewed as racially demeaning stuff, as we look back from the cosy post-millennial PC Present (racial sterotyping, acting the yellow-belly and gurning to get cheap laffs from the white folks was the unfortunate price of entry into mainstream cinema for jobbing black actors in the 30s and 40s ), but MM is easily the best thing in this. (Tho the Bela Lugosi clone w/ the fake Austrian accent puts up a good fight)

Mantan had a prolific and extremely interesting career that ran from the early 1920s and included stints in the circus, vaudeville and Broadway - boy, I bet his biography would make a cracking read! - and roles in literally dozens of 30s/40s low-budget Mysteries, Comedies and Horror Films. He also appeared in a bucketload of "Race Movies" - films with all-back casts that were independantly financed and produced outside of Hollywood, a sort of cinematic parallel universe that existed waaaay back before 70s Blaxploitation...this stuff fascinates me - it's a sort of alternative history of American film-making that I don't think anyone's written much about. If there's any books on this then I wouldn't mind reading them...

(Think I'll be checking out some of these beauties...)

Anyway, Mantan also guest-appeared as Birmingham Brown in the Charlie Chan movies, and he also came v. close to joining The Three Stooges at one point in the 50s when Shemp died. How cool would that've been?

His line "If it's gonna be that kinda party, I'm gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes" was later immortalised by The Beastie Boys in the song "B-Boys Makin' with the Freak Freak."

Worra CV. A star and a true one-off.