Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: The Legend of Ni*ger Charley
USA, 1972. Eaves Movie Ranch, Paramount Pictures. Story by James Bellah, Screenplay by Martin Goldman, Larry G. Spangler. Cinematography by Peter Eco. Produced by Larry G. Spangler. Music by John Bennings. Production Design by Merrill Sindler. Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi. Film Editing by Howard Kuperman.
An elderly plantation owner lays dying in his bed and promises his slave, Gertrude Jeannette, that he will set her son Charley (Fred Williamson) free. His written command on this matter is ignored by the abusive owner who takes over upon the master’s death and provokes a fight with Charley that ends up getting the white man killed. Knowing that he will surely be killed for this, Charley runs away with his friends Joshua and Toby, arriving in a frontier town with manhunters not far behind them. Taking care of that skirmish in a gunfight on the open dusty streets, they then decide to stay at the farm of a poor couple who are being harassed by a villainous brigand who calls himself “the preacher” and is always taking their crops and threatening the man’s indigenous wife. This exciting action film provoked a great deal of negative response upon its release, first for its original title (The Legend of Ni*ger Charley) which many found distastefully controversial, and bad reviews from critics for enjoying its grindhouse-style violence a bit too much. It’s actually a really enjoyable adventure, headed up by a terrific performance by former football star Williamson in the lead role, exuding the physical prowess necessary as well as being immediately sympathetic as a wronged man. Director Martin Goldman never lets the low budget compromise the excitement of the action sequences, nor does it feel dissatisfying despite the fact that the plot has been formed mainly to facilitate two showdowns. Audiences were not as turned off as reviewers, and the film was followed by a sequel.