The Film (3/5)
Petey Wheatstraw is the 3rd feature film starring Rudy Ray Moore, and the second collaboration between Moore and director Cliff Roquemore after the prior year's Dolemite sequel The Human Tornado (also on Blu-ray through Vinegar Syndrome). Petey Wheatstraw sees Moore put the Dolemite character on the backburner for the time being to get into some supernatural hijinx and brings Old Scratch along for the ride. However, as a warning to new viewers don't go into the film expecting a horror film experience. This is a comedy in the Rudy Ray Moore mold using the supernatural as a backdrop.
Petey Wheatstraw was born in a shack during a hurricane (as a fully formed prepubescent boy). As an older man he is a rising night club comic starting to make waves in the world. However, when word gets out to the local mob that Petey is booked at a local club, near their latest venture they spring into action in an attempt to stop him. They shoot him and his family outside the funeral for a recently deceased young boy, but when Petey arrives in Hell things aren't what he thought they'd be. Lucifer offers him a chance for revenge, a return to Earth, and to have life restored to his family and friends if he agrees to marry and have a child with his daughter (who is hideous). Petey agrees, and is returned to Earth with the magical cane of Lucifer to help him enact his revenge, but he also wants to get out of the deal before it's too late.
Petey Wheatstraw definitely feels like a film in continuity with the prior 2 Rudy Ray Moore films (Dolemite and the Human Tornado). The supernatural element is certainly welcome and helps to create something new for Moore to play up against. The low budget set design in the Hell segments is actually chilling and quite effective, even if it isn't being played for horror, and the film is overall another solid entry into the Moore canon.
However, like Moore's prior 2 films this one feels disjointed. This worked for Human Tornado and Dolemite as they didn't really as heavily on story, and just used it as a springboard for Moore's comedy. However, Petey Wheatstraw with it’s devilish backdrop has more of a story to it, and it takes a while for that to find focus. That being said once the film gets going, it is another absolute delight from Moore and Roquemore. The third act of the film is a total weird blast where sleaze meets the supernatural, and mixes it up with some nice violence and comedy.
Vinegar Syndrome brings Petey Wheatstraw to life in a solid, 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The film looks quite good for the most part, colors are natural and well reproduced, detail is solid, and blacks are inky and deep. There is some damage from the source material including scratches and speckles throughout. This is especially noticeable in the opening credits of the film.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 1.0 track in English. The track is quite serviceable, dialogue and score come through just fine. No issues were detected during my listen.
Vinegar Syndrome have gone all out for this series, and that continues with their Petey Wheatstraw release. The Blu-ray has a commentary by Rudy Ray Moore biographer Mark Jason Murray. This is followed up by the third segment of their I, Dolemite series which interviews the cast and crew behind Petey Wheatstraw. There is a 9 minute piece that follows Rudy Ray as he points out shooting locations for some of his films. The set concludes with a still gallery.
Petey Wheatstraw sees Moore branch out and attempt to combine the supernatural and comedy with mixed results. The Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome looks and sounds quite excellent, better than this film has ever been presented before, and includes a slate of extras sure to please Rudy Ray Moore and blaxploitation aficionados. RECOMMENDED.