The Film (2.5/5)
Vinegar Syndrome’s latest release from the vaults of the American Genre Film Archive - the world’s largest collection of 35mm prints of obscure independent and exploitation films - is this odd, forgotten blaxploitation/sci-fi hybrid. Supersoul Brother has gone by multiple titles, with the print used for this DVD featuring the title The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger (it’s understandable why Vinegar Syndrome went with Supersoul Brother for the DVD cover). A loose parody of the basic premise of The Six Million Dollar Man, the movie is technically and narratively inept, and yet it has flashes of lowbrow wit and self-awareness that make it enjoyable in more than a “so bad it’s good” way.
The movie opens two pimps who have hired an evil doctor to create a superhuman strength serum so that they can rob a jewelry store (seems like a disproportionate amount of effort for the job, honestly). When the serum proves ultimately lethal to its animal test subjects, they decide to recruit a wino (“Wildman” Steve) to do the job for them. From the beginning, Supersoul Brother is a pretty extreme example of the trappings of low-budget exploitation filmmaking. The characters keep returning to the same handful of locations, and much more of the running time is spent talking about the heist and the race against time to find an antidote for the serum than anything resembling “action.” Directed by Rene Martinez Jr. and shot entirely in Florida, Supersoul Brother is “bad” in ways that, at its best, approach the level of outsider art.
This movie knows what it is, and the jokes range from tongue-in-cheek to cheerfully vulgar, the latter mostly courtesy of star “Wildman” Steve, a comedian who had appeared in smaller roles in other blaxploitation movies. From the beginning, it’s impossible not to like Steve as he boasts about his sexual prowess and asks the female doctor’s assistant assigned to keep an eye on him to wash his ass like his mama used to (???). When Steve finds out that he’s been double-crossed and only has a few weeks left to live, his angry, panicked outburst (“I want to go to heaven, Lord, but I don’t wanna die!”) is both hilarious and oddly sympathetic. Supersoul Brother is no lost masterpiece, but I had fun with it. It’s worthy of rediscovery as a reminder that blaxploitation films, even those made on a shoestring budget, were often more self-aware and intentionally funny than they’re given credit for.
The 35mm print that Vinegar Syndrome scanned and restored for this DVD (in the movie’s 1.85:1 OAR) is in obvious rough shape, with scratches, splices and other damage visible throughout. However, they mostly enhance the time capsule aspect of watching a movie like Supersoul Brother. Beyond that, Vinegar Syndrome has actually done a pretty good job here - it seems to be an accurate presentation of a not-very-pretty-looking movie, with a surprising amount of detail and clarity. The 1.0 mono audio is mostly clear throughout - the movie’s weird theme song sounds like it’s being played through a tin can and a string, but I’d guess that it’s always sounded that way.
No extras are included.
I’d particularly recommend Supersoul Brother as a movie to see with an audience, or at least a roomful of drunk friends in the right frame of mind for it - I imagine that it’d work like gangbusters that way. If it’s an indication of the kind of releases that Vinegar Syndrome and AGFA are partnering on, I can’t wait to see what they have in store.