Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Draw-It Ralph: Coonskin (1975)

Oh boy, I'm going to end up on some interesting List after Song of the South and now this!  Today's Film is Coonskin, a 1975 Animated Film from Ralph Bakshi that is a response to stuff like South.  In addition, it tells a very loose Adaptation of the Brer Rabbit Story.  It is also built around a guy telling the Stories, only the importance of them is inverted.  The Film is has about 20 minutes of Live-Action mixed in and the rest is Animation, as opposed to South's ratio.  The Story is ostensibly about these guys breaking a man out of Prison.  It ends up, however, being about the Brer Rabbit, Fox and Bear going to Harlem to do battle with 'the man.'  Naturally!  The Cast is interesting for including famous Singers as Actors- Scatman Crothers and Barry White- and a future TV Star- Phillip Michael Thomas.  So, here is the obvious question- why is Ralph Bakshi covering this Topic?  Good question.  To find out how the actual Film turned out, read on...
As White and 'Preacherman' rush to save their friend- Thomas- from Jail, he waits.  The time is passed by another Escapee- Crothers- telling him a Story.
Three Character- the Rabbit (Thomas), the Bear (White) and the Fox (Preacherman) are would-be Criminals who go to Harlem when the heat gets too much.

Can you tell which Cartoon Studio they are parodying here?  Remember Tex Avery did make this.
Bakshi is not exactly subtle with his Commentary.  This is Miss America beating up 'the black man.'
For all of the 'well, it looks bad, but he has a point' Commentary, there is...um, this.  1970s!
They have to take out two big Criminals to conquer Harlem.  They take out one by...drugging him, painting his face black and throwing a gay guy at him.  He freaks out and wakes up from his haze having killed his men...and dies at the hands of Police.

Moving on...
The Mob Boss- clearly inspired by The Godfather- strikes back at them with a killer disguised as Uncle Tom.  Why not, at this point?
A random shot of real people in front of the Animated background?  Why not?!?
To be honest, the Plot gets very convoluted near the end.  Bear randomly becomes a Boxer and somehow this leads to our Heroes taking over...or something.
Back in Reality, the two show up and take the chatty Crothers and the morose Thomas away.  Of course, he'll just end up working at a Zoo and later as a Cop.  The End.
Wow.  What do I say about this?  Bakshi made an interesting Film.  Can I just end there?

No, I can't.  Coonskin is a strange, strange Film for a number of reasons.  It was clearly done as Satire, but one Black Group wanted to boycott it- another didn't.  It faced some issues being released at all, having to change Distributors.  In later years, it was re-released as Street Fight- I have no idea why.  The message of the Film is somewhat buried in all sorts of imagery that will surely offend some and 'trigger' others.  It sure was fun to watch the beginning of this as my roommate tries to figure out what the hell I'm watching.  As usual, Bakshi's Animation is a sight to behold.  His mix of Live-Action, standard Animation and Rotoscoping works here.  The Story is just a little hard to follow as the Film keeps changing Scenes so quickly.  One Scene appears to end with Bear dying...only for him to act like he wasn't shot 10 times in a later one.  As noted, he randomly becomes a Boxer near the End as they mix in real footage of Boxing with the Cartoons.  The overall message is certainly condemning the Racial Stereotypes made popular in the past.  It is just a shame that the Film had to be done in such a way to draw so much attention to its own content in the process.  A Sequel was supposedly discussed back in 2005 with The Wu Tang Clan involved- that ain't nothing to f#%k with!  To my knowledge, it didn't happen at all.  We do get this nice bit of nightmare fuel though...
Next up, an infamous Horror Film that I've already covered the Sequels of.  Robert Englund strikes again!  Stay tuned...

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