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  Petey Wheatstraw Big Deal
Year: 1977
Director: Cliff Roquemore
Stars: Rudy Ray Moore, Jimmy Lynch, Leroy Daniels, Ernest Mayhand, Ebony Wright, Steve Gallon, G. Tito Shaw, Ted Clemmons, Marvin Jones, George Mireless, Bryan L. Roquemore, Rose Williams, Sy Richardson
Genre: Comedy, Trash, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Petey Wheatstraw (Rudy Ray Moore) well remembers the day he was born. The doctor was called out in the middle of a tropical storm and as it raged outside he was amazed to see how pregnant Petey's mother was, and remarked there must be an elephant in there. There wasn't, but what emerged was a ten-year-old boy who slapped the doctor down for trying to make him cry as if he were a baby until his mother told him off. What an entrance into this world - it was plain to see that Petey was set for showbiz... just let him learn kung fu first.

This was another of the outrageous vehicles dreamed up on a tiny budget for comedian Rudy Ray Moore after the cult success of his Dolemite, and showcased his eccentric humour and love of self-promotion in a singular fashion. No casting against type here, as he played a night club comedian and his co-stars tended to have their own albums out as well, but despite his generosity there was no doubt as to who was the true star here. Needless to say, while a lot of this was very funny, even more of it was likely to prompt the viewer into wondering what on earth they were watching.

What it is turns out to be a variation on the Faust legend, so imagine a blaxploitation Disney fantasy that was most certainly not aimed at children and you're some way to understanding what we were dealing with here. The Devil, Lucipher (G. Tito Shaw), plays an important part in the plot, as while Petey Wheatstraw isn't actually his son-in-law, that's the position the Devil wishes to be filled throughout the film, and Petey is his main candidate to do so. Our man is not so keen, because the daughter is no oil painting, in fact she's Petey's least favourite choice to get hitched to.

It takes half an hour for this point to be reached, as in the meantime we are filled in with the story of Petey's life and the chief opponents to it, they being a nightclub double act called Leroy and Skillet (Leroy Daniels and Ernest Mayhand) who are seeking to establishing their own night spot and have got the backing of a dodgy but rich financier. But what do you know? Petey is playing a concert at a rival's place on the very evening that Leroy and Skillet are planning to open their club. So the only option left to them is to, er, machine gun Petey and his friends to death at a funeral. Is that a good business model?

So off Petey goes to Hell, and has a meeting with Lucipher where their deal is worked out, so he becomes the owner of a fancy cane which is essentially a magic wand and can grant him any of his wishes. He's not willing to give up this new power easily, and neither is he keen to marry, so which side will relent first? Before you receive the answer to that question, there are a host of wacky sequences to enjoy, such as where Petey's supernatural return causes one of his enemies to shit himself (you don't get that happening in horror movies, do you?) or where he fends off a gang of assailants with his deeply unimpressive marshall - sorry, martial arts skills while dressed in bright green underwear and nothing else. You probably need to be in the right mood for this shoddy nonsense, but if you're willing to go along with it, it can be very funny, and not simply due to Moore's turn of phrase. Music by Nat Dove.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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