College lecturer Raymond (Ken Gajadhar) is giving a talk on the place of the black man in white society, and is intent on conveying his belief that it is white women who are most keen on them, implying that sexual attraction is most likely to break down the colour barrier. He is an unashamed militant, living in London where racial tensions have been running high since the immigration increased, but he thinks that he has as much right to be there as any white person, and his thoughts spiral off in all sorts of directions...
With a title like Death May Be Your Santa Claus, the proceedings might have taken any sort of form, from cheesy horror film to pretentious think piece to obscure art film - but how about if just under forty minutes of this took in pretty much all of that, and at this remove from what was getting its creator so fired up it was hard to fathom exactly what he was trying to tell us? That creator was Frankie Dymon Jr, a player in the British arm of the Black Panthers, the African-American activists who made it their aim to promote equality and justice for their race.
At all costs, let's not forget, which was why the authorities were so keen to keep them under the thumb, or iron fist if you prefer, of the establishment. Underground films were set on reflecting this new would-be revolution in the more hot-headed areas of the hippie movement, which ended up including many diverse aspects of life, all of whom had their axe to grind. Whether Dymon's film was typical was hard to say when so many of these works not only sprang from the counterculture, but pretty much stayed there too - going to see this at your local Odeon in the U.K. would be practically impossible in 1969.
There was evidently a lot on Dymon's mind, and as we see where one black Brit at speaker's corner tells the largely white crowd of his experiences and views on how their culture should be embracing him and his race, there was no shortage of resistance to the issues he was wrestling with. This sequence is probably the easiest to understand, because it's all there for you to take in as the concepts are debated no matter whose side you agree with, but it was unlikely that any common or garden racists, not ones often given to listening to alternative viewpoints, would consider settling down to watch this as regards what happens around it.
Take the most notorious scene, where a black man is pushed into a pond in a park, chases after his two attackers, then they gang up on another man who they castrate and eat what they've cut off; to call this confused is an understatement. Mostly, however, Dymon was keen on his miscegenation argument above all, hence bits depicting that, but your probable reaction would be a bemused smile nowadays as it offered little insight of then from the perspective of now. Prog rock cultists would have been intrigued by the prospect of the soundtrack from obscurity The Second Hand, which included a title track better known than the actual film it came from, indeed many familiar with it would be surprised to learn there was a film behind it at all. Death May Be Your Santa Claus was a very personal film, and that can indicate it means the most to the person who made it, which is likely the case here.