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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

CHARLIE STEEL -- DVD Review by Porfle

If you've been searching for a bland, ultra-low-budget imitation of '70s blaxploitation flicks that comes off like somebody's student film, the 1984 South African thriller CHARLIE STEEL (Indiepix Films) is the pot of bad-film fun at the end of your rainbow.

Charlie (Sol Rachilo), a poor man's poor man's Shaft, is a private dick who's called into action by a rich friend whose daughter Dudu (Sonto Mazibuko) has just been kidnapped by a gang of bad guys led by the Boss (Thapelo Mofokeng) and is being held for ransom in their secluded hideout. 

As a super-cool action hero, Steel leaves much to be desired, but part of his charm is the way this lanky, hangdog dude in a baggy suit and tiny Fedora, who looks like he's been around the block a few too many times, schleps around town looking for leads before stumbling into trouble and getting himself captured two or three times. 

Meanwhile, as the incompetent bad guys endlessly play poker around the kitchen table and take turns guarding Dudu, we find that one of them, Tony (Charles Joloza), has a crush on her and may turn out to be an ally, while another, Jimmy (Davis Diphoko), is a former military compadre of Charlie's whose seething animosity toward him will ruin the private eye's attempt to infiltrate the gang.

This is one of many low-budget films made in South Africa for black audiences during apartheid, when their access to mainstream films was prohibited, and subsequently rediscovered and restored as part of Indiepix Films' "Retro Afrika" series.  As such, it's a fascinating example of really indy filmmaking that tries to make something entertaining with severely limited resources and manages to succeed in spite of itself. 

In this case, the fun is in watching writer-director Bevis Parsons and his cast of earnest but unpolished actors put together a semi-watchable detective thriller that is endearing in its badness, filling it with tough-guy dialogue, limp action scenes, and a simple, repetitive plot that plays like a feature version of a grade Z serial.

After playing private eye for awhile, Charlie gets serious and goes into military attack mode, trading his rumpled suit for black cat-burglar attire and launching a one-man seige on the bad guys' backwoods HQ. 

Naturally he gets captured again, but that merely sets up the mildly exciting finale in which he and the Boss face off against each other one on one.  Along the way super-suave Charlie even finds time to meet a comely lass and give her his address so that they can meet for dinner the next evening. 

Technically, the film is a bit more competent that some of these apartheid-era films I've seen, but that's not saying a whole lot.  Still, for bad film fans, that's exactly what gives movies like CHARLIE STEEL their irresistible charm, something this one is steeped in.  And with expectations thus adjusted, one almost can't help having a good time watching it.

Tech Specs
Format: Color, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR 
Studio: Indiepix Films
3:2, Color, Stereo
DVD Release Date: December 18, 2018
Run Time: 87 minutes
Extras: Trailer


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