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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

REVENGE -- DVD Review by Porfle

During apartheid, hundreds of South African films were produced for black audiences who didn't have access to mainstream entertainment.  Many of them are now lost, but several are now being rediscovered and preserved, including this 1985 western, REVENGE.

The story is about as simple as it gets: a young couple and their son come to a small town where they've purchased a farm, but encounter a gang of sadistic gunslingers.  Descending upon the tiny farm, the outlaws rape and murder the wife, beat the young boy, and set fire to the house.

The man, Shala, vows revenge and is aided by an old ex-gunslinger, who teaches him how to shoot while the boy, Kitso, recovers from his injuries.  When he's finally ready, Shala straps on the old man's guns, borrows his horse, and goes into town to confront his enemies.

Just as the recently-reviewed UMBANGO (also part of Indiepix's "Retro Afrika" series), this South African "western" with an all-black cast is a captivating novelty where elements of both the American West and Italian spaghetti westerns are combined in a rural African setting to create a sort of low-rent fantasy world.

With its scaled-down western town consisting of a few small wooden shacks, none-too-convincing costumes (the cowboy hats look like the kind I wore as a kid), and small cast of non-professional actors, there's an "amateur night at the movies" ambience to REVENGE that's transcended by the filmmakers' earnest efforts to concoct a modestly compelling entertainment with the meager resources at hand.

To this end, the film is a pleasant diversion whose makeshift qualities add to its watchable charm.  It's fun to see director Coenie Dippenaar staging little homages to scenes from more expensive westerns, and giving us his versions of the standard saloon brawls and gunfights as well as the traditional bad guys vs. farmers conflict that sparks our hero's singleminded quest for revenge.

As it plays out, the finale is as low-key and simple as the rest of the story, but somehow satisfying nonetheless.  On the whole, this is a familiar throwback not just to 60s and 70s western cinema but to the matinee oaters of the 30s and 40s as well, albeit with an almost non-existent budget and distinctly anachronistic setting.

All of which adds up, for me anyway, to an irresistible curiosity piece. REVENGE isn't like anything else, and that, despite its shortcomings, makes it a pleasantly unique experience.

Buy it from Indiepix Films (DVD, digital, streaming)

Tech Specs
Actors: Roy Dlamini, Vusi Gudazi, Alex Ngubane
Format: Color, NTSC
Language: Zulu with English subtitles
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR 
Studio: Indiepix Films
3:2, Color, Stereo
DVD Release Date: December 18, 2018
Run Time: 54 minutes
Extras: Trailer


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