Watermelon Man

1970

Comedy

118
IMDb Rating 6.6 10 1,502

Synopsis


Downloaded times
June 15, 2020

Cast

Howard Caine as Mr. Townsend
Mae Clarke as Old Woman
Melvin Van Peebles as Sign Painter
Paul Williams as Employment Office Clerk
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
915.44 MB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
100 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.66 GB
1920×1080
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
100 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by strausbaugh 10 / 10 / 10

A very good, sadly forgotten satire

Melvin Van Peebles' big Hollywood film is a very smart, funny, and in the end tragic satire of race relations in America c. 1970. Today, it doesn't get nearly the hoopla that "Sweet Sweetback" does, but in a lot of ways it's a better movie. Biting satire is often a better way to express righteous anger than simply getting all righteous, and this is an example: under the laughs, this is a deeply angry film. Godfrey Cambridge is magnificent in his two-tone role, and the supporting cast (including a couple of routines by the great Mantan Moreland) is also very fine. The rage underpinning the whole story doesn't find full, overt expression until the very last scene, which presages Van Peebles' leap into more obviously black revolutionary politics in "Sweetback." A very good, very funny, important film that deserves to be much better known today than it is.

Reviewed by divineangel 10 / 10 / 10

A True Original

I'd only seen "Watermelon Man" on late nite TV as a kid, obviously cut to hell, but the film always fascinated and disturbed me. I haven't seen it in literally 20 years yet I remember very specific scenes, particularly the amazing militant final scene. I finally picked up the beautiful DVD and my memory was correct. The movie is awkward in spots, but there's a vitality that pushes against the old-school studio vibe. And it still holds up as funny in many scenes. I like some of Peebles music cues although they are sometimes not apropos. There are some strong scenes dealing with suburban racial tensions and Godfrey Cambridge is terrific as he changes from a white bigot to a black man. The movie isn't as one-sided as some might think. One of my favorite films of the 70's. Check it out.

Reviewed by BrandtSponseller 10 / 10 / 10

A pointed skewering of racism with yummy grotesque flavoring

In Watermelon Man, director Melvin Van Peebles expresses complex ideas about race and racism in a sophisticated but humorous way. At that, however, if you do not have a strong taste for grotesques--in a formal sense ("outlandish or bizarre; ludicrous or incongruous distortion")--you may not enjoy the film as much as I did. It is something of a surreal, occasionally psychedelic caricature, but as such, it does what all good caricature should do--it emphasizes the truth without being strict realism or "naturalism". Watermelon Man is the story of Jeff Gerber (Godfrey Cambridge). He's something of a strange dweeb who nevertheless has a stereotypical white-bread suburban existence. He's got a wife, two preadolescent kids, a nice home with a manicured lawn, and so on. He's also something of a health nut (although humorously, Cambridge wasn't exactly in great shape when they shot the film). As the film opens, he's busy exercising while his wife is trying to capture a few more minutes of sleep. He regularly uses a sun lamp. He takes the bus to his insurance salesman job, but instead of catching it right down the street, he races it through the neighborhood every day, the goal being to beat it to the last stop before it gets on the highway. Jeff presents himself as happy-go-lucky and quite a joker, but he's a bit obnoxious and boorish, plus he shows himself to be racist and a male chauvinist, although he's not exactly gung ho about sleeping with his wife. Just as we're learning about Jeff's routine, something unusual happens--he wakes up in the middle of the night as a black man. At first he thinks it's a nightmare, but it doesn't go away. He blames it on the sun lamp. He blames it on food he's ingesting. The bulk of Watermelon Man has Jeff trying to at first conquer, then later deal with his newfound "problem". If you've seen both films, you might find it odd that Van Peebles made Watermelon Man before Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971). Unlike Sweet Sweetback, which is intriguing in its own way, but not near as good of a film artistically and technically, the direction in Watermelon Man is finely nuanced and sophisticated, the cinematography is crisp and attractive and technical elements such as sound are superb. I suppose this might be an interesting lesson in how crucial budget and "legitimacy" can be for film-making. It gives access to the finest materials and resources, including a large stable of professionals with narrow specialties. At that, however, Watermelon Man is not nearly as respected now as Sweet Sweetback because of what Sweet Sweetback represents, both ideologically and influentially in the film industry. Sweet Sweetback was something of a revolutionary (and very psychedelic) cry for African-American rights, and it helped launch not only the blaxploitation craze of the 1970s, but also fiercely independent film-making. Yet, Watermelon Man is just as unique and important in what it has to say about race, even if it's not violent or pornographic, and not bizarre in the same way. Once Jeff becomes black, everything about his life changes. There isn't a person around who doesn't relate to him differently, with many having a polar opposite reaction to him--both his white friends (and family, of course) and his black acquaintances (they weren't friends, exactly, when Jeff thought he was white). Everyone wants to exploit his newfound state, including his boss. Van Peebles makes a sly transition from the beginning to the end of the film that goes from white-bread sitcom to something of a militant blaxploitation flick in a way that you barely even notice. A large part of what makes Watermelon Man so odd is Godfrey Cambridge. His performance is way over the top and consistently bizarre, but for some of us, in some contexts (such as for me in this context), this kind of bizarre, over the top material works extremely well--in fact, I tend to prefer this to realism. The other performances are at least interesting, even if they're not all good in a conventional wisdom evaluation, but Cambridge really carries the film. Equally bizarre and a bit disturbing is Cambridge's make-up as a white man. The make-up is extremely well done--it's difficult to picture Cambridge as he really looks underneath it all, but given the character's disposition, Cambridge as a white man comes off as freakish to say the least. Van Peebles' direction is extremely admirable. He's not afraid to take all kinds of thrilling chances, including such unusual moves as quick pans to go from character to character in a conversation and odd intrusions of psychedelia, such as the scene that suddenly starts flashing different negative exposure images, or the scene that stops to insert commentary that resembles silent film intertitles. Van Peebles also did the music here, as he did in Sweet Sweetback, and it's just as weird. Near the end of the film, there's an extended version of a song that rips-off "Heard It Through The Grapevine" that features a vocal that even The Residents would raise an eyebrow to. Again, I love weird stuff, so I was happier than a pig in, um, mud. If there's anything less than satisfactory about Watermelon Man, it's that it engenders sadness that Van Peebles wasn't able to talk the helm more often. He made a controversial move in this film by changing the ending in the original script, as he rightfully should have done (Columbia originally wanted an "it was all a dream" ending, which would have been ridiculous and insulting, to say the least), and that, combined with his independent production of Sweet Sweetback the following year, didn't exactly put him on Hollywood's successful brownnoser list.

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