Sugar Hill


1h 30m 1974
Sugar Hill

Brief Synopsis

When gangsters kill her boyfriend, a woman enlists a Voodoo queen to raise an army of the dead.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Horror
Crime
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

A woman turns to a voodoo priest in order to avenge her boyfriend who was killed by gangsters. The priest creates an army of zombies who go after the thugs and help the woman even the score.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Horror
Crime
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

The Gist (Sugar Hill) - THE GIST


The year 1974 was an interesting period in the history of horror and cult films. It saw the release of many now-iconic titles that ranged from the archetypal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, to a series of unconventional films that included Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, Jonathan Demme's Caged Heat, the French softcore sex romp Emmanuelle, John Waters' Female Trouble and many more strange and offbeat cinematic experiences.

All of these films shared the similar idea of showing audiences subject matter and concepts that had not really been seen before onscreen. It was a semi-renaissance of new and experimental films that focused on new (often graphic) ways to depict the themes of comedy, violence and sex. An interesting style that began to become more prevalent was the meshing of different genres. In the case of Blazing Saddles, audiences had certainly seen comedic Westerns before but not one that mixed together politically incorrect jokes, scatological humor and broad parodies of other films. Another imaginative "mash-up" of popular genres was the high concept action thriller The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; in this, the Hammer horror iconography was combined with the increasingly popular "kung fu" craze sparked by the international appeal of Enter the Dragon, which was released a year earlier in 1973.

This combining of film genres was obviously apparent in Sugar Hill (1974), a supernatural thriller with "blaxploitation" elements. Certainly black-themed horror films were anything but new after the appearances of Blacula (1972) and Blackenstein (1973) a few years earlier. However, it's noteworthy that Sugar Hill was ahead of the curve in making zombies the real heroes of the piece.

At the time, American horror films featuring zombies were rare with the exception of Night of the Living Dead (1968) which was still in distribution after six years. Otherwise, you'd have to look to Europe for movies about the living dead such as the Spanish-produced Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971). Also, the "blaxploitation" craze was still in full swing by 1974 with the early 1970s having been witness to the action thrillers of Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972), The Mack (1973), Coffy (1973) and Cleopatra Jones (1973). So, the combination of zombies and a "Blaxploitation" gangster drama was a novel concoction.

Sugar Hill is the story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey), a beautiful young woman whose boyfriend is murdered by a group of gangsters. Devastated and driven by revenge, Diana seeks out the services of the mysterious voodoo priestess, Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Together Diana and Mama perform a strange ritual and call upon the menacing presence of Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) and his squad of undead minions. It's at this point that Diana begins leading a double life - that of Diana, fashion photographer, and the other as "Sugar" Hill, executioner of her lover's murderers. One by one, Sugar and her zombie crew begin killing off the men in a variety of bizarre ways. Eventually, she goes one on one with the king boss criminal, Morgan (Robert Quarry), in a final act of retribution.

Sugar Hill is an uncomplicated and entertaining example of drive-in fare from the early seventies. The film seems to take a page from the classic EC Comics of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, etc.) in its comic book presentation of characters, dialogue and revenge-driven plot, a common storyline in horror comics. The zombies themselves are extremely effective with their bulging, silver eyes, dangling chains and machetes - all of it topped off by their eerie, grinning faces. Even the dated seventies' fashions, hairstyles and set design add to the enjoyment and one of the key pleasures is watching our main character transform from the sweet, mild-mannered Diana with her soft, straight hair to the more outrageous Sugar Hill in her bell-bottomed white pantsuit and large afro hairstyle.

The villains are a rogue's gallery of clichéd crime characters headed up by horror film veteran Robert Quarry as the bloated and despicable Morgan. His cronies are a typical assortment of interchangeable thugs that even includes a pandering black character (named Fabulous) who is often painful to watch. Capping off this comic book crew is Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), Morgan's subservient and viciously racist girlfriend. However, one can't really take the entire proceedings too seriously since all the villainous characters are such extreme slimeballs that the audience begins rooting for their inevitable, well-deserved "just desserts".

Sugar Hill fit in quite nicely with the other odd-beat films released in 1974. It offered something different and unexpected than the usual voodoo-zombie thriller stereotype. However, once George Romero's Dawn of the Dead hit screens in 1978, the entire identity and modus operandi of zombies were changed forever. Perhaps one day, horror filmmakers will revisit the idea of the zombie-gangster mash-up approach seen in Sugar Hill.

Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Elliot Schick
Director: Paul Maslansky
Screenplay: Tim Kelly
Cinematography: Robert Jessup
Film Editing: Carl Kress
Music: Dino Fekaris, Nick Zesses
Cast: Marki Bey (Diana Hill), Robert Quarry (Morgan), Don Pedro Colley (Baron Samedi), Betty Anne Rees (Celeste), Richard Lawson (Lt. Valentine), Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse).
C-91m.

by Eric Weber
The Gist (Sugar Hill) - The Gist

The Gist (Sugar Hill) - THE GIST

The year 1974 was an interesting period in the history of horror and cult films. It saw the release of many now-iconic titles that ranged from the archetypal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, to a series of unconventional films that included Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, Jonathan Demme's Caged Heat, the French softcore sex romp Emmanuelle, John Waters' Female Trouble and many more strange and offbeat cinematic experiences. All of these films shared the similar idea of showing audiences subject matter and concepts that had not really been seen before onscreen. It was a semi-renaissance of new and experimental films that focused on new (often graphic) ways to depict the themes of comedy, violence and sex. An interesting style that began to become more prevalent was the meshing of different genres. In the case of Blazing Saddles, audiences had certainly seen comedic Westerns before but not one that mixed together politically incorrect jokes, scatological humor and broad parodies of other films. Another imaginative "mash-up" of popular genres was the high concept action thriller The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; in this, the Hammer horror iconography was combined with the increasingly popular "kung fu" craze sparked by the international appeal of Enter the Dragon, which was released a year earlier in 1973. This combining of film genres was obviously apparent in Sugar Hill (1974), a supernatural thriller with "blaxploitation" elements. Certainly black-themed horror films were anything but new after the appearances of Blacula (1972) and Blackenstein (1973) a few years earlier. However, it's noteworthy that Sugar Hill was ahead of the curve in making zombies the real heroes of the piece. At the time, American horror films featuring zombies were rare with the exception of Night of the Living Dead (1968) which was still in distribution after six years. Otherwise, you'd have to look to Europe for movies about the living dead such as the Spanish-produced Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971). Also, the "blaxploitation" craze was still in full swing by 1974 with the early 1970s having been witness to the action thrillers of Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972), The Mack (1973), Coffy (1973) and Cleopatra Jones (1973). So, the combination of zombies and a "Blaxploitation" gangster drama was a novel concoction. Sugar Hill is the story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey), a beautiful young woman whose boyfriend is murdered by a group of gangsters. Devastated and driven by revenge, Diana seeks out the services of the mysterious voodoo priestess, Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Together Diana and Mama perform a strange ritual and call upon the menacing presence of Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) and his squad of undead minions. It's at this point that Diana begins leading a double life - that of Diana, fashion photographer, and the other as "Sugar" Hill, executioner of her lover's murderers. One by one, Sugar and her zombie crew begin killing off the men in a variety of bizarre ways. Eventually, she goes one on one with the king boss criminal, Morgan (Robert Quarry), in a final act of retribution. Sugar Hill is an uncomplicated and entertaining example of drive-in fare from the early seventies. The film seems to take a page from the classic EC Comics of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, etc.) in its comic book presentation of characters, dialogue and revenge-driven plot, a common storyline in horror comics. The zombies themselves are extremely effective with their bulging, silver eyes, dangling chains and machetes - all of it topped off by their eerie, grinning faces. Even the dated seventies' fashions, hairstyles and set design add to the enjoyment and one of the key pleasures is watching our main character transform from the sweet, mild-mannered Diana with her soft, straight hair to the more outrageous Sugar Hill in her bell-bottomed white pantsuit and large afro hairstyle. The villains are a rogue's gallery of clichéd crime characters headed up by horror film veteran Robert Quarry as the bloated and despicable Morgan. His cronies are a typical assortment of interchangeable thugs that even includes a pandering black character (named Fabulous) who is often painful to watch. Capping off this comic book crew is Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), Morgan's subservient and viciously racist girlfriend. However, one can't really take the entire proceedings too seriously since all the villainous characters are such extreme slimeballs that the audience begins rooting for their inevitable, well-deserved "just desserts". Sugar Hill fit in quite nicely with the other odd-beat films released in 1974. It offered something different and unexpected than the usual voodoo-zombie thriller stereotype. However, once George Romero's Dawn of the Dead hit screens in 1978, the entire identity and modus operandi of zombies were changed forever. Perhaps one day, horror filmmakers will revisit the idea of the zombie-gangster mash-up approach seen in Sugar Hill. Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Elliot Schick Director: Paul Maslansky Screenplay: Tim Kelly Cinematography: Robert Jessup Film Editing: Carl Kress Music: Dino Fekaris, Nick Zesses Cast: Marki Bey (Diana Hill), Robert Quarry (Morgan), Don Pedro Colley (Baron Samedi), Betty Anne Rees (Celeste), Richard Lawson (Lt. Valentine), Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse). C-91m. by Eric Weber

Insider Info (Sugar Hill) - BEHIND THE SCENES


According to the publicity provided in the Sugar Hill press book, actress Marki Bey "researched her part among various voodoo cults in and around the L.A. environs; thereby acquiring the proper authoritative menace to make her role as a voodoo high priestess believable."

Actor Don Pedro Colley also did extensive research in the voodoo practices from Haiti for his role as Baron Samedi. According to Colley, "This character was based more or less on the actual voodoo character that comes from Haiti...Papa Legre, who is all powerful, all omnipotent. Throughout the voodoo culture Papa Legre is the one single heavyweight dude."

According to director Paul Maslansky, executive producer Samuel Z. Arkoff gave him $125,000 to "make a black exploitation picture...a black, funny horror picture." Sugar Hill was shot in approximately three weeks during a blistering summer in Houston, Texas.

The voodoo museum that the character of Valentine (Richard Lawson) visits is one of the branches of the Houston Public Library. The building is a registered historical landmark and was built in the 1920s.

The performers playing the zombies in Sugar Hill wore ping pong balls cut in half over their eyes, creating the cartoonish, yet eerie effect. Other sources say the eyes were created with broken-off spoon halves.

Rumor has it that the afro-style hairdo worn by the character Diana Hill during the zombie attack sequences was because Marki Bey didn't look "black enough" while wearing her hair flat and relaxed.

Robert Quarry recalled the making of Sugar Hill in a "Psychotronic Video" interview in 2000: "It was such camp. The producer and the director (Paul Maslansky) were both white, and, of course, it was an all-black movie. They had a black actor set for the part, but they got rid of him, and Sam [Arkoff of AIP] sent me in to take the part. So I walked in as 'Mr. Whitey' to play the head of the Mafia in Houston, which is where they shot it. I didn't give a sh*t. They paid me. And during the shoot, my rich white friends in Houston wouldn't call me because they thought I'd bring somebody black to lunch with me. The racism was that subtle. [laughs] And, of course, they hired so many blacks for the movie, and here I was saying things like 'n*gger' and 'jig' and 'jungle bunny.' [laughs] The extras who weren't actors were going to kill me because they thought I was a big racist. But I won them over eventually. And we all laughed so hard. I'd tell them all on the set, 'Okay, easy fellas, get ready because I'm going to see the 'n' word again." [laughs]

by Eric Weber

Sources:
The American International Picture Sugar Hill press book, 1974.
Laughing and Screaming: An Interview with Producer Paul Maslansky by Brian Albright, "Shock Cinema" number 31, August 2006.
Don Pedro Colley, interview by Justin Humphreys, "Psychotronic Video" number 31, 1999.
Robert Quarry, interview by Anthony Petkovich, "Psychotronic Video" number 33, 2000
IMDB.com

Insider Info (Sugar Hill) - BEHIND THE SCENES

According to the publicity provided in the Sugar Hill press book, actress Marki Bey "researched her part among various voodoo cults in and around the L.A. environs; thereby acquiring the proper authoritative menace to make her role as a voodoo high priestess believable." Actor Don Pedro Colley also did extensive research in the voodoo practices from Haiti for his role as Baron Samedi. According to Colley, "This character was based more or less on the actual voodoo character that comes from Haiti...Papa Legre, who is all powerful, all omnipotent. Throughout the voodoo culture Papa Legre is the one single heavyweight dude." According to director Paul Maslansky, executive producer Samuel Z. Arkoff gave him $125,000 to "make a black exploitation picture...a black, funny horror picture." Sugar Hill was shot in approximately three weeks during a blistering summer in Houston, Texas. The voodoo museum that the character of Valentine (Richard Lawson) visits is one of the branches of the Houston Public Library. The building is a registered historical landmark and was built in the 1920s. The performers playing the zombies in Sugar Hill wore ping pong balls cut in half over their eyes, creating the cartoonish, yet eerie effect. Other sources say the eyes were created with broken-off spoon halves. Rumor has it that the afro-style hairdo worn by the character Diana Hill during the zombie attack sequences was because Marki Bey didn't look "black enough" while wearing her hair flat and relaxed. Robert Quarry recalled the making of Sugar Hill in a "Psychotronic Video" interview in 2000: "It was such camp. The producer and the director (Paul Maslansky) were both white, and, of course, it was an all-black movie. They had a black actor set for the part, but they got rid of him, and Sam [Arkoff of AIP] sent me in to take the part. So I walked in as 'Mr. Whitey' to play the head of the Mafia in Houston, which is where they shot it. I didn't give a sh*t. They paid me. And during the shoot, my rich white friends in Houston wouldn't call me because they thought I'd bring somebody black to lunch with me. The racism was that subtle. [laughs] And, of course, they hired so many blacks for the movie, and here I was saying things like 'n*gger' and 'jig' and 'jungle bunny.' [laughs] The extras who weren't actors were going to kill me because they thought I was a big racist. But I won them over eventually. And we all laughed so hard. I'd tell them all on the set, 'Okay, easy fellas, get ready because I'm going to see the 'n' word again." [laughs] by Eric Weber Sources: The American International Picture Sugar Hill press book, 1974. Laughing and Screaming: An Interview with Producer Paul Maslansky by Brian Albright, "Shock Cinema" number 31, August 2006. Don Pedro Colley, interview by Justin Humphreys, "Psychotronic Video" number 31, 1999. Robert Quarry, interview by Anthony Petkovich, "Psychotronic Video" number 33, 2000 IMDB.com

In the Know (Sugar Hill) - TRIVIA


"Meet SUGAR HILL and her ZOMBIE HIT MEN...The Mafia has never met anything like them!" - Tagline from the Sugar Hill press materials.

The amazing and infamous AIP (American International Pictures) distributed Sugar Hill in 1974, the same year that they released Foxy Brown (with Pam Grier), Truck Turner (with Isaac Hayes), Savage Sisters and the incredible "blaxploitation" Exorcist rip-off, Abby.

The Sugar Hill script, by Tim Kelly, was originally called Black Voodoo. According to director Paul Maslansky, it was called Voodoo Woman.

The movie's theme song, "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" by the group, The Originals, and was featured on their 1974 album, "Game of Love" from Motown Records.

To date, Sugar Hill is the only film directed by Paul Maslansky. He is best known for producing several films, all of wildly different natures, like the Police Academy franchise (1984-1994, including the 1997 television series!), Return to Oz (1985), Ski Patrol (1990), The Russia House (1990) and Fluke (1995).

Actress Marki Bey, who plays Diana "Sugar" Hill, previously appeared in Hal Ashby's acclaimed 1970 film, The Landlord. After Sugar Hill, Bey went on to appear on several popular 1970s television shows that included Baretta, Charlie's Angels and a recurring role as Officer Minnie Kaplan on Starsky and Hutch. Since then, Ms. Bey appears to have retired from Hollywood.

Veteran actor Robert Quarry started his acting career with a small role in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). He is most famous among horror film fans for his title role in the film, Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its sequel, The Return of Count Yorga (1971). He also appeared alongside Vincent Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) and Madhouse (1974). Quarry's career was resurrected by director Fred Olen Ray during the late 1980s and throughout the 90s by casting him in approximately fifteen feature films!

Actress Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse) is probably best remembered for her recurring role as Mother Jefferson on TV's The Jeffersons. She also appeared in the bizarre biker flick Darktown Strutters (1975).

One of the alternate titles of the film is The Zombies of Sugar Hill.

The AIP press book for Sugar Hill includes the following ideas suggested to theater owners for promoting their screening of the film (was anyone fool enough to actually carry these out?):

"Reptile Lobby Display - As snakes play a major part in the voodoo ritual, use a large aquarium or glass case, obtain several snakes and place on display in your outer lobby with information pertaining to the picture and/or voodoo ritual. Ritual information is easily obtainable from your local library."

"Ouanga or Voodoo Charm - In a small plastic bag, put a couple of plastic bones or a molded ball resembling the human eye and affix to a simulated leather thong to be worn around the neck. This represents the Ouanga or voodoo charm to ward off evil spirits and can be distributed in the theatre or around the city with pertinent printed information, in advance of your playdate."

"Candy Bally - Print labels reading, `I'm Sugar Hill, Try Me!' and the pertinent information about your playdate and show times and affix to small, plastic bags of any kind of candy. These could be distributed at shopping centers, at your own theatre in advance of the playdate or in any place where traffic is fairly heavy. As `Sugar Hill' has a PG rating, they could even be distributed among the younger patrons."

by Eric Weber

Sources:
The American International Picture Sugar Hill press book, 1974.
Laughing and Screaming: An Interview with Producer Paul Maslansky by Brian Albright, "Shock Cinema" number 31, August 2006.
IMDB.com

In the Know (Sugar Hill) - TRIVIA

"Meet SUGAR HILL and her ZOMBIE HIT MEN...The Mafia has never met anything like them!" - Tagline from the Sugar Hill press materials. The amazing and infamous AIP (American International Pictures) distributed Sugar Hill in 1974, the same year that they released Foxy Brown (with Pam Grier), Truck Turner (with Isaac Hayes), Savage Sisters and the incredible "blaxploitation" Exorcist rip-off, Abby. The Sugar Hill script, by Tim Kelly, was originally called Black Voodoo. According to director Paul Maslansky, it was called Voodoo Woman. The movie's theme song, "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" by the group, The Originals, and was featured on their 1974 album, "Game of Love" from Motown Records. To date, Sugar Hill is the only film directed by Paul Maslansky. He is best known for producing several films, all of wildly different natures, like the Police Academy franchise (1984-1994, including the 1997 television series!), Return to Oz (1985), Ski Patrol (1990), The Russia House (1990) and Fluke (1995). Actress Marki Bey, who plays Diana "Sugar" Hill, previously appeared in Hal Ashby's acclaimed 1970 film, The Landlord. After Sugar Hill, Bey went on to appear on several popular 1970s television shows that included Baretta, Charlie's Angels and a recurring role as Officer Minnie Kaplan on Starsky and Hutch. Since then, Ms. Bey appears to have retired from Hollywood. Veteran actor Robert Quarry started his acting career with a small role in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). He is most famous among horror film fans for his title role in the film, Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its sequel, The Return of Count Yorga (1971). He also appeared alongside Vincent Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) and Madhouse (1974). Quarry's career was resurrected by director Fred Olen Ray during the late 1980s and throughout the 90s by casting him in approximately fifteen feature films! Actress Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse) is probably best remembered for her recurring role as Mother Jefferson on TV's The Jeffersons. She also appeared in the bizarre biker flick Darktown Strutters (1975). One of the alternate titles of the film is The Zombies of Sugar Hill. The AIP press book for Sugar Hill includes the following ideas suggested to theater owners for promoting their screening of the film (was anyone fool enough to actually carry these out?): "Reptile Lobby Display - As snakes play a major part in the voodoo ritual, use a large aquarium or glass case, obtain several snakes and place on display in your outer lobby with information pertaining to the picture and/or voodoo ritual. Ritual information is easily obtainable from your local library." "Ouanga or Voodoo Charm - In a small plastic bag, put a couple of plastic bones or a molded ball resembling the human eye and affix to a simulated leather thong to be worn around the neck. This represents the Ouanga or voodoo charm to ward off evil spirits and can be distributed in the theatre or around the city with pertinent printed information, in advance of your playdate." "Candy Bally - Print labels reading, `I'm Sugar Hill, Try Me!' and the pertinent information about your playdate and show times and affix to small, plastic bags of any kind of candy. These could be distributed at shopping centers, at your own theatre in advance of the playdate or in any place where traffic is fairly heavy. As `Sugar Hill' has a PG rating, they could even be distributed among the younger patrons." by Eric Weber Sources: The American International Picture Sugar Hill press book, 1974. Laughing and Screaming: An Interview with Producer Paul Maslansky by Brian Albright, "Shock Cinema" number 31, August 2006. IMDB.com

Yea or Nay (Sugar Hill) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "SUGAR HILL"


"Sugar Hill is one of the finest examples of black horror and a super cool zombie flick. "
- houseofhorrors.com

"The end product is so efficiently executed, as well as being so much silly fun, that next to Blacula [1972], this is the best blax-horror feature from the early seventies."
- Slimetime: A Guide to Sleazy, Mindless Movies by Steven Puchalski. A Critical Vision Book, revised and updated edition published in 2002.

"A brisk and efficient blaxploitation horror movie with an intriguing historic-political resonance: the avenging zombies are slaves who died during the voyage from Guinea in the seventeenth century and were buried still in their shackles...their resurrection from their moldy graves, cobwebbed, blank-eyed and plastered with mud and leaves, carries a real frisson and seems to nod in the direction of the excellent The Plague of the Zombies (1966)."
- The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies, edited by Phil Hardy. Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.

"The cobweb-covered zombies with blank eyes and machetes are pretty scary in one of the better movies from the blaxploitation craze."
- The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon. Ballantine Books, 1983.

"When it comes to blaxploitation horror films, the genre doesn't get much better than Sugar Hill (1974)....Sugar Hill doesn't contain a lot of scary moments, but it definitely has a nice atmosphere at times and there are a couple of creepy and effective zombie scenes in the movie. The film does have a hell of a lot of attitude, a great voodoo inspired score and a terrific premise."
- Cinebeats, cinebeats.blogsome.com/2007/12/18/sugar-hill-1974/

"Offbeat and dumb."
- Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Films and Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia

"While this isn't the type of zombie film that Euro-cult fans or Romero buffs are going to expect, Sugar Hill is still a lot of fun. There's very little gore in the film but that doesn't really take away from it. There is some nice atmosphere created and a lot of cool scenes that nicely mix the blaxploitation genre with the zombie film quite effectively. The real star of the show though is Marki Bey."
- Ian Jane, DVD Maniacs

"You're either going to be highly amused by this film, or slightly offended. In either case, it's worth a watch for many reasons, two of which I'll provide for you here. There aren't too many movies out there that give you an attack-of-the-disembodied-chicken-leg scene. And if that's not enough to get you to rent this one, you'll be charmed when you're exposed to the opening and closing song "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" by the Originals (Motown Records, from the album "Game Called Love" (1974), which also features the song "She's My Old Lady.") You don't want to miss out of having this stuck in your head for days and days."
- Zombie-A-GoGo Reviews

"As a horror movie, it's a washout, but as an unintentional comedy, it's pretty entertaining. Most of the acting is pretty bad, but Don Pedro Colley seems to be having a lot of fun with the role of Baron Samedi, and fans of the Count Yorga movies will be glad to see Robert Quarry on hand as the mob boss whose men start dying in horrible ways....The funniest line comes from the mob henchman who, upon being lifted up by the zombie minions to be tossed into a pigpen of starving carnivorous hogs, turns to Sugar Hill and asks "You're not going to do anything funny, are you?"
- Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings & Rumblings

Yea or Nay (Sugar Hill) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "SUGAR HILL"

"Sugar Hill is one of the finest examples of black horror and a super cool zombie flick. " - houseofhorrors.com "The end product is so efficiently executed, as well as being so much silly fun, that next to Blacula [1972], this is the best blax-horror feature from the early seventies." - Slimetime: A Guide to Sleazy, Mindless Movies by Steven Puchalski. A Critical Vision Book, revised and updated edition published in 2002. "A brisk and efficient blaxploitation horror movie with an intriguing historic-political resonance: the avenging zombies are slaves who died during the voyage from Guinea in the seventeenth century and were buried still in their shackles...their resurrection from their moldy graves, cobwebbed, blank-eyed and plastered with mud and leaves, carries a real frisson and seems to nod in the direction of the excellent The Plague of the Zombies (1966)." - The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies, edited by Phil Hardy. Harper & Row Publishers, 1986. "The cobweb-covered zombies with blank eyes and machetes are pretty scary in one of the better movies from the blaxploitation craze." - The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon. Ballantine Books, 1983. "When it comes to blaxploitation horror films, the genre doesn't get much better than Sugar Hill (1974)....Sugar Hill doesn't contain a lot of scary moments, but it definitely has a nice atmosphere at times and there are a couple of creepy and effective zombie scenes in the movie. The film does have a hell of a lot of attitude, a great voodoo inspired score and a terrific premise." - Cinebeats, cinebeats.blogsome.com/2007/12/18/sugar-hill-1974/ "Offbeat and dumb." - Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Films and Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia "While this isn't the type of zombie film that Euro-cult fans or Romero buffs are going to expect, Sugar Hill is still a lot of fun. There's very little gore in the film but that doesn't really take away from it. There is some nice atmosphere created and a lot of cool scenes that nicely mix the blaxploitation genre with the zombie film quite effectively. The real star of the show though is Marki Bey." - Ian Jane, DVD Maniacs "You're either going to be highly amused by this film, or slightly offended. In either case, it's worth a watch for many reasons, two of which I'll provide for you here. There aren't too many movies out there that give you an attack-of-the-disembodied-chicken-leg scene. And if that's not enough to get you to rent this one, you'll be charmed when you're exposed to the opening and closing song "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" by the Originals (Motown Records, from the album "Game Called Love" (1974), which also features the song "She's My Old Lady.") You don't want to miss out of having this stuck in your head for days and days." - Zombie-A-GoGo Reviews "As a horror movie, it's a washout, but as an unintentional comedy, it's pretty entertaining. Most of the acting is pretty bad, but Don Pedro Colley seems to be having a lot of fun with the role of Baron Samedi, and fans of the Count Yorga movies will be glad to see Robert Quarry on hand as the mob boss whose men start dying in horrible ways....The funniest line comes from the mob henchman who, upon being lifted up by the zombie minions to be tossed into a pigpen of starving carnivorous hogs, turns to Sugar Hill and asks "You're not going to do anything funny, are you?" - Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings & Rumblings

Quote It! (Sugar Hill) - QUOTES FROM "SUGAR HILL"


Diana (Marki Bey): "He came up to me and he asked my name. Miss Diana Hill, I said. He said, well from now on you're gonna be called Sugar. Miss Sugar Hill. Cause you look as sweet as sugar tastes."

Mama (Zara Cully): "How strong is your hate?"
Diana: "As strong as my love was, my hate is stronger."
Mama: "The risk is great."
Diana: "I am ready."

Baron (Don Pedro Colley): "And what will you give me?"
Diana: "My soul."
Baron: "Ha! It's not your soul I want!"
Mama: "The Baron is quite a lover."

Baron: "I give you your revenge. Put them to EVIL use...it's all they know. And want."

Diana (after tossing one of Morgan's goons into a sty of voracious pigs): "I hope they're into white trash!"

Quote It! (Sugar Hill) - QUOTES FROM "SUGAR HILL"

Diana (Marki Bey): "He came up to me and he asked my name. Miss Diana Hill, I said. He said, well from now on you're gonna be called Sugar. Miss Sugar Hill. Cause you look as sweet as sugar tastes." Mama (Zara Cully): "How strong is your hate?" Diana: "As strong as my love was, my hate is stronger." Mama: "The risk is great." Diana: "I am ready." Baron (Don Pedro Colley): "And what will you give me?" Diana: "My soul." Baron: "Ha! It's not your soul I want!" Mama: "The Baron is quite a lover." Baron: "I give you your revenge. Put them to EVIL use...it's all they know. And want." Diana (after tossing one of Morgan's goons into a sty of voracious pigs): "I hope they're into white trash!"

Sugar Hill


The year 1974 was an interesting period in the history of horror and cult films. It saw the release of many now-iconic titles that ranged from the archetypal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, to a series of unconventional films that included Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, Jonathan Demme's Caged Heat, the French softcore sex romp Emmanuelle, John Waters' Female Trouble and many more strange and offbeat cinematic experiences.

All of these films shared the similar idea of showing audiences subject matter and concepts that had not really been seen before onscreen. It was a semi-renaissance of new and experimental films that focused on new (often graphic) ways to depict the themes of comedy, violence and sex. An interesting style that began to become more prevalent was the meshing of different genres. In the case of Blazing Saddles, audiences had certainly seen comedic Westerns before but not one that mixed together politically incorrect jokes, scatological humor and broad parodies of other films. Another imaginative "mash-up" of popular genres was the high concept action thriller The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; in this, the Hammer horror iconography was combined with the increasingly popular "kung fu" craze sparked by the international appeal of Enter the Dragon, which was released a year earlier in 1973.

This combining of film genres was obviously apparent in Sugar Hill (1974), a supernatural thriller with "blaxploitation" elements. Certainly black-themed horror films were anything but new after the appearances of Blacula (1972) and Blackenstein (1973) a few years earlier. However, it's noteworthy that Sugar Hill was ahead of the curve in making zombies the real heroes of the piece.

At the time, American horror films featuring zombies were rare with the exception of Night of the Living Dead (1968) which was still in distribution after six years. Otherwise, you'd have to look to Europe for movies about the living dead such as the Spanish-produced Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971). Also, the "blaxploitation" craze was still in full swing by 1974 with the early 1970s having been witness to the action thrillers of Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972), The Mack (1973), Coffy (1973) and Cleopatra Jones (1973). So, the combination of zombies and a "Blaxploitation" gangster drama was a novel concoction.

Sugar Hill is the story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey), a beautiful young woman whose boyfriend is murdered by a group of gangsters. Devastated and driven by revenge, Diana seeks out the services of the mysterious voodoo priestess, Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Together Diana and Mama perform a strange ritual and call upon the menacing presence of Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) and his squad of undead minions. It's at this point that Diana begins leading a double life - that of Diana, fashion photographer, and the other as "Sugar" Hill, executioner of her lover's murderers. One by one, Sugar and her zombie crew begin killing off the men in a variety of bizarre ways. Eventually, she goes one on one with the king boss criminal, Morgan (Robert Quarry), in a final act of retribution.

Sugar Hill is an uncomplicated and entertaining example of drive-in fare from the early seventies. The film seems to take a page from the classic EC Comics of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, etc.) in its comic book presentation of characters, dialogue and revenge-driven plot, a common storyline in horror comics. The zombies themselves are extremely effective with their bulging, silver eyes, dangling chains and machetes - all of it topped off by their eerie, grinning faces. Even the dated seventies' fashions, hairstyles and set design add to the enjoyment and one of the key pleasures is watching our main character transform from the sweet, mild-mannered Diana with her soft, straight hair to the more outrageous Sugar Hill in her bell-bottomed white pantsuit and large afro hairstyle.

The villains are a rogue's gallery of clichéd crime characters headed up by horror film veteran Robert Quarry as the bloated and despicable Morgan. His cronies are a typical assortment of interchangeable thugs that even includes a pandering black character (named Fabulous) who is often painful to watch. Capping off this comic book crew is Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), Morgan's subservient and viciously racist girlfriend. However, one can't really take the entire proceedings too seriously since all the villainous characters are such extreme slimeballs that the audience begins rooting for their inevitable, well-deserved "just desserts".

Sugar Hill fit in quite nicely with the other odd-beat films released in 1974. It offered something different and unexpected than the usual voodoo-zombie thriller stereotype. However, once George Romero's Dawn of the Dead hit screens in 1978, the entire identity and modus operandi of zombies were changed forever. Perhaps one day, horror filmmakers will revisit the idea of the zombie-gangster mash-up approach seen in Sugar Hill.

Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Elliot Schick
Director: Paul Maslansky
Screenplay: Tim Kelly
Cinematography: Robert Jessup
Film Editing: Carl Kress
Music: Dino Fekaris, Nick Zesses
Cast: Marki Bey (Diana Hill), Robert Quarry (Morgan), Don Pedro Colley (Baron Samedi), Betty Anne Rees (Celeste), Richard Lawson (Lt. Valentine), Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse).
C-91m.

by Eric Weber

Sugar Hill

The year 1974 was an interesting period in the history of horror and cult films. It saw the release of many now-iconic titles that ranged from the archetypal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, to a series of unconventional films that included Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, Jonathan Demme's Caged Heat, the French softcore sex romp Emmanuelle, John Waters' Female Trouble and many more strange and offbeat cinematic experiences. All of these films shared the similar idea of showing audiences subject matter and concepts that had not really been seen before onscreen. It was a semi-renaissance of new and experimental films that focused on new (often graphic) ways to depict the themes of comedy, violence and sex. An interesting style that began to become more prevalent was the meshing of different genres. In the case of Blazing Saddles, audiences had certainly seen comedic Westerns before but not one that mixed together politically incorrect jokes, scatological humor and broad parodies of other films. Another imaginative "mash-up" of popular genres was the high concept action thriller The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires; in this, the Hammer horror iconography was combined with the increasingly popular "kung fu" craze sparked by the international appeal of Enter the Dragon, which was released a year earlier in 1973. This combining of film genres was obviously apparent in Sugar Hill (1974), a supernatural thriller with "blaxploitation" elements. Certainly black-themed horror films were anything but new after the appearances of Blacula (1972) and Blackenstein (1973) a few years earlier. However, it's noteworthy that Sugar Hill was ahead of the curve in making zombies the real heroes of the piece. At the time, American horror films featuring zombies were rare with the exception of Night of the Living Dead (1968) which was still in distribution after six years. Otherwise, you'd have to look to Europe for movies about the living dead such as the Spanish-produced Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971). Also, the "blaxploitation" craze was still in full swing by 1974 with the early 1970s having been witness to the action thrillers of Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972), The Mack (1973), Coffy (1973) and Cleopatra Jones (1973). So, the combination of zombies and a "Blaxploitation" gangster drama was a novel concoction. Sugar Hill is the story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey), a beautiful young woman whose boyfriend is murdered by a group of gangsters. Devastated and driven by revenge, Diana seeks out the services of the mysterious voodoo priestess, Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Together Diana and Mama perform a strange ritual and call upon the menacing presence of Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) and his squad of undead minions. It's at this point that Diana begins leading a double life - that of Diana, fashion photographer, and the other as "Sugar" Hill, executioner of her lover's murderers. One by one, Sugar and her zombie crew begin killing off the men in a variety of bizarre ways. Eventually, she goes one on one with the king boss criminal, Morgan (Robert Quarry), in a final act of retribution. Sugar Hill is an uncomplicated and entertaining example of drive-in fare from the early seventies. The film seems to take a page from the classic EC Comics of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, etc.) in its comic book presentation of characters, dialogue and revenge-driven plot, a common storyline in horror comics. The zombies themselves are extremely effective with their bulging, silver eyes, dangling chains and machetes - all of it topped off by their eerie, grinning faces. Even the dated seventies' fashions, hairstyles and set design add to the enjoyment and one of the key pleasures is watching our main character transform from the sweet, mild-mannered Diana with her soft, straight hair to the more outrageous Sugar Hill in her bell-bottomed white pantsuit and large afro hairstyle. The villains are a rogue's gallery of clichéd crime characters headed up by horror film veteran Robert Quarry as the bloated and despicable Morgan. His cronies are a typical assortment of interchangeable thugs that even includes a pandering black character (named Fabulous) who is often painful to watch. Capping off this comic book crew is Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), Morgan's subservient and viciously racist girlfriend. However, one can't really take the entire proceedings too seriously since all the villainous characters are such extreme slimeballs that the audience begins rooting for their inevitable, well-deserved "just desserts". Sugar Hill fit in quite nicely with the other odd-beat films released in 1974. It offered something different and unexpected than the usual voodoo-zombie thriller stereotype. However, once George Romero's Dawn of the Dead hit screens in 1978, the entire identity and modus operandi of zombies were changed forever. Perhaps one day, horror filmmakers will revisit the idea of the zombie-gangster mash-up approach seen in Sugar Hill. Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Elliot Schick Director: Paul Maslansky Screenplay: Tim Kelly Cinematography: Robert Jessup Film Editing: Carl Kress Music: Dino Fekaris, Nick Zesses Cast: Marki Bey (Diana Hill), Robert Quarry (Morgan), Don Pedro Colley (Baron Samedi), Betty Anne Rees (Celeste), Richard Lawson (Lt. Valentine), Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse). C-91m. by Eric Weber

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974