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Ghetto Freaks/Way Out (Something Weird Video) DVD Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Ghetto Freaks/Way Out (Something Weird Video) DVD Review

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    Released by: Something Weird Video
    Released on: November 2nd, 2004.
    Director: Robert J. Emery/Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
    Cast: Toni Ceo, Jim Coursar, Paul Elliot, Franklin Rodriguez, James Dunleavy, Sharyn Jimenez
    Year: 1970/1967
    Purchase From Amazon

    Ghetto Freaks/Way Out – Movie Reviews:

    Another Something Weird Video double feature, this time focusing on the seedy side of the narcotics trade by way of some grimy hippy movies that, let’s face it, haven’t aged well at all. That’s half the fun of this type of stuff though, it’s so dated that you can’t help but at least be entertained by the fashions, the slang, the attitudes and the ideals. Let’s take a look….

    Ghetto Freaks (1970):

    A former dope dealing dude named Sonny runs the commune in NYC where he and a few other dirty hippies hang out, do dope, and get their freak on with no regard whatsoever for hygiene or monogamy. They’re doing their thing, and it’s all good. Sonny’s big into the ladies, and they seem to like him too, but his catch is that he’s only about getting off, he doesn’t want a relationship. He also hates cops.

    One night, while out on the town, Sonny spies a cute little kitten named Diane, and at the time of said spying she’s unfortunately having a bit of a run in with the law. Sonny sees this as his shot, so he hands her a note and soon enough, she’s moved into the hippy house and is tuned in and turned on to Sonny’s way of life. Life seems to be good and maybe, just maybe, Sonny’s philanderous ways are changing now that Diane has come into his life, but when ties to his criminal past resurface, it looks like Sonny’s going to have more than his fair share of trouble to deal with for the next little while, girls or no girls.

    Originally titled Love Commune and retitled Ghetto Freaks to cash in on the blaxpliotation craze, this movie is about as far removed from Shaft and his brethren as you can get. As preachy as it is dorky, it takes a while to get going and even when it does pick up a bit of much needed speed towards the end, it’s rather on the dull side as far as exploitation movies go. Yeah, there’s some drug use and some nudity and lots of odd trash talking but it doesn’t add up to enough to save this turkey. The pace is bad, the performances uninteresting, and the story just isn’t all that. Next!

    Way Out (1967):

    Frankie lives in the Bronx where his dad, a cop, keeps hounding him to get a real job. Eventually Frankie tells him that he has found gainful employment, but in reality, Frankie is making his money peddling smack out of a back alley with his two pals, Louie and Che Che. To make matters worse, they’re not only dealing, they’re also using, which is never a good combination as the money they’re making goes straight to the monkey on their collective back. When that cash runs dry, they turn to petty crime, because the need just ain’t going away. Meanwhile, a cat named Jerry is selling his woman, Stella, into prostitution so that they can raise some scratch that they intend to use to buy heroin from a competing dealer named Fats.

    When Frankie’s childhood friend, Anita, gets herself into hot water with a group of tough guys, a new kid in town named Jim shows up and saves the day, which instantly wins him Frankie’s affection. Frankie takes him under his wing and soon they’re dealing dope together but when Jim starts making eyes at Anita, it starts to get weird.

    Soon enough, addictions spiral out of control with Jim giving up on Anita in order to shoot up, and Frankie and his cronies staging a robbery that finds them thrown into jail. Jerry can’t raise any more money to get heroin for himself and so he tries to ‘sell’ Stella to Fats, and it seems like all is truly lost for our motley crew of smacking shooting junkie scum.

    Based on a play by an actual drug user, Way Out captures quite effectively the dinginess of drug use when it gets out of hand. Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., best known for The Blob, keeps things moving along at a really good pace and the movie builds quite nicely to an unexpected ending. While this isn’t as polished as better known and more recent ‘heroin’ films like Trainspotting or Requiem For A Dream, it is certainly revolting enough and at times preachy enough to at least make you think. Aspects are dated, of course, but the movie actually does do a really good job of giving us a fly on the wall look at those who live to get high and care for little else.

    Performances here are interesting in that a lot of the people cast in the film were drug users at one point in their lives. This gives some of the scenes a lot more resonance than you’d probably expect as well as some genuine sincerity. You’re able to really believe that these people are hooked, and it all makes for rather compelling viewing. There are no clear cut heroes here, only people addicted to smack, and as such the morality of it all is ambiguous until the finale, but such is life. In terms of exploitation elements, you get some sleaze, some seriously dark drug use, goofy language and some other trashy elements but even with those sometimes campy elements tossed into the mix, Way Out works surprisingly well as a rather serious movie.

    Ghetto Freaks/Way Out – DVD Review:

    Both films are presented in fullframe transfers and none of the compositions appear to be compromised much by this format leading one to guess that this is their original aspect ratio. Way Out is definitely the stronger of the two films in terms of visual presentation, it’s quite colorful and print damage is minor even at the worst of times. Ghetto Freaks doesn’t fare quite as well. It’s still perfectly watchable but the colors are a little faded in spots and there are some nasty scratches on the image from time to time. Nothing so severe as to take away from your enjoyment of the movie and it shouldn’t put you off the film, but the image is far from pristine.

    Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is the order of the day on all three films. While these are hardly going to shack the foundation of your home, these tracks are clear and audible. Most of the sound is narration or dialogue with some music behind it. Sound effects are minimal and don't play a big role in either of the films. Everything is easy to understand and there aren't really any problems with these basic but sufficient tracks despite some mild hiss here and there.

    Although Something Weird omits trailers for the two features in the set, they have provided amusing promo spots for four other drug related movies, namely: Monkey On My Back (starring Cameron Mitchell!), The Pusher, The Hard Road and The Hippie Revolt. Also included as an anti-drug classroom film from 1972 entitled Narcotics: The Inside Story. At roughly ten minutes in length, it isn’t all that interesting as the narrator explains to a group of teenagers why drugs are bad. Don’t expect the craziness of other anti-drug films from the same era, this one is quite tame. Nifty menu screens round out the disc.

    Ghetto Freaks/Way Out – The Final Word:

    One amazing piece or trash filmmaking and one middling exercise in exploitation make this an alright double feature, but Ghetto Freaks/Way Out is not one that comes in near the top of the SWV catalogue. Definitely worth a look for those into trippy old drug films.


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    • Marshall Crist
      #1
      Marshall Crist
      Senior Member
      Marshall Crist commented
      Editing a comment
      The great failing of this disc is not including the GHETTO FREAKS trailer, which is one of the greatest ads of all time.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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