Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 2nd, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1966
Director: Ted V. Mikels
Writers: Art Names, John T. Wilson
Cast: Richard Gilden, Rima Kutner, Harry Lovejoy, Max Julien, Jakie Deslonde, Jimmy Mack, Maureen Gaffney
DVD released: January 18th, 2011
Approximate running time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Code Red
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis: When the KKK murders his daughter. A black man gets his revenge by infiltrating them and posing a white man.
The Black Klansman was directed by Ted V. Mikels an independent filmmaker who’s has directed many films that have since gained a Cult following. Some of his more notable films include The Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders. The cinematographer on The Black Klansman was Robert Caramico, who’s other notable credits include Blackenstein, Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, Eaten Alive, Slithis and KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. An alternate title that this film is also known under ‘I Crossed the Color Line’.
Premise wise this film easily ranks as one of the most unusual ideas to ever become a feature film. While there have been countless examples of ‘black face’ in other films. The use of ‘white face’ in a film is a rare occurrence. Content wise this film is a satisfying mix of social commentary and exploitation. With the bulk of what occurs learning more towards the latter. After a strong opening act that establishes everyone and their motives. The film starts to lose its focus during its middle act. Thankfully this loss of momentum in the second act does not lessen the impact of the finale.
The most surprising aspect of this film is how it just does not single out one group / person as being evil. Besides the KKK the main evil entity in the film. There is also a pair of Harlem gangsters, who have been hired by the blacks. And just like the KKK these two gangsters are willing to take extreme measures to obtain their goals.
Performance wise the cast are more than adequate in their respective roles. With the film’s stand out performance coming from Richard Gilden in the role of Jerry Ellsworth, the protagonist of the film. In lesser hands the casting of a white actor in the role of a black man could have been a disaster. Fortunately Richard Gilden gives a convincing performance that resonates.
Code Red presents The Black Klansman (under the title ‘I Crossed the Color Line’) in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. Contrast and black levels are consistently strong throughout. There are no problems with compression and the image remains stable throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English. The audio is in good shape as things sound clear and balanced throughout.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (41 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), alternative opening credits under the title ‘The Black Klansman’ (1 minute 47 seconds – 4:3 full frame) and a interview with actor Richard Gilden titled ‘Blacks Like Me: Unmasking Richard Gilden!’ (17 minutes 46 seconds – 4:3 full frame). Topics discussed in this interview include how he got involved with the project, how they made him look black, the cast, director Ted V. Mikels, producer Joe Solomon and other film’s that Richard Gilden appeared like The Ten Commandments. Other extras include two audio commentaries. The first audio commentary titled ‘Infiltrate The Klan’ is with director Ted V. Mikels. The second audio commentary titled ‘White Man Jive’ is with make-up artist Byrd Holland and moderator Lee Christian. The audio commentary with Ted V. Mikels covers how he got involved in the project, the cast, the controversial subject matter and how some scenes had to be trimmed. After a strong start, the commentary than alternates between production related topics and Ted V. Mikels describing what is occurring on screen. The audio commentary with Byrd Holland is a more focused track. Topics discussed Byrd Holland contributions to the film, the cast and his experiences working with Ted V. Mikels. Rounding out the extras are trailers for Family Honor, They’re the Ghetto Warriors, Mean Johnny Barrows and Dr. Black Mr. Hyde. Overall The Black Klansman gets a solid DVD release from Code Red.