The Retroactive Razzies (1928-1979)

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Ah, the Razzies. The flip side of the famous Academy Awards, where John Wilson and his cohorts give annual awards to the WORST films of the year in a parody of Hollywood excess. The Golden Raspberry Awards have been around since 1980, while their more famous cousins the Academy Awards go all the way back to 1928. In honor of this year’s Oscar/Razzie ceremonies, I thought: why not brainstorm on what films WOULD  have won Razzies, had the ceremonies existed as long as the Oscars?

 

Looking at some of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 targets, films cited in books like The Golden Turkey Awards and The 50 Worst Films of All Time, and the lowest rated stuff on Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database, I believe I’ve come up with a reasonable extrapolation of what kind of “Winners” they would have had from 1928-1979.

 

I’ve only cited the very ‘Worst’ movie of each year (no Worst Diector, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Screenplay, etc.), and provided a brief synopsis why each made the list. Agree or disagree? Sit back, and enjoy this year’s Retroactive Razzies

 

1928 ATROCIOUS PICTURE

Noah’s Ark

1928 FAILED & POINTLESS PICTURE

The Godless Girl [Soviet version] (1928)

The 1st Academy Awards actually included TWO Best Picture winners (Wings won “Most Outstanding Picture” whereas Sunrise won “Most Unique and Artistic Picture), so here is the flip side to that: An over bloated “epic” silent movie and a “Christian” themed film that Soviet censors completely ruined by cutting out the ending where the atheist character finds Jesus.

 

1929 WORST PICTURE

The Broadway Melody

The only time the “Best Picture” winner ALSO deserved Worst Picture, this film only won the Oscar because of the novelty of being an early sound movie that was one of the first films to have song and dance numbers.  On its own merits, it’s terrible.

 

1930 WORST PICTURE

Mammy

An offensive movie where Al Jolson dons blackface to portray a stereotypical big black woman.

 

1931 WORST PICTURE

Rango

A really schlocky quasidocumentary film about a man and his orangutan friends.

 

1932 WORST PICTURE

Crashin’ Broadway

The  second of three terrible “Broadway” themed movies that should have won a Razzie.

 

1933 WORST PICTURE

She Had to Say Yes

Tacky, sexist movie that got awful reviews even when it was released back in 1993.

 

1934 WORST PICTURE

Maniac

Also known as Sex Maniac, this is a trashy exploitation movie that frequently ends up on “Worst Movie Ever” lists.

 

1935 WORST PICTURE

The Irish Gringo

This is a film about a half Mexican, half Irish gunman called The Irish Gringo who find a girl in the dessert. Its been described as “one of the best bad movies ever made”

 

1936 WORST PICTURE

Reefer Madness

Probably the best known of the bad 30s films, this is a “cautionary tale” about smoking weed where all the characters go insane from using marijuana.

 

1937 WORST PICTURE

Parnell

The biggest flop of the decade, this was a widely ridiculed 30s failure that is considered Clark Gable’s worst film.

 

1938 WORST PICTURE

The Terror of Tiny Town

All an midget cast stars in this pathetic excuse for a western.

 

1939 WORST PICTURE

(tie) Torture Ship AND Daughter of the Tong

Two terrible movies, hard to decide whether the one about the “mad scientist” performing experiments on criminals on a ship is worse, or the one with the white actress playing the leader of an Oriental crime ring.

 

1940 WORST PICTURE

(tie) Angels Over Broadway AND The Ape

Two more awful movies, another painfully bad “broadway” themed movie and a low budget Boris Karloff movie about a “mad gorilla”

 

1941 WORST PICTURE

Murder with Music

The title alone should tell you that this film is garbage.

 

1942 WORST PICTURE

The Mad Monster

One of the more famous MST3K episodes, and the beginning of Bela Lugosi tarnishing his once great career.

 

1943 WORST PICTURE

Dead Men Walk

This cruddy attempt at a horror movie was shot in six days.

 

1944 WORST PICTURE

I Accuse My Parents

More famous MST3K fodder, this one deals with juvenile delinquency.

 

1945 WORST PICTURE

Detour

This film actually GOOD reviews when it was released, but it’s a bottom barrel budget movie filled with filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative.

 

1946 WORST PICTURE

The Brute Man

Rondo Hatton, a guy with a real life facial deformity, plays a monstrous killer. That ain’t makeup!

 

1947 WORST PICTURE

Queen of the Amazons

Really schlocky 40s film with “Amazonian women” in deepest Africa, who are oddly played by white women.

 

1948 WORST PICTURE

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

Considered one of the worst films of the 40s, this wannabe gangster movie had unusually high levels of violence and sexuality, done in a tacky manner.

 

1949 WORST PICTURE

Omoo-Omoo the Shark God

Another film with a title that screams bad movie. It is about the curses that befall a ship following the removal of pearls from an island shrine.

 

1950 WORST PICTURE

Radar Secret Service

Low budget one hour movie about stolen Uranium-238 goods are tracked by the US Government, using brand spankin’ new radar technology.

 

1951 WORST PICTURE

Lost Continent

A film that wanted to be like King Kong and The Lost World, but lacked the budget and technical experience to get anywhere close to that.

 

1952 WORST PICTURE

Son of Paleface

Sequel to The Paleface, this film was actually pretty popular at the time, but it’s awful dreck.

 

1953 WORST PICTURE

Robot Monster

Has a reputation as the one of the worst movies ever, supposedly the costumes of gorilla bodies with diver’s helmets were so bad that the producer of this film tried to commit suicide on opening night.

 

1954 WORST PICTURE

Jail Bait

I didn’t give Child Bride the Worst Picture award of 1937, and Ed Wood’s 1953 debut film Glen or Glenda didn’t make the cut either, so this film was overdue for one.

 

1955 WORST PICTURE

Bride of the Monster

Another infamously bad Ed Wood movie, so if the Razzies existed in the 50s, he could have won Worst Picture and Worst Director in back-to-back years.

 

1956 WORST PICTURE

The Conqueror

John Wayne as Genghis Khan. At the very least, Worst Actor was a lock.

 

1957 WORST PICTURE

(tie) The Unearthly AND The Beginning of the End

Two really poorly made 1950s “atomic apocalypse”  themed films, hard to say which is worse.

 

1958 WORST PICTURE

Teenage Caveman

The worst of the 1950s “I was a Teenage _____” genre of movies.

 

1959 WORST PICTURE

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Supposedly the worst movie ever made. Some claim Manos: The Hands of Fate is even worse, but I haven’t seen the latter.

 

1960 WORST PICTURE

The Sinister Urge

Another Ed Wood, this marked the start of his transition from sci-fi horror movies to soft core porn movies.

 

1961 WORST PICTURE

The Beast of Yucca Flats

A really terrible film that has become a cult classic and is famous for how much bad stuff they jammed into a movie with a running time of under an hour.

 

1962 WORST PICTURE

Eegah

Eegah, it sucks! Another brainless and completely historically inaccurate “caveman” themed movie.

 

1963 WORST PICTURE

They Saved Hitler’s Brain

This is actually TWO bad movies with unrelated plots, which they attempted to edit together into one piece of crap movie.

 

1964 WORST PICTURE

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies

The first attempt to combine the monster movie and musical genres.  A second attempt was made a few months later.

 

1965 WORST PICTURE

Monster a Go-Go!

A poorly made film that was purchased and had new scenes and dialogue added, which rendered it an incoherent mess.

 

1966 WORST PICTURE

Manos: The Hands of Fate

The first and only movie made by Harold P. Warren, it is considered the poorest attempt ever at making a professional movie.

 

1967 WORST PICTURE

Casino Royale

Unlike many on the list, this is a high budget Hollywood movie that attempted to spoof James Bond. In one part, Orson Welles and Peter Sellers refused to film their poker game together, so they had to be edited together to make it look like they were in the same scene.

 

1968 WORST PICTURE

A Place for Lovers

Apparently a pathetic attempt as a romance movie from French & Italian filmmakers trying to film scenes in English.

 

1969 WORST PICTURE

Change of Habit

Elvis Presley stars is this wanna be Sister Act type movie.

 

1970 WORST PICTURE

Myra Breckinridge

Movie about a gay man (Rex Reed) who has a sex change operation and becomes “Myra Breckinridge” (Raquel Welch).  It was so bad that the author of the book it was based on (Gore Videl) sued and demanded they take his name off the credits.

 

1971 WORST PICTURE

The Bloody Waters of Dr. Z

More MST3K material, a shoddily mad low budget horror movie about a NAZI scientist that injects himself with “Zaat” and mutates into an evil creature.

 

1972  WORST PICTURE

An American Hippie in Israel

This obscure dated movie was believed to be lost for many years, but has recently been rediscovered and restored to all its cinematic glory.

 

1973 WORST PICTURE

Bat Pussy

A really bad pornographic spoof of Batman, which is considered one of the worst and least exotic porn films ever made.

 

1974 WORST PICTURE

Zardoz

Sean Connery’s costume alone deserves to give this film the Worst Picture win.

 

1975 WORST PICTURE

At Long Last Love

A belated 1970s attempt to recapture the magic of 1930s movie musicals like Swing Time and Top Hat.

 

1976 WORST PICTURE

Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave

The worst of the “Bruceplotation” movies attempting to cash in on Bruce Lee’s death with look-alike actors continuing his roles. This one has Bruce literally coming back from the dead to kick butt.

 

1977 WORST PICTURE

Exorcist II: The Heretic

Considered one of the worst sequels ever. Given that the original film is one of the greatest horror films of all time, this incoherent sequel certainly deserves a Razzie. Terrible acting from Richard Burton.

 

1978 WORST PICTURE

The Swarm

An attempt to make a disaster film with the premise of killer bees. The only thing disasterous about this is how badly it bombed at the box office.

 

1979 WORST PICTURE

H.O.T.S.

The 1970s equivalent to Showgirls, this crass softcore exotica movie has no plot. Supposedly inspired the Hooters waitress uniform.

 

 

And there you have it, from the silent era to the disco era, my picks for Retroactive Razzie winners.  In 1980, Can’t Stop the Music (starring The Village People) would be named Worst Picture at the first annual Golden Raspberry awards, and usher in a new era.

ReelReviews #39: Roots: The Next Generations (1978) Part 3: 1914-1918

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FEB 19, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS: TNG (1978) Part 3: 1914-1918

 

 

Wow, what an interesting experience. Out of all the episodes in the entire Roots saga (both the original miniseries and the sequel series), this one best fit the ideal of the whole franchise.   As Levar Burton mentioned on one the DVD extras, the idea behind Roots is that it tells the story of a black family, but the point is not that they’re black, but that it is marketed as “The Saga of an AMERICAN family”, and that all Americans can identify with the story and learn something about themselves and the history of this country. Nowhere does this concept work better than the third episode of Roots: TNG.

 

Part 3 is set in the early 20th century, and ends right at the dawn of World War I. The focus on this episode is the two characters that will become the parents of the miniseries author: Alex Haley. Namely, it’s about how Will Palmer’s daughter Bertha George meets and falls in love with Simon Haley at an all black college. Still, this major plotline is just part of an intervening series of events that encompass a large cast of characters.

 

Since Simon Haley traced his “Roots” back to Africa via his mother’s lineage, it’s a welcome addition to the saga that the episode shows Simon Haley’s parents and the audience learns a bit about his father’s side of the family, which is quite different than Bertha’s parents, (Will & Cynthia Palmer) For starters, Simon’s father is a poor sharecropper who questions spending so much money so his son can be the first in the family to go to college.  For what it’s worth, Simon Haley gets a job as a porter on a train to earn some money for college, and finds himself very fortunate though a chance meeting with a passage on the train.

 

A surprise subplot that ends up tying into this whole story is the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, which appropriately occurs at the correct time in did in real life history (the Klan was revived following the popularity of the film Birth of a Nation in 1915, and this episode of Roots is set in 1916) As the Klan was portrayed in a somewhat cartoonish manner with a fictional origin story in the original Roots, I expected it would be a bit ridiculous here. Instead, I though the episode did an excellent job capturing the second Klan era, where it was pretty much turned into a “hate everyone that isn’t white Anglo Saxon protestant” group that dressed itself up as nice fraternal “Christian” social club.  One scene that really hit home and captured this well was a portion of the episode where the Klan burns down the local dress store where Mr. Goldstein had sold a wedding dress to Bertha George.  Will Palmer is baffled why the Klan would “go after a white man” and Goldstein tells him “You look at me and see a white man. But the Klan looks at me and sees a Jew”.  Goldstein is forced to move back to Chicago, but both Goldstein and Palmer forgive each other’s past debts and promise to stay in touch.

 

The episode ends on a particularly dramatic high note as Simon Haley volunteers to join the army on the eve of World War I, and quickly finds himself in an all-black platoon (the army was segregated in those days) complete with a black drill sergeant barking orders at him. Simon finally convinces the sergeant to let him step away for a few minutes “to say goodbye to my girl”, but he has to jump on the train quickly and Bertha bids him a tearful farewell as that famous Roots score makes way for the end credits.

 

Roots, episode 3, is without a doubt my favorite installment of the entire saga.

 

*** ½  out of ****

ReelReviews #38: Roots: The Next Generation – Part 2: 1896-1899

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FEB 18, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS: TNG (1978) Part 2: 1896-1899

 

The second episode of Roots: TNG follows up nicely with the story threads that were left hanging in the previous installment. The audience learns what’s happened to the white man who married the black schoolteacher, where Tom Harvey ends up in his fight for political equality, and what becomes of Tom Harvey’s daughter after she grows up.

 

What I particularly enjoyed about the second episode is that it balanced its tales about this family’s struggles very well. While Tom Harvey ends up being humiliated by the local good ol’ boys club when he tries to register to vote, his son-in-law Will Palmer finds that the local white banking establishment is going to try and salvage the lumber mill he works at by making him the CEO of the company (a particularly effective scene since the ominous opening of him being called into a room of wealthy white men for unknown reasons leads him and the audience to believe that something bad is about to happen).  Naturally, this leads to a confrontation at the end between Tom Harvey and Will Palmer, where they argue about the best means of advancement in white-controlled town.

 

A few parts of the second episode veered a bit into too much 70s camp for my tastes.  Some of the scenes of the white establishment in town plotting together to oppress the blacks came across as very Snidely Whiplash type scheming, and one character that was enjoyably bad was veteran character actor Harry Morgan (of the M*A*S*H* and Dragnet fame) as Bob Campbell, a blunt-spoken cranky old drunk that is the former owner of the lumberyard. Morgan’s character was at least memorable, and it’s interesting that Roots is remembered as a landmark “black” themed television event when both miniseries had some of the most interesting characters and best actors in the role of various white characters. (In the case of Morgan, I though his character was poorly conceived but well acted)

 

The episode ended on a nice touch that was a “callback” to an important theme in the original series (the family keeping their tradition from Africa of holding up a newborn child to the stars). In this case, however, the scene felt a bit too “Hollywoodized” for my tastes, as Tom Harvey is not familiar with the tradition of his ancestors but is felt “driven” to do it by some unknown instinct calling to him.

 

In any case, I liked the episode. Roots, both the original and the sequel, have their share of flaws, but they are solid entertainment and explore an important part of American history.

 

** ½  out of ****

 

ReelReviews #37: Roots: The Next Generation – Part 1: 1880-1883

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FEB 17, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS: TNG (1978) Part 1: 1880-1883

 

Welcome back, Roots! Part of the fear of doing a sequel to an iconic film or television show is that the followup product won’t be able to recapture the magic of the original.  In the case of Roots: The Next Generation, that fear appeared to be unfounded.  Although it went through some vast changes from the original miniseries, the first episode was very much in the spirit of the original series.

 

The new Roots picks up in the 1880s, with the descendants of Kunta Kinte now living in Tennessee. I was wondering if they would be able to tell a compelling narrative to continue the story along after slavery was defunct, seeing as that element was the biggest part of the original miniseries.  The first episode of Roots: TNG is much quieter and low key than the later Roots episodes, but in some ways its better, since the story is more personal. It’s also someone more grounded than the over-the-top dramatic escape and “happily ever after”  wrap up of the previous miniseries.

 

The actors were very well cast in this episode. Georg Stanford Brown reprises his role as Tom Harvey from the previous miniseries; whereas a new (age appropriate) actor plays his father Chicken George, who dies at the age of 83 in this episode after injuries sustained from falling into a fire.  Some other reviews I’ve read online complained that Tom Harvey seemed out of character in this installment compared to the way he behaved in the previous miniseries.  However, I saw no inconsistency in the two versions of Tom Harvey, and chalked up this version’s attitude to the fact the character had gotten older and more cynical. Other characters even call out Harvey for hypocrisy, when he forbids his daughter from getting engaged to a light-skinned black man who can pass for white, even though Harvey’s own father was half white.

 

One scene that was particularly blunt but likely realistic for this time period is when a white man in town falls in love with the local black schoolteacher and insists on marrying her. His father disowns his son, and looks like he is about to break out in tears as he refuses to even make eye contact with his son, telling him “You are now a nigger”.  The father still maintains his humanity though, and promises his son, “No harm will come to you, or… the woman”. Given that the story takes place in the late 1800s, I could imagine such a scenario actually occurring.

 

Roots: The Next Generation starts off slowly and takes a white to engage the audience, but once it gets you invested in its characters, it grabs the audience and makes you curious what will happen next. In many ways, this was exactly why the original Roots worked so well.  This particular episode didn’t have anything especially exciting happen, but it was a story that was worth seeing, and I am eager to find out what happens next.

 

 

*** out of ****

ReelReviews #36: Roots (1977) Part 6: 1865-1870

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FEB 12, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS (1977) Part 6: 1865-1870

 

 

Last but not least, we come to the final episode of the original Roots miniseries.  I feared it might be a bit anti-climatic, as Chicken George managed to buy himself freedom in the last episode (prior to the abolition of slavery), but this episode really goes out with a bang and shows the audience how life was completely turned upside for former slavers following the death of the institution and the start of reconstruction in the south.

 

There is one extremely heroic white character in Roots, and he is depicted towards the very end of the miniseries. Roots concocts some action-packed subplot where the white guy who is on good terms with the slaves helps them get out of the town by pretending to restore the status quo to the community and put them all back to work as virtual slaves, only as a ruse so they can all fool the evil white people in town, hold ‘em hostage, and ultimately give them their just desserts as the former slaves make their getaway in covered wagons. The sad reality of the post-slavery era is many former slaves did end up in virtually the same positions they held before, but that doesn’t make for exciting television. So instead, we’re given a nice “cinematic” fiction where they live Happily Ever After. It makes for good television but distracted away from the earlier point in the episode to sincerely show the difficulties of the former slaves trying to integrate into a society where they were raised not to function in.

 

Another really silly element of the final chapter is that Roots depicts an entirely fictional origin of the KKK. Here, they start off a  “Nightwatch” group in town that wants revenge on the slaves for being freed, but evolves into the KKK when one evil white guy accidentally burns two holes into a white floor sack and realizes it would make a nifty hood to hide the identity of himself and his fellow racists. The role of this particularly evil white person is played by none other Lloyd Bridges. Given that I was used to seeing Bridges in goofy, silly roles like Airplane, it was bit strange to see him as the most evil of the evil white people in the entire Roots miniseries, and he was really getting a kick of his role here and playing the baddie to the hilt.

 

The only real disappointment here is that I expected Roots to move away from Historic Fiction into Historic Reenactments by the final episode, given that we know far more about the real life person of Chicken George and the end of slavery in 1870 than we know about the alleged “Kunta Kinte” person who lived in Africa in the “1670s”.  A more accurate depiction of these characters could have been used to tell the final chapter, but Roots went for cheap thrills and cute one-liners. The saga also “wrapped up” nicely with Chicken George’s descendants all know the life story of Kunta Kinte and loyally passing it down from generation to generation – something that clearly did not happen in real life.

 

Alex Haley himself finished up this story with a nice monologue, summarizing his ancestry to the present day. However, I felt the story wasn’t really finished – there was another century of his family’s history after slavery, and one that Roots simply glossed over in a few minutes.  Roots: The Next Generations would continue the story and tell it in detail. I am looking forward to those adventures, and I felt that Roots, while satisfying on its own, was still missing a big piece of the puzzle.

 

 

 

 

*** out of ****

 

 

ReelReviews #35: Roots (1977) Part 5: 1841-1865

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FEB 11, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS (1977) Part 5: 1841-1865

 

 

Roots really begins to mirror itself in strange ways as I sat thru the entire saga. Just as Episode 3 had some problems because I couldn’t buy that John Amos was playing the same role as LeVar Burton, here the episode suffers from not buying that the character is the biological child of two other characters. Ben Vereen plays Chicken George, who is supposedly the light-skinned son of Kizzy and her master Tom Moore, born as a result of one of the many times he raped her.

 

Of course, the reality is that Ben Vereen doesn’t look anything like the actor playing his “father”, nor is there anything to suggest he has mixed race ancestry. Genes are a funny thing, but the movie just wants us to accept this fact when the way it’s shown on screen doesn’t convey that idea at all. I suppose part of the idea behind the story is that Tom Moore takes George under his wing and makes him his prized cockfighter because he knows he’s his son (Moore even admits so much later in the episode when Kizzy tells George and George demands to know how Tom Moore can be so heartless to his family given this fact). Still, I thought this concept could have executed better in the story.

 

The fact Chicken George grows up to become a prized cockfight worked very well for me, and is a reminder that this story is set in the early 19th century when blood sports was considered just as morally acceptable as slavery. Social standards were quite different than America today, and I didn’t think that was conveyed very well in the first episode, given that the slave trade was occurring around the same time when American colonists were still executing people falsely accused of “witchcraft”.  For a television movie, this episode did a good job recreating the “excitement” 19th century chicken fights without hurting any animals involved.

 

One big missing chuck in the story is that Chicken George goes away to England on business for two decades, only to return home a much older and wiser man.  What happened in England is completely omitted here, but apparently that tale is told in the remake (I look forward to seeing it)

 

In any case, Episode 5 contains some brutal revelations for the characters that people aren’t always what they seem to be, and many of the characters from the fourth episode really change as a result of what happens here. By the end of the story, Chicken George has become a grandfather himself, and it nicely sets up the final episode while weaving in the real life story of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion, the Civil War, and the fall of the antebellum south. Overall, aside from the unbelievable part of Chicken George’s roots, this is a well told tale.

 

 

 

 

*** out of ****

 

 

ReelReviews #34: Roots (1977) Part 4: 1806-1824

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FEB 10, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS (1977) Part 4: 1806-1824

 

 

Like Episode 2, Episode 4 of Roots really picks up the story by making a new character the center of the action.  In the second episode, it was Fiddler. Here, it’s the only daughter of Kunta Kinte/Toby. Leslie Uggams plays Kizzy (her name in African means “stay put”, as Toby explained at the end of the previous episode).  She starts off as a naïve 20-something character, but has really grown and changed by the end of this episode as she comes smack in the face with the trials and tribulations of her family situation.

 

Episode 4 has another “nice” white person, and the character, Missy Anne is portrayed very well by Sandy Duncan.  Missy Anne, the daughter of a plantation official, comes across as a well meaning but ditzy blond who genuinely considers Kizzy to be one of her best friends and treats her as such, even trying to educate her to read and write in private when she knows her father would disapprove.  Of course, by the end of story, Kizzy ends up tragically separated from her family by her owners, and Missy Anne doesn’t lift a finger to protest against it.

 

The fact that slaves are property really hits home when Kizzy is sold to another plantation, never to see her parents again. There, she soon discovers that the new owner is a “nice” man in public, but privately beds all his female slaves, and she has no choice but to submit to being raped every night.  Again, I found the saga of Roots to basically reveal an ugly truth about slavery here.  While it may make audiences at home uncomfortable, it was an necessary truth about the reality of life in the early 1800s.

 

Poor Kizzy eventually is able to visit her parents plantation years later, only to find that her father died of old age a few years earlier.  The climax of the episode ended with a scene that I felt was very “Hollywood dramatization” – where she scratches out the name “Toby” on the grave to write his true name, Kunta Kinte, instead. While the scene works, I can’t see it happening in real life.

 

 

The saga of Kizzy did work better as a whole than Episode 3, and picked up the place nicely.  It also briefly introduced Kizzy’s son, leading the audience to have something to wonder about for the next installment.

 

 

*** out of ****