Pharoah Haqq Presents: Coonskin
Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic helmer Ralph Bakshi subsequently directed the über-controversial animated feature Coonskin (aka Streetfight, 1975). Bakshi opens and closes the film with a live-action tale that stars Scatman Crothers, Miami Vice's Philip Michael Thomas, Charles Gordone, and Barry White; it recounts the adventures of three African-American men who escape from prison and are later gathered up. In between, an animated tale has animal characters with stereotypically black traits -- Brother Rabbit (voiced by Thomas), Brother Fox (voiced by Gordone), and Brother Bear (voiced by White) -- entering a white-dominated ghetto environment and diverging into different paths; one becomes a crime overlord, the second sells the first out to La Cosa Nostra, and the third establishes himself as a media-exploited sports icon. Completely misread as a racist work upon release, the film actually entails Bakshi's satirical excoriation of bigotry via the tongue-in-cheek use of black urban stereotypes. The director laces the film with profane ghetto dialogue and street slang; though animated, this is not a picture for children. Variety wrote of the work, "Beyond Bakshi's cinematic style, his stories seem haunted by a worldliness that is torn between cynicism and tortured humanism. There is heart in his plots, so superficial putdown is totally absent. What is present [is] the evidently sincere empathy of a social surgeon." The legendary Albert S. Ruddy (The Godfather, Cloud Nine) produced.
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