Friday, February 5, 2016
2/10/16 Spencer Williams
BLOOD OF JESUS by Spencer Williams
Spencer Williams, who had been an actor and screenwriter since 1929, was one of the most important African-American filmmakers of the 1940s, producing dramas with all-black casts that found a ready audience in all-black movie houses. Williams made his directorial debut with this low-budget drama, for which he was also the producer, screenwriter, and lead actor. Highly religious Martha (Cathryn Caviness) is married to Razz (Williams), a ne'er-do-well who has trouble supporting his family and rarely goes to church. Razz accidentally shoots Martha while tending to his hunting rifle, and her fellow parishioners pray over her as she hovers between life and death. Her spirit leaves her body, transported to the Crossroads between Heaven and Hell. There, Martha is tempted from the path of righteousness by Judas Green (Frank H. McClennan), a smooth-talking demon sent by Satan (James B. Jones) who introduces her to the pleasures of liquor and dancing and tries to talk her into a new career as a nightclub hostess, before she realizes that she has begun to travel the path of sin and degradation. Shot in Texas on a budget of only $5000, The Blood of Jesus uses both ethereal gospel music and down-and-dirty blues on the soundtrack is an effective metaphor for the film's battle of sacred and profane influences. Williams would direct seven more films before the decade was over, and in the 1950s he gained fame as Andy on the Amos 'n' Andy TV series.
~ Mark Deming, Rovi