Sunday, February 22, 2015

Go Down, Death! (1944) - (Review)

Once again, Spencer Williams tackles the theme of "good vs. evil" in 1944's Go Down, Death!, made three years and three projects after the previously reviewed, The Blood of Jesus. Is Go Down, Death! just as good as Williams' directoral debut or better? Unfortunately, it falls very short.

As a result of The Blood of Jesus' critical and commercial success, Spencer Williams went on to write and direct several more pictures for Sack Amusement Enterprises. Of course, clout like that gives filmmakers the opportunity to really show off their craft. You want to create bigger and better. Go Down, Death! has more characters and more drama, but no one really "brought it" in this film.

Go Down, Death!'s Foreword

The Acting

As previously stated, there's more drama and more characters in Go Down, Death! than there is The Blood of Jesus, but more drama and more characters requires better acting. As was the case in Blood, Spencer Williams gave the better performance in this film--but while there was decent acting from the others in Blood, Go Down, Death didn't have a drop of even 'okay' acting. This movie wasn't even an hour long (almost 54 minutes), but the drawn out "I'm-reading-straight-from-my-cue-cards" acting makes you feel like you're watching The Ten Commandments (minus the being entertained part). 

Real-life minister, Samuel H. James

The Editing

A good movie, even if it's four hours long, doesn't "feel" like it's four hours long. You don't typically watch the clock during a good movie. Go Down, Death was only 54 minutes long and I still felt the urge to hit the fast-forward button a few times. Along with the acting, I'd say that the editing was a contributing factor to this. 

Myra D. Hemmings as 'Aunt Caroline'

Now, I'm well aware of the shoestring budgets for race movies, but some things just aren't excusable. One of them being the audio going out of sync with the video--that's always a no-no. Another thing (in my opinion, the most unbearable of all things in this movie) was unnecessarily stretched-out moments. For example, the character 'Aunt Caroline' (played by Myra D. Hemmings, an actress and one of the founders of Delta Sigma Theta), senses something or someone in her home, and I kid you not, it took her about 30-40 seconds just to leave the room to find out what it was. That's too long in "movie land", I think, and I do believe it could have been cut significantly. That wasn't the only instance where something like that occurred, either.

Overall Thoughts

I could list more things that I didn't like about this movie, but there aren't enough hours in the day. Plus, I've seen worse.

I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone. I guess if you simply wanted to watch "a Spencer Williams movie" or even "a race movie", it'd be something to watch, but I would steer viewers in the direction of The Blood of Jesus, Body and Soul, Cabin in the Sky, and/or Miracle in Harlem instead. The themes are similar and the storylines pretty much the same, but the writing, acting, and editing is much better.

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