Go Down Death
(B&W, 1944): Bar owner Big Jim Bottoms (Spencer Williams) has a running feud with a popular local preacher, whose sermons are rallying the townsfolk against him. With the help of three trampy bar-girls and a sneaky photographer, Big Jim comes into possession of some very compromising pictures of the young minister. His attempt to smear the man is thwarted when Jim's adoptive mother, a devout churchgoer, demands that he give the offensive snapshots to her. When the two struggle over them, Jim accidently kills the woman who raised him. At the funeral, Jim's conscience fills his skull with screaming condemnation, driving him to delirium.
Go Down Death is one of several spiritual testaments from Spencer Williams, best known for his comedies and juke joint musicals. In his dual role as director and lead actor, Williams does a rare turn as a heavy in this highly moralistic and stylized work based on a poem by renowned black writer, James Weldon Johnson.
Sunday Sinners (B&W, 1940): Reverend Jesse Hampton has a bone to pick with the management of Club Harlem, a wildly popular nightspot where drinking and dancing are the rule. No old-fashioned prude, the Reverend tries to see the positive side of the juke joint activities, knowing that the jitterbuggers are basically decent kids who just need to blow off a little steam. But the preacher sees red when the club opens on the Sabbath, threatening to turn the good townsfolk into Sunday sinners. An upcoming dance contest seems destined to become a showdown between the powers of light and darkness. Packed with soulful singing, wild dancing and snappy comedy, Sunday Sinners is one of the early films by German-born Arthur Dreifuss, who soon moved on to PRC. Later, working for Columbia Pictures, he directed several entries in the popular Boston Blackie series. HIs final film, a sex & drugs shocker called The Young Runaways (1968), gave young Richard Dreyfuss (no relation) his first credited role on the big screen.