Crack House

Director: Michael Fischa           
Gregg Gomez Thomsen, Jim Brown, Anthony Geary

Crack House wasn't actually made by Cannon (though they distributed it), but the filmmakers had the skill to make it able to stand its head up proudly against any Cannon movie Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus produced. And those names "Golan" and "Globus" (almost) always guarantee a good schlocky movie experience - exactly what Crack House is. It's also hilarious (and a little sad) that the movie dresses itself up as a hard-hitting look at drug addiction and other drug problems. If we're to believe that, I guess we must also believe that drugs get people beaten up on a regular basis (okay), lots of bloody shoot-outs (well...okay), as well as a lot of back seat sex, nudity, rape, funerals where bodies are laid in state in wrecked cars, and dialogue like,  "The state will provide you with a nice toilet" or "When I'm low, I get a little blow." (ummmm...)

Crack House is preceded by a special announcement with co-star Richard Roundtree, at least on the copy of the movie I rented manufactured by Cannon Video (The movie was actually re-released later by MGM/UA Home Video!) Richard Roundtree walks into the screening room at Cannon Studios and cautions the audience about the dangers of drugs, especially crack. He tells us that if we or anyone we know are addicted to crack, "check your local community resources." Wow, Ritchie, thanks for doing all that research to find that out for us. Where the hell do we find such resources, anyway? The water works? What's really sad is that Richard is damn serious in his speech; he actually seems to believe that the proceeding movie is really hard-hitting. Either he's a great actor unfairly placed in junk like this, or that he's hopelessly naive.

In some typically ravaged neighborhood in L.A., seemingly everyone living there (including the high school guidance counselor!) is either dealing or smoking crack, except for Hispanic teenage lovers Rick (Thomsen) and Melissa (Cheryl Kay). (One other exception may be Melissa's mother, but she seems to have no time to, because she drinks all day on the couch.) Both plan to marry and get out of the ghetto, but in the meantime they have to witness brutal bathroom fights and settle for having sex in the back seat of Rick's mother's car full of religious pictures, while around them Rick's former gang and a rival black gang get into fist fights while using the "F" word in many creative ways.  Immediately after Rick's cousin gets gunned down in a drive-by shooting, he rejoins his gang and they go out for revenge, getting into a bloody shoot-out with the rival gang. Of course, Rick's stupidity gets him captured by the cops and imprisoned, leaving Melissa all alone and unable to defend herself from being offered crack after getting slapped around and almost raped...and then smoking crack...then shacking up with a sleaze...then being "sold" to pay off the sleaze's debt to drug king Steadman (Brown)...then being used and abused in horrible ways. It's up to Rick to make a deal to stop Steadman and save Melissa.

Yeah yeah - if Rick had told the cops what he knew right from the start, none of that stuff would have happened to Melissa. That's just one of the ways the makers of Crack House say damn with logic and intelligence, let's show the "good stuff". There are a number of  occurrences of this "good stuff", though don't let the above synopsis fool you - though it's high quality sleaze, there isn't quite as much of it as you think. Still, the movie gets a lift from this by some unintentionally amusing performances; Brown (who only appears sporadically in the last 30 minutes) in particular looks and acts so bored in this movie, he manages to be quite funny without doing a thing - a real achievement. I think I've found out why Brown quit movies for five years or so not long after this movie. Roundtree does his standard authority shtick, though he's always fun to watch. Kay's unconvincing gasping and blubbering while begging for drugs from her high school counselor is a highlight of her generally bad performance. Of course, you can guess what the counselor tells her what she must do to get some rock. It's astounding that of all the women in this movie, none are portrayed positively. And except for Melissa's mother, all the women during the course of the movie get beaten, raped and other acts of degradation (even when dead.) It's all quite hostile, and even exploitation fans may wonder if these scenes were made as acts of hostility by the filmmakers as well as exploitation. Also, the treatment of Melissa throughout the movie made me wonder during the end of the movie if the "happy ending" was really happy - I'm no psychologist, but I'd say that Melissa and even Rick have been mentally scarred for life. On the other hand, any movie climax involving a tank has to be able to make up for all that - right?

A certain thought occurred to me while watching this movie; all of us have had a good laugh watching the 63 year old drug movie Reefer Madness, an unintentionally funny look at drug problems. How naive and silly people were back then! we think. You have to wonder if in 2052, when Crack House is 63 years old, how people in that day and age will react to it. My guess is that they'll think exactly what we currently think of Reefer Madness.

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See also: Stoner, Tougher Than Leather, The Road Hustlers