November 13th, 2009

PUTNEY SWOPE (1969) ** ½

When the CEO of an advertising firm dies, Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson), the only African-American board member is put in charge. He quickly fires all the white help and hires a bunch of black militants as advisers and renames the company, Truth and Soul. Swope intends to run the company into the ground and produces some really crazy commercials that feature nudity and cussing. Ironically, his clients end up loving them.

Putney Swope is one of those underground 60’s movies that really needs to be seen during the time of it’s original release to get the intended impact. I’m sure it must’ve really wowed people back then but for me, it felt more than a tad dated. That said, the film still holds up a lot better than a lot of similar movies from that era.

Director Robert (Up the Academy)
Downey, Sr. films the flick in black and white and only uses color during Swope’s outrageous commercials. These short ads are easily the best part of the film and deliver the biggest chuckles. (My favorite was the one for the pimple cream.) The problem is that the scenes of Putney and his underlings are scattershot at best and lack the zing of the commercials. While the movie gets off to a promising start, the laughs become increasingly erratic as it goes along.

Putney gets the best line of the movie when he meets “The Arab” (played by Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas) and asks, “Who are you supposed to be, Lawrence of Nigeria?”