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Death of a Snowman - Synapse Films Print E-mail
User Rating: / 4
Written by Chris Mayo   
Tuesday, 14 December 2010

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AKA: Black Trash, Soul Patrol

Directed by: Christopher Rowley
Written by: Bima Stagg
Produced by: Martin Wragge
Cinematography by: Fred Tammes
Editing by: Alfred Cox
Music by: Trevor Rabin, Fransua Roos, Robert Schroder, Patric van Blerk
Cast: Nigel Davenport, Ken Gampu, Peter Dyneley, Bima Stagg, Madala Mphahlele
Year: 1978
Country: South Africa
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1 h 27 min

Studio: Synapse Films

Originally released on VHS as "Soul Patrol" and "Black Trash," the fine folks at Synapse Films deliver the South African 70's grindhouse flick, "Death of a Snowman" to DVD.

"Death of a Snowman" begins in the crime-centric city of Johannesburg, South Africa where a small time thug and his lady-friend meet their ultimate demise at the hands of an unidentified shotgun wielding gunman.  At the scene of the crime appears Lt. Ben Deel (Nigel Davenport) and his newspaper reporter friend Steve Chaka (Ken Gampu).  The two share some one-upmanship banter and Chaka claims he will write that the slaying was a gangland hit.

Later, back at the newsroom Chaka receives a piece of mail headlined "War On Crime."  The anonymous letter is from a black vigilante organisation of the same name who announce their responsibility in the death of the small time thug.  The War On Crime claim they will continue to take out members of organized crime in order to make the streets safe for the people.  Their intent is to notify Chaka in advance of the executions -- however, it will not be long enough for police to stop their vigilante "justice."

Chaka does indeed receive a phone call and another pimp is taken out via drive-by, resulting in the police now thinking that Chaka is on the War On Crime's side, withholding information.  Keeping Chaka as their "inside scoop", a representative of War On Crime proposes a meeting with him.  Chaka obliges and is taken to a man in a dark room referred to as Mr. X, who elaborates their vision of wiping out crime, giving back the community to the people.  "We'd be able to clothe and feed every black child in the city." he claims.  Mr. X wants Chaka to clean up their imagine in the media as ruthless killers, but moreover as protectors of society.  He then suggests to Chaka to be at the airport the following day.

Chaka shows up at the airport with Lt. Deel incognito, and there the two witness some sort of smuggling operation (but not before they enjoy a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken of course!).  With their bellies full the duo does their best to thwart the operation, resulting in cool shootouts, complete with slow-mo, explosions, and Chaka's attempt to singlehandedly stop the pilot of a moving plane from flying away.

Following this situation, the Captain absolutely does not trust Chaka and his "involvement" with War On Crime.  Lt. Ben Deel is useless without Chaka's input.  The police investigate a man named Alcock with ties to Mr. X.  We're introduced to Mr. X's hired hitman, a grindhouse Jesus, of sorts and Chaka begins to believe that Mr. X's motives are less than virtuous.  Sounds like a jumbled mess?  The film gets a little chaotic at times with things unfolding, but it does unfurl nicely.

"Death of a Snowman" is an interesting little film to enter the Synapse library, proving that they are a powerhouse of diverse genre cinema.  The film is dubbed a blaxploitation film, and in a way I guess it is, but it plays off more as a piece of Eurocrime cinema.  Some of the music lends to blaxploitation but the action sequences are definitely Eurocrime inspired.  It's violent, action packed and contains some great slow-mo gunshot wounds.  "Death of a Snowman" has one guy who steals the show and he doesn't appear until about 30 minutes in.  Bima Stagg -- also the film's writer -- plays Mr. X's hitman, a longhaired bearded hippy, who looks more like a member of the Manson Family than a hitman.  Either way his lack of emotion and ruthlessness adds to this film's grindhouse charm.

Having never seen "Death of a Snowman" until now, this is definitely a refreshing 70's "Black Trash" treat that Eurocrime and grindhouse fans should explore.

Synapse Films presents "Death of a Snowman" in a 1.66:1 16:9 transfer.  The film exhibits the typical scratches and flecks from a film of this era assisting in its gritty feel.  Had this been completely lanced of its warts I believe it would take away from a film of this breed.  The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital Mono and does the job.  While there aren't any supplemental features aside from the original theatrical trailer, it is a welcomed inclusion and an all around great release.



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 Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 16:9
 Region: NTSC 1
 Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono

 - Theatrical Trailer

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