We gave it an A-
You might not guess that a film with several disparaging references to ”whitey” was directed by the guy who made Willy Wonka: Mel Stuart, here immortalizing a hotter brand of chocolate. The occasion was a 1972 L.A. Coliseum concert featuring Memphis’ amazing Stax Records lineup, from then-superstar Isaac Hayes to celebrated dog-walker Rufus Thomas. In a commentary, Stuart says his ”heart fell” when he saw the raw footage (”It was like a newsreel of a performance”), so he sent crews into Watts to shoot interviews for a movie focusing more on the post-riots black experience. The two components don’t completely jibe, but you are getting a great concert film and a decent slice-of-African-American-life doc for the price of one.
EXTRAS In one commentary, Chuck D discusses his childhood Wattstax fascination. In another, Hayes grumbles about how his climactic Shaft songs, now restored, were originally axed from Wattstax by Shaft‘s owners, MGM — a shaft that should’ve prompted a Watts riot right on the studio lot.