Ghetto Freaks (1970) Robert J. Emery

Ghetto Freaks (1970)
aka Love Commune aka Sign of Aquarius
Genre: Drama | Musical | Hippiesploitation
Country: USA | Director: Robert J. Emery
Language: English | Subtitles: None
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 | Length: 88mn
Dvdrip Xvid Avi - 640x480 - 23.976fps - 745mb

GHETTO FREAKS is apparently a slapdash retitling of the 1970 film, LOVE COMMUNE (itself a retitle of SIGN OF AQUARIUS), with two minutes of ridiculous additional footage thrown in. But don't let the sexploitation angle of the marketing fool you: LOVE COMMUNE is a real winner, a unique combo of trash melodrama and frank neo-realism.

First of all, LOVE COMMUNE is a full-fledged narrative feature, in a genre which often offered quasi-documentaries and plot less sexual escapades and patchwork stock footage montages any anything they could find in order to fill an hour.

No, here we have a lurid yet coherent, and quite touching, melodrama about a gaggle of "Love Children" living in drab Cleveland, Ohio (!), tangling with "the fuzz", "the mob" and each other in a most believable way. And although scruffy in the extreme, the intelligent screenplay and impressive camera-work reveal this was not a micro-budget wonder, but a medium-budgeted attempt at a populist potboiler that, like so many others, got lost in the trash film ghetto.

The film starts off on a high-concept high note, as squares groan into camera about how awful Hippies are, and one of the dreaded Hippies then walks up to the camera and flips the finger, which he then turns into a peace sign. The film's mood and philosophy changes from hate to love in one breathtaking shot.

The thing that is refreshing here is that the "Hippies" are portrayed as benevolent, piece-loving slackers (though not without a penchant for begging and scamming squares). In general, they are the heroes of the piece, atypical of much exploitation cinema of the period. The "fuzz", for the most part, are fascist goons who harass the gang primarily for prejudicial thrills rather than any actual law-breaking.

One amazing sequence, which for my money catapults this dear film right into art-film territory, involves the gang standing on a busy city street corner, engaging the passerby by handing out an underground newspaper and begging for money in return. This amazing scene, with some intricate and incisive editing, starts off looking highly predictable, as old farts and squares rush by, scowling and name-calling. Then we see an old woman, and later, a young black girl, actually stopping to talk to the freaks, and listening earnestly to their spiel. We then realize with amazement that this scene was likely IMPROVISED on the spot, and the passerby are being caught unawares, ala CANDID CAMERA! This scene, an incredible cinema-verite time capsule of cultural anthropology where one might least expect it, alone marks LOVE COMMUNE as "cult classic".
 Ghetto Freaks (1970)

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