Boss Nigger (1975)
Directed by Jack Arnold

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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Somewhere in the Wild West, a pair of black bounty hunters, the Boss (Fred Williamson) and Amos (D'Urville Martin), arrive at an isolated frontier town to collect a bounty. They promptly discover that this settlement is without a sheriff and that the mayor (R.G. Armstrong) is working with an outlaw, Jed Clayton (William Smith), who leads a gang of brutal ruffians. The Boss promptly makes himself sheriff, appoints Amos to be his deputy, and takes on the various criminals terrorizing the town.

I have to admit that Jack Arnold's Boss Nigger is a far more restrained film than I had anticipated it would be. Though its message is related in a pretty strident way, the movie's story and characters are not untypical of those that can be found in countless other westerns.


In fact, although the viewer looking for some of the outrageous events and ludicrous characters that have been depicted in many other blaxploitation films will probably be disappointed by Boss Nigger, if he is able to enjoy a surprisingly conventional narrative about a pair of tough gunfighters who come to an isolated town and take on a gang of brutal thugs, despite the hostility the townsfolk have for their would-be saviors, he might just appreciate the movie. The director competently depicts the various crimes and cruelties of the villains, the cowardice of the locals, and the prowess of the protagonists, and he intersperses his narrative with several gunfights, a few comic incidents, and a fair amount of scheming. All of these elements are nicely handled and are likely to keep the viewer's interest.


That said, the film makers' ideology is presented in a very heavy-handed way. The tough, courageous heroes are, obviously, black, and the villains are ruthless and racist whites. The contrast between them is pretty extreme. The viewer is constantly reminded of the bravery, decency, and pride of the former, and the viciousness, underhandedness, and general despicableness of the latter. Over the course of Boss Nigger, the two heroes save a young black woman from a gang of robbers, prevent a pair of thugs from bullying a middle aged Mexican woman, punish various locals for disrespecting them, and save the locals from the outlaws hiding nearby, while the villains kidnap the young woman the heroes saved, murder a little Mexican boy, torture the Boss, and so on and so on. Such elements being as overdone as they are can, however, add to the movie's appeal. Its very stridency can be unintentionally amusing. This ham-fisted message does not, consequently, ruin the film.


Boss Nigger does include a sufficient number of enjoyable elements to make it fun to watch. It is actually worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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