sterling KKK

The Donald Sterling affair has revealed the NBA’s complicated dance with racial discrimination and exploitation. It appears actual racists can exist in its ownership tier, but are kept under wraps to enough of an extent to prevent the sport, or at least the league from being shunned, by both its players (employees) and audience (patrons). This of course could be applied to every “major”, “Olympic’, or “premier” sport, and it goes far beyond sports — yet sports one of our societies’ most visible mirrors, and we love looking in the mirror, even when what we see is incredibly ugly.

FilmOnVoD’s The Klansman (1974) elucidates this dynamic on multiple levels. The film is based on the book of the same title by William Bradford Huie, and investigative journalist and writer, who in a career that included exposés on the LA rackets of Bugsy Siegel and the US Army’s WWII execution of Eddie Slovik for desertion, also revealed the 1940‘s meat market recruitment practices of the University of Alabama football program.

The Klansman deals with the advancement of the Civil Rights movement into the rural areas of the South in the 70’s, coming up against a society where the Klan is woven into its social, and commercial fabric. Director Terence Young (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, FilmOn VoD’s Cold Sweat) takes this scenario and fashions an All-Star, thoughtful, yet over-the-top-of-the-kitchen-sink thrill ride.

Exploitation? Possibly, but definitely taking on exploitation at its own game — and who can look away from Lee Marvin as the Sheriff trying to hold the center, David Huddleston as the pro-Klan, pro-business mayor, Richard Burton as the William Faulkner-esque long-time landowner, Lola Falana and Gary L. Catus as members of the ‘Chicago’ Movement, Cameron Mitchell as the blunt bigot cop, Linda Evans and Luciana Paluzzi (FilmOn VoD’s Italian Connection, Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) as some of the women trying to make sense of the macho madness, and finally, prophetically, O.J. Simpson as the ‘modern renegade’ Garth.

Muscle Shoals this ain’t — but Klansman does feature a top-notch funky score by the Wattstax team of Stu Gardner (The Cosby Show), Lee Osborne (The Warriors), Forrest Hamilton, Larry Shaw and David O. Warren, with an opening burner by the Staples Singers (NOT related to the downtown LA arena, although the NBA sure wishes they could ‘take them there’ about now).

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