Tuesday, September 2, 2014

At The Movies with "Cooley High"

I'm not sure if I'm going to turn this into a semi-regular post like my "Off Topic" ones, but I figured I'd get this one started anyway. As one reader on mine already knows, I've been thinking about doing this post for a few months now, so after thinking of this more and more, this post serves as the confirmation. What I'll be talking about, sort of in depth, is the 1975 blaxploitation movie "Cooley High." Before I get into it, I have a story to share.

Heading into the summer of 1994, I was up late one Saturday night, flipping channels. I ended up making it to channel 15, which was TBS (I told you my memory is sharp and extensive), and I came in on the middle of "Cooley High." I remember really liking what I saw and clearly wanted to see it again. Thankfully, my grandpa Calvin had this on VHS (and on this same tape was "A Soldier's Story" and another blaxploitation movie in the form of "Bucktown," which also came out in '75 and was a key factor in terms of introducing me to all of the classics from that genre). I asked him if I could borrow it, and he said "you can have it." I was happy as you would probably imagine. Over the next couple of years, this movie would be in HEAVY rotation on any VCR I came in contact with; it should come as no surprise that I knew ALL the words to the movie, basically watching the tape till it got stuck in one of the VCRs I owned. Wow. Although I haven't seen it in SO long, it came to mind a few months ago, and when you sit back and analyze things at 30 years old as opposed to 10-11, you're bound to see things in a different light, which leads me to my next points before I finally get to the movie.

I'm certainly aware that when I watch a movie, it's not a problem to suspend my disbelief, especially when I'm emotionally invested in said movie. On the other hand, there are instances when a movie can have obvious plotholes and multiple things that make you legitimately question what you're seeing. Certain plotholes are too hard to ignore, and remember, sometimes a movie is only as good as its script. What you're about to read will likely be a take on this movie you've never read before, and trust me, this promises to be one of my funniest posts ever.

Release date: June 25, 1975 (My birthday, and I wasn't even born yet, lol)

[Note: This is done completely from memory. I did not re-watch this movie going into the post.]

Although there are a few memorable characters throughout the movie, the main two are Preach (Glynn Turman) and Cochise (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs). Things start with quite a few hilarious moments, such as the guys tricking their teacher into cutting class, sneaking a ride on the back of a city bus, stealing candy while tricking a poor cashier, and their adventures at the zoo, complete with Pooter (Corin Rogers) getting hit with gorilla feces. After all this, we head into the first scene that warrants analysis.


Now, the gambling spot with Preach, Stone (Sherman Smith), and Robert (Norman Gibson) was quite funny, especially when Cochise tried to steer Preach away. Preach gets in the middle of Cochise and Stone saying, "there's no need to create havoc and medley." The way he said it was funny. (By the way, Stone and Robert were basically playing themselves, and I didn't find this out until recently.) The following parts of the movie are notable, still continuing at the diner.

The Bet ---> As the gambling scene continues, Brenda (Cynthia Davis) makes her way in, trying to get through to the washroom. (Question #1. Why the hell would a washroom be in a diner??) Preach instantly likes what he sees, even pulling out a roll of toilet paper to her as a "way of passage," smh+lol. 

Preach: "Man ain't she fine?"
Cochise: "You ain't gettin' none of that high yellow bitch."
P: "If I don't get some of that, I'll give up ya momma."
C: "Dollar says you don't!" 
P: "Dollar? Hmm, bet!"

(They proceed to shake on it.)

(Question #2. Why the hell would he make a bet like this??) Funny lines aside, this was NOT cool and it already showed what value, if any, Preach had in this girl. What a low, classless, disrespectful act this was, and oh boy, this becomes important later.

Martha, the diner owner ---> Preach knew full well that if she caught him gambling (again), he would not be welcomed back. She sees it, then proceeds to kick him out, along with holding a butcher knife. (Question #3. Was this a wise move?) Now, one could argue that she was just trying to scare him, but still, a butcher knife, plus all the other customers (including Cochise) laughing as he ran out? I don't know. It's not like he was threatening anyone.

Before we get to Dorothy's (Lynn Caridine) quarter party, it's established that the "main two" have plans for the future. Preach wants to become a famous writer; Cochise has dreams of becoming a basketball player. The scene when Cochise opens an envelope to see his acceptance (letter) to Grambling University was great. After celebrating the news with some wine along with Preach, Pooter (who was too young to be drinking) and Tyrone (Joseph Carter Wilson), we head to.....


Robert: "Oh come on momma that's sure is cold and I thought we was tight."

Dorothy: "We is tight but if you ain't got no quarter you can't get in."

Smh+lol, ok. Stone and Robert were clearly NOT teenagers, they were hustlers, more or less. You mean to tell me two GROWN ASS men don't have two quarters between them, smh? It's funny and sad at the same time. The party was going smoothly, and then Cochise, ever the "ladies man," spots a girl sitting down, looking lonely, Ms. Loretta Brown. Prior to this, Cochise runs into Johnnie Mae (Jackie Taylor), his girlfriend mind you. "Johnnie Mae, how you doin?", he asks, treating her like she's a friend and nothing more. (Question #4. Ladies, how would you feel if this happened to you??) And it doesn't stop there. After Johnnie Mae "assists" him with putting a new record on, Smokey Robinson to be exact, he kisses her on the cheek (with a thank you), and heads over to Loretta. Johnnie just stands there while her boyfriend sweet talks Loretta. I mean he asked for her name, address, AND phone number. Johnnie STILL stands there, and when they get up to dance, she just had this "oh no he didn't" look on her face, still proceeding to do nothing. (Question #5. Again ladies, would you let this ride or would you do something about it??) Meanwhile, Preach runs into Brenda, who is sitting in a room reading. (Question #6. You're at a party, why would you be in a room reading?) Oh yeah, it was also established that Preach has a girlfriend named Sandra (Christine Jones), but he still didn't seem to mind wooing Brenda, claiming a love of poetry. I'll tell you one thing, teenage (roles) or not, Cochise and Preach did their girls dirty. The party then comes to a screeching halt when Damon (Maurice Marshall), known for breaking up parties, arrives. He sees his girl, Loretta, kissing and dancing with Cochise, then all hell breaks loose. Needless to say, Cochise kicks his ass.


Smh+facepalm, this next scene. Jimmy Lee (Steven Williams), another apparent hustler, is sitting at a bar with an unnamed white man. Jimmy is telling this guy, "yeah man I can get you all the chicks you want!" This guy buys everything Jimmy is selling, and I mean everything. They leave the club, sitting in the man's car. He's become a little unsure, but Jimmy is still selling this guy on a "load of chicks." He gives a rather dubious line about the girls not being able to be trusted (I wondered how he knew that), then asks to "hold the guy's money" for him. That should've been an immediate red flag from the get go, but the man falls for it all. After he's sent on his way, not only does Jimmy walk off with all this man's cash, the man goes up to an apartment door, only to made a complete fool of when "Louise" is not to be found. "My money, I've been screwed!" No shit!! (Question #7. Would YOU give ALL of your cash to a total stranger??)


The crew, including Willie (Maurice Leon Havis), are on the corner singing, including a funny bit when Pooter tries to sing bass, lol. Out of nowhere, Stone and Robert pull up in a (stolen) cadillac. (Question #8. Whether you knew the people involved or not, would you ride in a stolen car??) 

 Cochise: "Oh man where you get this from?"
Robert: "Don't worry about it!"

(Facts of life: If you ask someone a question like this and receive a similar answer, it's obviously not something good and/or positive.) They offer rides to the crew. Pooter and Willie turn them down, Preach had initially refused, but ended up being talked into it by Cochise. Admittedly, this car scene, in which they also elude police, was the funniest scene in the movie. (Later, before taking a History test, they're arrested. Grand theft, auto.)


They continue to get closer, culminating, if you will, in a love scene. I always felt this was one movie where a love scene was not needed and I still feel that way today. Afterwards, they're in bed (with Preach acting like an idiot) and in one of the single most dumbest acts in movie history, Preach "accidentally" reveals that it was all a bet, smh. He says:

"Oh boy, wait till I tell Cochise I won that nigga owes me a dollar baby!"

Preach's reaction was "oh God I messed up," and Brenda was understandably pissed. On top of this, Preach's two younger sisters barge into his room as Brenda gets dressed and leaves. (Question #9. The "bet" was bad enough, but why oh why would you reveal this, WHY? It may have seemed like an accident, but I won't give Preach a pass here.) Things continue from here, as we arrive at school. Brenda opens her locker, Preach comes by and tries to talk to her; she even opened the locker so that it hit him square in the head, lol. Brenda's not buying any of it. In a dumb excuse/cover up, Preach says "all I know is that we were in bed talking, and I blacked out." Whatever dipshit, smh. As Preach continues to plead his case, Brenda walks off, only to see Sandra walking up, confirming she knew about their relationship. Out of nowhere, Brenda says, "ok I forgive you." Like a complete fool, Preach falls for this as Brenda kisses him in the most half-hearted way possible (Sandra is shocked by what she sees), then slams him against the lockers ("that's for yesterday bastard!"). Sandra comes up and asks, "what was that all about?". Preach was speechless.


Going back to Preach and Cochise's arrest, while we never saw this in the movie, it's assumed that they came clean with the police during questioning, which also led to their history teacher, Mr. Mason (Garrett Morris), convincing the police to go easy on them. Stone and Robert planned to get even. Continuing on, Preach kept a low profile of sorts after being on the receiving end of some true humiliation, unaware that best friend Cochise has started seeing Sandra on the low. That's cold right there. (Question #10. Was it wrong for Cochise to start seeing his best friend's ex??) Preach is then excited to find out that it was Mr. Mason who essentially kept them out of jail. Preach tries to catch up with Cochise, and when he gets to Jimmy Lee's crib, he walks in on Cochise, with his shirt open, and Sandra getting dressed (it was obvious to Preach what just happened). Preach is HOT at this and they almost came to blows before Jimmy Lee breaks it up. Man, that was a foul move by Cochise and I would've ended the friendship after that.


Preach goes back to Martha's diner, where he was originally banned from. He spots Brenda, they talk things out, and in a move I'll never understand, she ends up forgiving him. (Question #11. Ladies, would you have forgiven Preach after his actions??) From there, Stone and Robert arrive, which finds Preach trying to talk his way out of a potential beating. They try to chase him inside the diner, but end up getting thrown out. Another later scene finds Stone, Robert, and apparent new friend Damon chasing Preach again, but they lose him. Brenda and Preach meet up again, this time on an "L train." She then informs him that Cochise was looking for him, only to abruptly leave and go looking for him, but by then it was too late. The "treacherous three" catch Cochise and proceed to beat him up, and now when I think about it, I don't think Stone and Robert were trying to kill him. Speaking of which, it was Damon's final punch to Cochise that kills him, with his chin smacking the wood section that held up a bridge. We cut to Preach running, then he finds Tyrone, who hasn't seen Cochise. What's interesting about that small scene was Tyrone. Previously in this movie, he was acting like the rest of the crew, but here he was dressed like a gangster and looking older than he did in the prior scenes. Weird. And in one of the saddest scenes I ever witnessed in a movie, Preach continued on, only to run into the dead body of Cochise on the ground. The movie ends with Cochise's funeral and Preach paying his last respects. (It was revealed during the closing credits that Preach did go on to become a screenwriter.)

Outside of Preach, Cochise, Mr. Mason, and Jimmy Lee, the rest of the cast was pretty much never heard from again. I also remember in late '97, there was a show called VIBE on Fox 35 (remember that show) and a "Cooley High reunion" was announced. I was looking forward to it, and when it happened, it was quite sad because only three people showed up (I believe it was Glynn, Steven, and Sherman). While all involved did a good job with the roles they were given, the glaring plotholes bring this one down. History has judged this as a classic, but in my opinion it's one of very few movies from the "blaxploitation era" that doesn't hold up today outside of the funny scenes we got. Chances are I won't be watching this again, no even for ol' times sake, but I'll always remember the times when I first saw it and when I watched it constantly.

No comments:

Post a Comment