GenreAction, Crime, Horror Music directorDino Fekaris, Nick Zesses WriterTim Kelly LanguageEnglish
Release dateFebruary 7, 1974 (1974-02-07) CastMarki Bey (Diana 'Sugar' Hill), Robert Quarry (Morgan), Don Pedro Colley (Baron Samedi), Betty Anne Rees (Celeste), Richard Lawson (Valentine), Zara Cully (Mama Maitresse) Similar moviesHotel Transylvania 2, Zombie Lake, The Beyond, Hotel Transylvania, What We Do in the Shadows, Inglourious Basterds
TaglineMeet SUGAR HILL and her ZOMBIE HIT MEN...the mafia has never met anything like them!
The original sugar hill 1974
Sugar Hill is a 1974 American horror blaxploitation zombie film released by AIP. It starred Marki Bey as the title character who uses voodoo to get revenge on the people responsible for her boyfriend's death. The zombies in this film more closely resemble the creatures of voodoo legend - i.e., the walking dead who do the bidding of a human master - than the flesh-eating "living dead" ghouls popularized by George A. Romero. According to the film, the zombies are the preserved bodies of slaves brought to the United States from Guinea. American International Pictures had previously combined the horror and blaxploitation genres with Blacula (1972) and its sequel, Scream Blacula Scream (1973).
The story centers on Diana "Sugar" Hill (Bey), a photographer whose boyfriend, nightclub owner Langston (Larry D. Johnson), has been killed by mob boss Morgan (Robert Quarry) and his men when he refused to sell the club to Morgan. Sugar seeks the help of a former voodoo queen named Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully) to take revenge on Morgan and his thugs. Mama summons the voodoo lord of the dead, Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), who enlists his army of zombies to destroy the men who killed Langston and now want the club. Investigating the killings is Sugar's former boyfriend, police Lt. Valentine (Richard Lawson).
Marki Bey as Diana Hill
Robert Quarry as Morgan
Don Pedro Colley as Baron Samedi
Betty Anne Rees as Celeste
Richard Lawson as Valentine
Zara Cully as Mama Maitresse
Charles P. Robinson as Fabulous
Larry D. Johnson as Langston
Rick Hagood as Tank Watson
Ed Geldart as O'Brien
Albert J. Baker as George
Raymond E. Simpson, III as King
Thomas C. Carroll as Baker
Big Walter Price as Preacher
Charles Krohn as Captain Merrill
J. Randall Bell as Parkhurst
Peter Harrell, III as Police Photographer
Judy Hanson as Masseuse
Gary W. Chason as Lab Technician
Roy L. Downey as Stevedore
Garrett Scales as Crew Chief
John E. Scarborough as Uniformed Cop
The film, budgeted at $350,000, was shot on location in Houston at such locations as the Heights branch of the Houston Public Library (a historical landmark), used in the film as a "Voodoo Institute". Sugar Hill was the last film Quarry did for AIP, after a run that included the Count Yorga movies. Also appearing in the film was Cully, who played Mama Jefferson on the TV show The Jeffersons. Charles P. Robinson, known for his role as Mac Robinson on NBC's Night Court, portrayed the character of Fabulous. Hank Edds created the makeup effects for the zombies in the film.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by American International Pictures in February 1974. It was cut to 83 minutes for television and retitled The Zombies of Sugar Hill.
The film was released on VHS by Orion Home Video in 1996., and on DVD in October 2011 as part of MGM's Limited Edition series.
Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle called it "a humorously dated blaxploitation feature" whose zombies "represent a throwback to the classic zombie conceptualization of the '30s and '40s". Adam Tyner of DVD Talk rated it 4 out of 5 stars and wrote, "Creepy, sexy, sleazy, and a borderline-surreal amount of fun, Sugar Hill is a perfect movie for a Halloween marathon and probably my single favorite blaxploitation flick, period".
In popular culture
Rapper MF Doom sampled several audio clips from the film under his alias King Geedorah on the album Take Me to Your Leader (2003).