Sweet Sugar (1972)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/7/18
Cast: Phyllis Davis, Ella Edwards, Cliff Osmond

Prostitute Sugar Bowman (Phyllis Davis) is set up and busted for drug possession, and sent to a labor camp to cut sugar cane. She's a stuck-up bitch who thinks she's better than everyone else, and defiantly asserts that she's "not a hooker," even though she clearly is. However, hard labor and dangerously corrupt wardens strip away her pride, and she quickly learns that it's in her best interests to make friends with her fellow inmates and support them when there's trouble. The women are also subjected to bizarre medical experiments by the sadistic and lascivious Dr. John. Sugar responds extremely favorably to a native aphrodisiac, to the point where her libido overloads and destroys the doctor's lab equipment. But she refuses to give in to his repeated advances, and he punishes the rest of the camp for his sexual frustration. And did I mention there's a voodoo subplot? Naturally, Sugar wants out and plans a daring escape with several of the other women. Armed with only machetes, they use their honey lips and seductive bodies to compromise the weaker guards and make a run for the border.

This sleazy grindhouse romp gets straight to the point, and within the first 90 seconds, Phyllis Davis is already taking off her clothes and smoking a joint. Ella Edwards plays a rival prostitute, which gives the film a bit of a blaxploitation angle as well. It hits all of the highlights for the genre: sex, nudity, rape, torture, misogynistic brutality, murder, whips, drugs, voodoo, naked shower scenes, catfights (including real cats), lesbianism, cannibalism, mutilation, drunken brawls, scandalously revealing clothing, and obviously loose morals. It's all pretty grim and unpleasant, so a couple of goofy male characters are thrown in to try and add some adult humor. Phyllis Davis and Ella Edwards give strong and solid performances, and it's nice to see them in action with some borrowed machine guns. After Sugar escapes, she goes back to being a prostitute, so there's no real point to the story. She neither grows as a character or gets justice and revenge against the man who set her up. It's as if the moral of the story is "once a whore, always a whore." Production wise, it's a competent and decent looking film, but only genre enthusiasts will be able to actually enjoy it.