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Zakes Mokae films 1990s
A mixed decade on film for Mokae- A Rage in Harlem, Slaughter of the Innocents and Krippendorf's Tribe are best forgotten, but Dust Devil is a cult classic. And Mokae can still appear in major Holywood films such as Waterworld.
A Rage in Harlem directed by actor (Predator) turned director Bill Duke with a strong cast of Gregory Hines, Danny Glover and Forrest Whitaker. 1991.
The tag line of the film is "In the next 24 hours they'll have to outrun the law, outsmart the mob and outshoot the competition". The film is based on a Chester Himes novel but cannot handle the complexity of the plot, and the film rambles through improbable episodes. The actors also seem to be uninterested in the film and have no spark.
Forest Whitaker works at an undertakers, and he goes to the Annual Undertaker's Ball though he seems to be the only undertaker. The scenes are like a much poorer version of Coppola's The Cotton Club. But the only imaginative part of the film is the performance of Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Mokae appears in drag as Big Kathy, running a cathouse, one of his worst roles, though thankfully in the latter part of the film the drag is ditched.
The opening credits, a series of murals, are beautiful.
Images from the DVD of the film.
The Doctor, directed by Randa Haines with William Hurt. Haines had worked with Hurt before in Children of a Lesser God, but this is a significantly weaker film. 1991.
Hurt plays Jack McKee, a surgeon, who has disdain for his patients "a surgeon's job is to cut".
However McKee is diagnosed with cancer and the doctor becomes the patient.
Ironically surgery is not recommended and McKee is given six weeks radiation therapy. Mokae is one of the specialists treating Hurt. A good small character role, though uncredited
As McKee experience the frustrations of a patient- the endless forms to fill in, decisions being made elsewhere- his arrogance begins to fall away.
"As can happen in film versions of major conversions, The Doctor occasionally paints things in rather broad strokes, and its first half (the problem) is more interesting than its second (the solution). In spite of this, the film provides an excellent study of a physician’s difficulties in dealing with his own vulnerability. The attitudes underlying Jack McKee’s difficulties are persuasively linked to the offensively anti-empathetic style of his medical practice" (from NYU Langone Health, annotated by John Woodcock, click here).
There is some good composition from Cinematographer by John Seale.
Body Parts directed by Eric Red who also co-wrote the script from the book Choice Cuts by crime writing duo Boileau and Narcejac (other work by them included Vertigo). 1991. Spare part surgery turns into horror.
Jeff Fahey plays a psychiatrist who loses an arm in an accident. Experimental surgery means he is given a transplant, but the arm came from a mass murderer and seems to be taking over Fahey´s life.
Mokae plays Detective Sawchuck who originally captured the mass murderer and saw the transplant operation where the killer died.
Fahey also contacts other people who received transplanted limbs from the murderer, and one seems to be painting scenes which could be of murders.
Fahey discovers other body parts and a conspiracy emerges.
A good character role by Mokae. Mokae and Fahey would work together again in Parker Kane.
Dust Devil directed by Richard Stanley. 1993. A cult horror classic with the Dust Devil roaming the deserts of Namibia. Women are being killed and Zakes Mokae plays Sergeant Ben Mukurob who is assigned to the cases.
The shape-shifter, played by Robert John Burke, comes to Bethany, a town dying of drought. The railway station is where "people get on in Bethany, nobody gets off". Chelsea Fields plays Wendy Robinson, escaping an abusive marriage.
Wendy tries to escape in the desert and she and Mokae tackle the Dust Devil, but Mokae does not survive.
A new Dust Devil emerges.
Zakes Mokae is thoroughly convincing, well up to his best horror acting. Director Richard Stanley says "I probably forged the closest relationship with Zakes who plays the films hero Ben Mukurob the cop. Zakes is a veteran of the armed struggle and in fact had spent time in prison during the apartheid regime and was treated very very badly by the people out there. As a gesture of understanding to the dark forces that were out there that were controlling the planet I though it would be a good gesture to cast Zakes as a South African policeman in a reverse of the part that he is normally identified with."
Below is a scene from the work print, not in the directors cut.
All images from the DVD (directors cut and work print). Director quote from the insightful DVD commentary. The Dust Devil 4 DVD 1 CD edition is recommended- as well as the directors cut, with commentary and extras, there is also the two hour work print of the film plus a CD of the music. The other DVDs in the set include three of the director's documentaries also worth seeing.
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