Honky 1971

So anyone who regularly reads S & A knows all too well that whenever a film or TV show that deals with interracial relationship comes up, for example, the recent Cheerios commercial or the Anchorman 2 trailer, it really gets a lot of people all riled up (or perhaps, more accurately, turned on).

Even the recent Anchorman post caused one of our regular readers to even post a long list that dealt with an interracial coupling between a black woman and white guy that he could think of.

However, he forgot a major one, which may not be surprising since it most likely came out before he was born, and it hasn’t really been seen or even made available for decades. But it was something of a minor sensation when it first came out in the fall of 1971.

I'm talking about to Honky starring Brenda Sykes. John Neilson and William Marshall.

The film was an independently produced and distributed film, which probably, due to its touchy subject matter, no major Hollywood studio would pick it up for distribution. It was directed by William Graham, who had an over 40-year career directing TV network episodes and TV movies. Honky was one of the few theatrical films that he directed, and, not surprisingly, it’s efficiently done and solidly performed, although it has no real distinctive flavor to it.

True, in watching the film today, it may seem very corny at times and quite dated, but keep in mind it is very much a product of its time and reflective of the tenor of the times with its strong anti-establishment message, back when there were student protests against the Vietnam War and urban riots seemingly every week.

The film deals with, of course, an interracial relationship between two high schoolers, Sykes (who I think was one of the most gorgeous women in films at the time and better known as Perry King’s slave mistress in Mandingo) and Neilson, whose character’s nickname in the film is Honky.

The flip on the concept is that it’s Sykes who comes from a well-to-do successful family while Neilson comes from a poor, dysfunctional one, instead of the more obvious way around.

Of course their relationship brings out all sorts of anger and resentment from people, and the lovebirds eventually decide to run off together to California in the hopes of finding a better life without harassment.

The unexpected twist however, is the final climax. Unlike the accepted “peace and love and why can’t we all get along for a hopeful future” ending, the film ends shockingly and brutally, which stunned audiences at the time. No matter where they go, the ugly specter of hatred and racism would always find them

Years ago the film was available on VHS, but it’s never been released on DVD. But despite that, over the past few years, the film has begun to develop something of a minor cult following. 

It is worth watching, especially from the perspective and attitudes from 40 years ago and with the knowledge that, in many ways, things haven’t changed that much during all this time.

Here’s the trailer: