Perhaps because he played Andy Brown on televisionís Amos and Andy, perhaps because he worked for the white-owned Sack Amusement Enterprises, perhaps because he helmed fewer than a dozen films, African American director Spencer Williamsí career has been eclipsed by that of Oscar Micheaux. But Williams was a unique and considerable talent, working as a writer and actor in race movies for years before getting the opportunity to direct The Blood of Jesus in 1941.
In a small town, Martha Jackson (Cathryn Caviness) is baptized while her husband Ras (Spencer Williams), goes hunting. At home Rasí rifle accidentally goes off, hitting Martha and passing through the picture of Jesus on the wall. Members of the congregation pray at Marthaís bedside but she dies. Ras is crushed. An angel appears and takes Martha an a journey to test her faith. She is given a choice of roads and takes the one that leads to degradation. The angel and the devil fight for Marthaís soul, and eventually she is cleansed in the blood of Jesus, awakening in her bed and announcing that she is going to get well.
This is a simple, heartfelt story and an instance where a filmís low budget is actually enhancing. The picture has the rough-hewn quality of folk ad and the emotional intensity of a spiritual. Williams invests his film with reverence and a feeling of authenticity, and he and the rest of the cast give natural and unaffected performances. Whether youíre a saint or a sinner, youíll find The Blood of Jesus unlike any film youíve seen before, one which deserves a place among the great low-budget films of all time.
--Eric Schaefer, Exploitation Film Historian
Cathryn CavinessOther cast:
Spencer WilliamsDirected by: