The 1974 crime/action film Solomon King, from director/actor/producer/writer Sal Watts, is set for restoration and re-release in 2022 from distributor Deaf Crocodile Films.
The film has been restored with the cooperation of the filmmaker’s widow, Belinda Burton-Watts and utilized “one of the only surviving complete prints of the film from the UCLA Film & TV Archive alongside the original soundtrack elements.” The film will be re-released theatrically and on Blu-ray and Digital following its festival run later in 2022.
“I had been praying that my husband’s accomplishments would not go unnoticed, but as the saying goes justice delayed is not always justice denied,”Belinda Burton-Watts said. “Sal would be so pleased that Dennis Bartok and Craig Rogers of Deaf Crocodile reached out to his family and explored the possibility of restoring this piece of Black history. This film will evoke a nostalgic view of life in the 1970s when so much was happening in the Black community and the world. Oakland, California is no stranger to its share of controversy and unrest. Sal was an extraordinary man who remained humble throughout his life and just wanted equality for all. He loved all people and wanted to live in a world that treated people fairly. He would be grateful to know that his film will see the light of day once more. Much like Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” where he asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?”, we will have an opportunity to see just that. I choose to believe that like a mustard seed, the dream grows and grows. Through Dennis’ and Craig’s efforts, researching the possibilities of restoring this obscure film and coming up with a solution, another generation of young people will be able to see one Black man’s vision. My husband’s vision. I am convinced that Dennis and Craig reaching out to me was a case of divine intervention.”
Solomon King stars Watts as an Black version of James Bond/Matt Helm as he seduces beautiful nightclub singers and beats up the henchmen of an oil-obsessed Middle Eastern ruler. Produced on a shoestring budget and shot on location in many of the businesses Watts owned, the film is regarded as a relic of early 70s Black culture, music, and fashion in Oakland.
“Solomon King, like Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite is both a wildly entertaining, funk-fueled action/fantasy— and a prime example of an independent Black filmmaker trying to break into the commercial film market his own way,” says Deaf Crocodile Co-Founder and Head of Acquisitions & Distribution Dennis Bartok. “Connecting with Belinda and hearing her memories about the making of the film, and her and Sal’s careers, has been truly amazing. Sal worked in so many different arenas in the 1970s— film, music, fashion, TV, and for us, telling his story is as important as restoring the film itself.”
“This journey started with Dennis’s purchase of the soundtrack LP. He shared it with me, and from the first funky notes I was immediately sold,” adds Deaf Crocodile Co-Founder and Head of Post-Production & Restoration Craig Rogers. “We then had to track down the film elements. The more we dug, the more we discovered the absolutely astonishing story of Sal Watts. Belinda has been an absolute treasure. We’re so proud to be helping to bring her late husband’s film back from obscurity. The film, and Sal, deserve to be celebrated. I hope this restoration serves as a jumping-off point for people to explore what was such an incredible period of 1970s Oakland culture and history.”