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Penitentiary II (1982) - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

5 beers

Gloves?! You want gloves? I’ll give you gloves!

I don’t know when I first came to know the might and marvel of the swift-footed Penitentiary trilogy but I can tell you it was on a crummy clamshell-encased VHS copy, tattered and well-viewed. I was immediately hooked by the gritty world that unfolded before me. I’m not even sure that I started with the first film. What I can tell you is that it was the fantastic cover art that brought me the inside this ongoing tale of retribution in the face of serious evil. And, thanks to this new blu-ray release, both the cover art and Too Sweet himself come out swinging!

Vinegar Syndrome, mere weeks after giving us the original 1979 classic of exploitation filmmaking, returns to the cell to give us – ding, ding, ding – ROUND TWO of Too Sweet’s boxing exploits. The results are superb. Written, produced and directed by the original’s creator, Jamaa Fanaka, and featuring the music of Jack Wheaton, Penitentiary II is a rematch worthy of the wait. Even Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) himself takes aim. Featuring Glynn Turman from Cooley High and Gremlins as one of Too Sweet’s only friends and a great cast of character actors, this film packs a solid punch.

And the second one, rather smartly enough considering Rocky III’s soon high – features Mr. T as – you guessed it - Mr. T,  as Too Sweet's boxing coach. But, hell, this movie is nothing without the funk that swaddles its urban grime. Too Sweet might be free from the cell in this one but the cool beats follow him through the streets and straight into the ring. And I thought the score of the first film was on fire! No, no, no. THIS is the disco inferno! And to think that the killer tracks on this soundtrack have yet to be compiled for a traditional release. FOR SHAME!

In Penitentiary II, Too Sweet returns rather reluctantly to the ring. Ever earnest in all he does, Martel "Too Sweet" Gordone (Leon Isaac Kennedy) wants a normal life now that he has been granted parole. Unfortunately, he finds himself in the center of yet another tragedy when his new girlfriend meets her demise at the hands of one bad motherfucker named Half Dead (a very engaged Ernie Hudson), who is out for revenge against Too Sweet for not accepting – how does the opening Star Wars-inspired scrawl put it? – his nocturnal advances.

One does not shame Half Dead. His is to be feared only.

The film is a diamond in the rough. With cartoonish violence leading the charge and a one-two punch to the gut, Penitentiary II absolutely delivers one helluva sequel that matches its precursor blow for blow, round for round. There is not one wasted minute in this fully charged production as Too Sweet steps back in the ring to take control of something that seems be spiraling out into the void.

Co-starring Peggy Blow, Sephton Moody, Donovan Womack, Malik Carter, Stan Kamber, Cepheus Jaxon, and Marvin Jones, Fanaka’s follow-up feature in the Too Sweet legacy sticks and moves like the champ it is, proving once and for all that audiences will turn out and turn up for Black America.  Thank you, Vinegar Syndrome, for this bonus round of filth and fury.


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Film Details

Penitentiary II (1982) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 108 mins
Director: Jamaa Fanaka
Writer: Jamaa Fanaka
Cast: Leon Isaac Kennedy, Glynn Turman, Ernie Hudson
Genre: Drama | Action
Tagline: He's Too Fast, Two Fisted ... "Too Sweet"!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm going to be the champion of the world."
Theatrical Distributor: United Artists
Official Site: 
Release Date: April 2, 1982
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 27, 1982
Synopsis: Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone (Leon Isaac Kennedy) has just been paroled. Trying diligently to stay out of trouble, he rekindles an old fling with his former girlfriend Clarisse and begins a job as a delivery roller-skater. But when his prison arch nemesis, Half Dead, breaks out of jail and murders Clarisse, Too Sweet is forced to return to his old life and seek vengeance the only way he knows how…



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Penitentiary II (1982) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Limited Edition of 1,500 units

Home Video Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome
Available on Blu-ray - February 27, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set

Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Vinegar Syndrome’s newly scanned 4k transfer from the 35mm original camera negative is a widescreen work of art. With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a fully engaged DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track, the film looks all new again. Black levels are solid and deep, engaging shadows on the cell walls and adding an unexpected depth to the widescreen lens. Beads of sweat glisten with clarity. Skin tones are saturated and damn near perfect and so are the details in the clothing the characters wear. This is easily the best this film has ever looked.



Featuring a 2012 commentary by Jamaa Fanaka, this recording has plenty of details about the success of the first, the budget of the second, and its own special legacy that shows no sign of aging.

Special Features:

Outside of the commentary track and the brand new 4k transfer, the disc comes loaded with an archival interview with Jamaa Fanaka about how to deal with filmmaking and those pesky contracts. A new interview with Leon Isaac Kennedy follows that and, rounding out the release, is a look at the film’s trailer and a listen of the film’s funky isolated score.

Isolated Score
In the Raw (28 min)
Too Sweet on the Outside (16 min)



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Penitentiary II (1982) - Blu-ray Review