Melvin Van Peebles

Watermelon Man

Watermelon Man

Melvin Van Peebles’s only foray into Hollywood filmmaking, Watermelon Man is one of the most audacious, radically conceived works to be financed by a major American studio in the 1970s. Comedian Godfrey Cambridge delivers a virtuoso performance (initially in whiteface) as Jeff Gerber, a loudmouthed, bigoted white insurance salesman whose sitcomlike suburban existence is jarringly upended when he wakes up to discover, in a wild spin on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, that he has become a Black man. What ensues is a ferocious satire of society’s racist double standards that gradually transforms into an empowering portrait of awakening Black consciousness, executed with a mix of acerbic irreverence and deadly serious political commentary by a relentlessly subversive Van Peebles.

Film Info

  • United States
  • 1970
  • 100 minutes
  • Color
  • 1.85:1
  • English
  • Spine #1094

Available In

Collector's Set

Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

Blu-ray Box Set

5 Discs


Watermelon Man
Godfrey Cambridge
Jeffrey Gerber
Estelle Parsons
Althea Gerber
Scott Garrett
Burton Gerber
Erin Moran
Janice Gerber
Howard Caine
Mr. Townsend
Mantan Moreland
Kay E. Kuter
Dr. Wainwright
D’Urville Martin
Bus driver
Kay Kimberly
Melvin Van Peebles
Produced by
John B. Bennett
Executive producer
Leon Mirell
Written by
Herman Raucher
Director of photography
W. Wallace Kelley
Music by
Melvin Van Peebles
Film editor
Carl Kress
Music editor
Ralph Hall