-- approximate times given are marked from the beginning of the film, not the video tape --
0:00:00 American Nightmare (Credits)
The opening credits roll as we hear Malcolm X passionately speaking. An image of an American flag changes to the Rodney King beating footage and back again revealing the flag burning to form an image of an X in the center.
0:02:48 Boston: The Shorty Treatment
A young Malcolm, or "Red" as he is nicknamed, receives his first "conk" -- a method of hair straightening, using a mixture of potatoes, egg, and burning lye -- at the hands of his closest friend, Shorty. The other men in the barbershop prepare him for the burn to come. After the conk, Malcolm is pleased with how "white" his hair looks.
0:07:10 Early Years
Malcolm recalls the terror faced by his family in rural Nebraska at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. His father was an outspoken Black nationalist, which brought on the Klan's ire. Malcolm describes his mother as light- complexioned due to the rape of her female ancestors at the hands of white slave owners, and how she hated this complexion.
0:10:05 Dancing Delirium
Malcolm and Shorty dance the night away in their colorful "Zoot Suits" at Boston's nightclub, Roseland. A white woman intensely watches Malcolm as he dances with his so-called sweetheart, Laura.
0:13:30 Laura and Sophia
Sophia asks Malcolm to dance and as they slow dance asks him to take Laura home and come back to her. Malcolm takes Laura home, but she is wise to his motivations. Malcolm and Sophia get a little intimate in her car.
0:18:14 Cops and Robbers; Earl's Death
Malcolm and Shorty play cops and robbers, impersonating Bogart and Cagney. Malcolm recalls his father's murder at the hands of the Klan and how it was ruled a suicide, voiding his insurance policy.
0:19:36 Sophia's Story
Sophia serves Malcolm breakfast in bed, and he questions her motivations for seeing him. He says that he wishes her mother and father could see her. She replies that she wishes Laura could see them.
0:21:33 "Save it for Mr. Right"; Parceled Out
Malcolm and Laura walk along the beach, and he tells her she should save her virginity for "Mr. Right." Malcolm recalls how the social services took him and his brothers and sisters away from their mother. We learn she has since been committed to a mental asylum. Malcolm recalls his school days as a well-liked, bright student; but upon declaring an interest in becoming a lawyer, his teacher suggests it an unrealistic goal and that he should become a carpenter.
0:26:04 Riding the Rails; Joe Louis' Victory
Malcolm works as a railroad waiter, and we find him and the other black workers listening to the Joe Louis fight on the radio. Malcolm spends some time in Harlem among the celebrating Joe Louis faithful.
0:29:45 West Indian Archie
In "Small's" Bar, Malcolm gets in an altercation with another patron, which piques the curiosity of the powerful criminal West Indian Archie. They have a drink together, and Malcolm makes a good impression.
0:35:10 New Clothes, New Lifestyle
Malcolm has traded in his wild zoot suits for a more conservative look as he begins to work for West Indian Archie. Archie gives Malcolm his first gun, and he becomes a succesful numbers runner. Archie turns Malcolm on to cocaine, and the two party with Sophia. Malcolm tells Archie he wants to play the number 821.
0:39:44 Familiar Face, Unfamiliar Numbers
At Small's it is clear Malcolm is a well known man, and he sees Laura with a junkie. He learns it won't be long before he will pimp her out. Malcolm tells Archie he hit on the numbers. Archie, who claims to never forget a number, is suspicious of his claim but pays out anyway.
0:45:27 Under the Gun
As Malcolm and Sophia enjoy the musical stylings of Billie Holliday, Archie accuses Malcolm of trying to play him for a fool and asks him to come outside where he is planning on having Malcolm killed. Malcolm narrowly escapes from Archie and his men.
0:47:55 "I'm a man"
Another recollection: it's nighttime, and Malcolm's father is alterted to the sound of men outside the home. He confronts the men with his gun as they set fire to the house. He fires at them as they run off and exclaims, "I'm a man." Malcolm's mother says, "Earl, I know you're a better shot than that." Another scene of Malcolm's father's murder.
0:49:52 "I was an animal"; Head Man in Charge
Malcolm rides in the backseat as Shorty and Sophia return him to Boston. The three of them, along with Sophia's younger sister, embark on a career in burglary. They set Malcolm up with Rudy, a man with intimate knowledge of Boston's wealthy. A power struggle between Malcolm and Rudy ensues with Malcolm taking charge after playing russian roulette.
0:55:53 The Jig Is Up
Malcolm and company then steal everything that isn't nailed down in the city. They are eventually caught and arrested. The girls get the minimum punishment, while Malcolm and Shorty receive the maximum 8-10 year sentence on all 17 counts. Shorty confuses the judge's decree that the sentences run concurrently with consecutively and passes out.
1:00:25 Little's Number
In prison Malcolm refuses to state his number when ordered and finds himself in the "hole." In solitary, he repeats over and over that he won't be broken. Only after spending many days in confinement does he eventually state his number, hardly coherent on the floor.
1:05:02 Malcolm Meets Baines
A prison inmate named Baine's gives Malcolm some nutmeg to get "the monkey off his back" and challenges his lifestyle. He claims there is a way for Malcolm to free himself, though it's not what Malcolm had in mind.
1:08:15 Black and White
During work detail, Baines is preaching about the tenets of Islam in clear view of the guards. This interests Malcolm, and he approaches Baines. They walk through the yard, and Malcolm begins to learn about Islam and the evils of booze, drugs, etc. Baines tells Malcolm that "God is Black," which comes as quite a shock to him. Baines then takes Malcolm to the library and shows him the power of language and knowledge as they read the definitions of black and white in the dictionary. Malcolm is intrigued.
1:14:21 Behind the Words
Malcolm and Baines walk through the prison yard and past an inmate baseball game. An inmate informs them that Jackie Robinson has just been called up to the big leagues. Baines sees this as simply a bone thrown to the black man by the white man. Baines tells Malcolm to look behind the words. He asks Malcolm what his name is. He informs Malcolm that he doesn't know who he is.
1:17:45 Vision of Elijah Muhammad
The body is a temple, declares Baines. Malcolm vows not to take the white man's poisons into his body. He vows to live an honest life as decreed by the teachings of Islam. Baines tells Malcolm that the nature of Islam is true submission and that he is required to kneel and pray to Allah fives times a day. Malcolm informs Baines that this he cannot do. The only time he had ever knelt was to pick a lock. That same day Malcolm receives a letter from the honorable Elijah Muhammad welcoming him to the Nation of Islam. Then a vision of Elijah appears before Malcolm, and he is then able to pray. We find Malcolm a changed man throughout the rest of his sentence. He has abandoned the conk for a pair of glasses -- necessary due to his voracious appetite for reading, even in the low light of his cell at night. Malcolm sends letters to all his old running mates spreading the word, many of whom find this rather amusing. Baines, now out of prison, sends Malcolm a letter offering help and guidance after Malcolm gets out of prison.
1:23:21 Color of Jesus
In Bible study Malcolm, now a well-read mature adult, questions if in fact Jesus and the Apostles were not white, but black.
1:25:27 Malcolm Meets Elijah
After prison Malcolm is granted an audience with Elijah Muhammad himself. The leader of the Nation of Islam embraces Malcolm, who has tears in his eyes. He then tells Malcolm the story of Job from the Bible and believes that, like Job, Malcolm will be faithful.
1:27:21 The Preacher
Malcolm is now working full-time alongside Brother Baines for the Nation of Islam, where he meets Brother Earl. At this point Malcolm is a street preacher, competing with all the other men on pulpits in the heart of the ghetto. It seems people aren't too receptive to their message.
1:30:48 Reunions with Shorty and Archie
As Malcolm is speaking before a sparse gathering at a Muslim temple, Shorty walks in and is acknowleged by Malcolm. They embrace to the applause of the few people in attendance. At lunch, Shorty thinks Malcolm's role as a minister is a hustle. Malcolm informs him this is not the case and learns of the sad events surrounding the lives of the "old gang." Shorty doesn't know what's become of West Indian Archie, however. Malcolm finds Archie in a ratty apartment, incapacitated by what appears to be a stroke. The image of Archie in his pathetic state is a sharp contrast to his former self. Malcolm offers his help, and Archie informs him that he never really wanted to kill him.
1:35:55 Our Women
Walking down the street, Malcolm sees Laura hooking. After giving an address to a packed temple, Baines introduces Malcolm to Sister Betty. Elijah Muhammad explains to Malcolm what is desirable in a female Muslim.
1:40:17 One Woman: Betty
Malcolm and Betty get to know each other better as they walk through a museum and share ice-cream.
1:43:17 Turnout for Brother Johnson
Commotion in the streets: a young black man relays the account of a man getting beat by the police. Malcolm, now a leader of men, and his Muslim Brothers confront the police over the issue of the man's medical care. A large group of Muslims gather outside the station, and Malcolm demands to see Brother Johnson.
1:48:49 Potential Young Warrior
Impressed with the power and pride displayed by the Nation, the young black man who recounted the story of the beating approaches Malcolm in the diner. He wants to join the Nation of Islam. Malcolm tells him to come to the temple the following night.
1:51:17 Pure Vessel
Elijah Muhammad tells Malcolm that he will be his national minister. He warns Malcolm of the pending attention he will receive and that "The cameras can be worse than any narcotic." He then explains to Malcolm that if given the choice between a pure and soiled vessel, people will choose the pure one.
1:53:45 "You're with me, even when you're away"
Malcolm proposes to Betty from a payphone, and she accepts. He prepares her for the life that they will have to live. She tells him that "You're with me, even when you're away."
1:56:41 Black Intelligence (see essay) (see film clip)
In Harlem, Malcolm gives a fiery speech about the condition of the Black man in America. He does so standing in front of a mural containing portraits of non-white heads of state throughout the world. In front of a huge Muslim crowd, Malcolm delivers another address with Elijah Muhammad present. The scene cuts to clips of other black leaders whom Malcolm refers to as "Uncle Toms."
2:02:32 Media Glare
As a guest on the television program, "Our World Today," Malcolm explains the nature of the X and compares certain black leaders to the "house Negro" of slavery. The scene cuts to other interviews and television soudbytes of Malcolm. Baines and Elijah Muhammad feel that he might be getting too much press.
2:06:40 Harvard; Coming Explosion
On the Harvard campus a white female student asks Malcolm what she can do to help his cause. His cold reply is simply, "Nothing." At Harvard Malcolm addresses a large lecture hall of predominantly white students and faculty. Malcolm gives another speech to a huge Muslim audience, again with Elijah Muhammad present both in the flesh and as a gigantic portrait. In it he says that American race relations is a powder keg about to explode.
2:13:10 Possibilty of Betrayal
At home, Betty and Malcolm have a talk to leads to an argument. Betty tells Malcolm that he is in trouble. Elijah Muhammad faces two paternity suits, and Betty wants Malcolm to "wake up." She tells him that Baines and others are lining against him. She wants to know why the other leaders of the Nation live in luxury while they scrape by. Betty tells Malcolm that his family needs him. Why can't he face the possibilty of betrayal? she asks.
Malcolm meets with the two women filing the suit against Elijah Muhammad and they confirm his fears. All they want is for Elijah Muhammad to help support the children.
2:20:40 Baines' Warning
Malcolm meets with Baines and asks about all they money the Nation is making. Baines says that the people want their leaders to live well. Malcolm calls him a two-bit hustler and quotes Baines from prison about the word of Allah. Baines says a man's good deeds outweigh his bad and warns Malcolm to be careful.
2:22:56 Shattered Faith
Unhappy over Malcolm's growing fame, Elijah Muhammad tells him that he is the last prophet of the Nation and after him there will be no more. At this point Malcolm's faith is shattered and thinks about leaving the Nation. He informs Betty of this decision and says he will keep working.
2:25:31 JFK Killed
Malcolm makes some inflammatory remarks about the assassination of JFK -- how the white man is reaping the seed of violence, and how roosters always come home to roost. He says it's justice. Elijah Muhammad condemns Malcolm for his quotes and suspends him from speaking for 90 days.
2:29:19 Marked for Death
The phone rings and a pensive Betty answers it. The person on the end of the line, who sounds like a member of the Nation, informs Betty that Malcolm is "one dead, red nigger." She says, "Leave us alone." Malcolm and Brother Sidney come home to find her visibly shaken. After Betty takes the kids to bed, Sidney informs Malcolm that the Nation gave him an order to assassinate him and that he can't go through with it. Malcolm says that now Sidney will be marked for death himself.
2:32:18 Pilgrimage to Mecca
Malcolm announces his separation from the Nation of Islam at a press conference. He says that he will now speak his own words and attempt a "more flexible approach" to working with other Negro leaders. At the press conference, Malcolm says that he will make a pilgrimage to Mecca and the Middle East. Malcolm is watched by two white men as he interacts with the people of Egypt and looks for a guide to the Great Pyramids.
2:35:51 Among the Pyramids; Letter Home
Malcolm is followed by the two white men as he visits the pyramids. In a letter to Betty, Malcolm tells her of his experiences abroad and that he is aware that he is being followed. He thinks that they are CIA. Betty reads from Malcolm's letter to a small group of his friends and followers. In it he says that he has received a spiritual awakening at the sacred city of Mecca. He says that he prayed and lived among people of all colors and backgrounds. He will no longer make "sweeping indictments" of any race.
2:42:18 Return Home
Back in the United States, Malcolm informs the press of his new stance and fields questions about his stances, former and current, on some issues. He still intends to go to the U.N. seeking reparations for the treatment of African-Americans. He still feels that blacks should arm themselves according to their rights. Malcolm establishes the Muslim Mosque, Inc.
2:45:38 Death Threats; Firebombing
An anonymous caller informs Malcolm that he is "one dead, red, nigger, brother." In bed, Malcolm tells Betty that he is sorry for everything that has been happening and for not being around. Later that night he hears something outside and gets his gun. A firebomb smashes against the house, igniting it. A reporter interviews Malcolm as his home burns to the ground. Malcolm indicts the Nation of Islam for the attack. In a clip from an interview, Baines smiles and says that the Nation believes the incident to be a publicity stunt on the part of Malcolm.
In a dank, dark room, serveral serious looking black men sit around an arsenal of small arms, including a sawed-off shotgun.
2:50:35 "Peace be unto you"
Malcolm checks into a hotel to prepare for his upcoming speech. Brother Earl calls and suggests tightening security, but Malcolm advocates making the people feel comfortable. Before they hang up, Malcolm wishes Earl peace.
2:52:00 Death Watch
The assassins case the Audubon Ballroom during a youth dance. In the hotel, Malcolm ignores the ringing phone and repeatedly hangs up on the incessant callers. At home, Betty gets another threat. She hysterically picks up the phone to find that it is Malcolm. Malcolm tells her not to come to the speech tomorrow, but she insists. He tells her that he is going to stop saying that it's the Nation who is after him. The camera pans to a bug planted on the lamp in Malcolm's hotel room. We see two white men monitoring his conversation.
2:56:30 February 21, 1965
Three cars are driving towards the Audubon Ballroom in New York City: Malcolm rides alone in one, Betty is traveling with their four children in another, and the assassins ride silently in the third. Betty and the children arrive early. When one of the girls drops her doll, one of the assassins picks it up for her. Malcolm walks down the street in a dream-like state as Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come plays. An older, black woman stops him, and he somewhat awakens from his trance. She asks him if he is OK. He says that he is. She says that she recognizes him and he should keep doing what he's doing, Jesus will protect him.
2:59:39 Audubon Ballroom Backstage
There are some problems with the speech -- the charter isn't ready, and the opening speaker, the reverend Chickenwing, has not arrived. Malcolm is unusually and visibly irritated. Earl asks him what the matter? Malcolm express some misgivings about the day's speech to Brother Earl. Regardless, he intends to make the address.
As Malcolm begins to speak, a disturbance in the crowd causes a commotion. A smoke bomb goes off and some men approach the podium. Malcolm sees them as they raise their guns to fire. A shotgun blast throws him on his back, and the rest of the assassins approach him and fire multiple shots into his body. There is mass confusion as a shootout ensues between the assassins and Malcolm's bodyguards. A few people are hit including the assassins, and a few are caught. Betty cradles Malcolm's lifeless body and screams for help.
3:07:30 Ossie Davis' Eulogy
The voice of black actor Ossie Davis delivers Malcolm's eulogy to still images of Malcolm smiling and speaking, meeting with heads of state, and talking to children. Davis says, "Malcolm was our manhood, our living Black manhood."
3:10:51 "I am Malcolm X"; Nelson Mandela
In a present day New York City public school on Malcolm X's birthday, May 19th, a teacher talks about Malcolm and informs her students that they are all, themselves, Malcolm X. The children stand up and shout, "I am Malcolm X!" The scene changes to children in Africa exclaiming, "I am Malcolm X!" Nelson Mandela speaks to the children of the importance of Malcolm X.
3:12:13 End Credits
Copyright (c) 2003 John "Jaycee" Culhane, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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