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Black Caesar (1973)

Cast: Margaret Avery, Margaret Avery, Patrick McAllister, more...
Director: Larry Cohen, Larry Cohen
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: MGM
Genre: Crime, Blaxploitation
Running Time: 94 min.
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: Spanish, French
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Recently Rented By DLeonard

Cult director Larry Cohen (It's Alive) directed this violent blaxploitation film. Nasty racist John McKinney cripples a black shoeshine boy, who grows up to be Tommy Gibbs (Fred Williamson), the Godfather of Harlem. The crimelord now has his tormentor McKinney (Art Lund) in his pocket, based on the cop's mob ties. Tommy's traitorous girlfriend Helen (Gloria Hendry) hands over the evidence, and McKinney moves in for the kill. But he may have underestimated the violent Tommy, who makes him shine his shoes in blackface while singing "Mammy." Rick Baker provided makeup effects, and James Brown did the music for this bloody oddity, followed the same year by Hell Up in Harlem. Cohen and Williamson got together 23 years later for an interesting (if unsuccessful) attempt at reviving the genre, Original Gangstas. ~ Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

This "Godfather of Harlem" should be whacked by Lastcrackerjack May 9, 2006 - 6:31 PM PDT
Written, produced and directed by Larry Cohen, who was considered to be a good director of Black actors because his debut film "Bone" featured Yaphet Kotto. Cohen was approached by Sammy Davis Jr. about doing a dramatic role in the crime genre, leading Cohen to pen a treatment based on "Little Caesar" to play off Sammy's height.

Samuel Arkoff's American International Pictures quickly put it into production with Williamson to cash in on the "Blaxploitation" craze. "Black Caesar" was promoted as "The Godfather of Harlem" and was a big hit.

Other than an attention grabbing opening sequence that takes place in 1953, set to the first of three bad ass James Brown songs, "Down and Out In New York City", "Black Caesar" has surprisingly little else going on. Art Lund stands out as the towering mick cop who is Tommy's childhood nemesis, but otherwise, the entire cast here is a talent vacuum.

"Black Caesar" is routine, unimaginative and dull. The movie was shot in a mere 18 days on a $450,000 budget, but features none of the rain dog grittiness or entertaining style that so many more of AIP's "Blaxploitation" flicks like "Coffy" or "Blacula" would boast.

Makeup effects master Rick Baker, then a mere apprentice, was on hand to provide the bullet holes and a fake ear that Tommy slices off with a razor blade.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.09)
35 Votes
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