Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

Movie Reviews 323 – The Crying Game (1992)

December 8, 2017

Many movies have defining moments, ones that change the direction or perspective of the story. Other movies have memorable scenes where either great acting or dialogue have become quintessential moments of cinematic history. But I can only think of one movie, The Crying Game, where one particular scene not only changes perspectives, but defines what the movie is really all about. The jolt not only changes the entire plot but also the very nature of the film. And in this film, what as scene it is!

I will begin by making it clear that I will not divulge that surprise for those that have not seen the film and have managed to not having it spoiled by the media or other means. But the scene in question is so dynamic that any discussion of the film pretty much begins with that one scene. In a way those people who still don’t know about it are to be envied the shock that awaits them.

Set sometime in the 1980’s during North Ireland’s “Troubles” the film begins as a typical political thriller with the IRA capturing and holding Jody (Forest Whitaker), an off duty British soldier. Fergus (Stephen Rea), one of the more reluctant abductors, befriends his captive much to the chagrin of his more militant IRA peers (Miranda Richardson and Adrian Dunbar). The narrative settles on that friendship and the threat of Jody’s death lest the demands of the abductors not be met. Indeed the growing bond between the two could have been the entire plot and it would have been satisfying enough. But the circumstances on how the kidnapping ends has Fergus seeking Jody’s former girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) without telling her of his former connection to Jody.

Whether the initial interest was simply guilt laden or some other unknown reason, once Fergus injects himself into Dil’s world the attraction between the two grows despite each having reservations at first. Fergus’ reluctance is understood given the real connection to Dil but she too is hesitant just when commitment seems evident. What Dil eventually reveals stuns both Fergus and the audience. To say that it changes everything is an understatement. Dealing with that revelation elicits soul searching and uncertainty between the characters, and I suspect the audience just as much. As confusing as it is for Fergus he is them confronted by the return of some of his old IRA peers who have perilous plans for him.

The movie makes constant use and references to the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog which ponders the nature of man and whether one can change that nature, perfectly capturing the essence of this film.

For a real 1990’s throwback enjoy Boy George (remember him?) singing the title theme song which had actually been around long before the movie. The song selection in the score contains a few other choice tunes reflective of the plot and all I’ll say is that this is all apropos once you see this movie.

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Movie Reviews 322 – Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

December 1, 2017

I’m not sure how I ended up deciding to buy my Beyond the Black Rainbow DVD from my deep discount supplier, but even for the measly $1.50 I paid I feel I was robbed. I knew nothing about the film except perhaps from its brief IMDB description and rating which was enticing enough, but now I feel that perhaps a more thorough search was warranted. As is usually the case, I cannot say this movie was 100% bad, but the few good things were nowhere near enough to make up for the bad, and also as usual I need to explain a few things.

Let’s be clear right from the start on one point. This is an art film. That in itself is not a problem for me although I confess I prefer conventional films with linear plots, fleshed out characters and a modicum of a decent story. This film fails on all three accounts. I enjoy art films in small doses like Bunũel’s Un Chien Andalou, or more rounded art films like a Bergman or a Fellini. Give me a Kurosawa, Truffaut or Lynch any day. But the plot here can basically summed up in two seconds and the rest is all non-verbal contemplation and visual razzle-dazzle.

What little there is of story consists of a scientist/preacher creating the Arboria Institute, a human nirvana of sedated happiness and joy. Now elderly and heavily sedated himself, Dr. Arboria is under the control of Barry (Michael Rogers), a man obsessed with Elena (Eva Allen) Arboria’s sole catatonic occupant. Elena manages to escape to discover the lush, green world awaiting outside. Add about five minutes of dialogue, a space-suited, laser touting guard, phone conversations with metalic grinding sounds, and a giant self lit plastic pyramid in a room to what I’ve described and Tadah! Cue the end credits.To give you a sense of what you’re in for, the dialog is so infrequent we only get to hear a third person speak at the 30 minute mark, and that is one of the Elena one of the two main characters.

I did say there was some good didn’t I? The one thing that was at times appealing were the visuals which the filmmakers obviously put a lot of effort into. While the aesthetics are often barren and empty much like THX-1138, the cinematography also often employed a neon palette with futuristic implements. The varied angles and extensive use of mirrors and mirror effects on glass panes and flooring resulted in simulated split image layouts. This would have been fine for a short film, but in a feature with little else to offer it too became repetitive and bland.

On thing that was clear was that director Panos Cosmatos must be a huge fan of the late, great Stanley Kubrick as he drops references and even outright steals lines from 2001 A Space Odyssey. So evident was this reverence that he even stole the zero gravity room rotation bit. I wish the director actually had paid more attention as to how Kubrick made great films since the HAL 9000 computer had more personality than anyone in this film. I was just waiting for an embryo closeup scene and I swear there is even a near swipe on that. Homage is one thing, mimicking and copying are another.

I have to say that this was one tough movie to watch. I rarely cut out on a movie despite it being not to my liking, being an optimistic viewer who patiently waits and hopes that a film will turn a corner and deliver. Under normal circumstances I think I would have bailed out on this one but I really hoped to do a review thinking this was an entirely different type of film. As my hopes dimmed in the first few minutes I began thinking about swapping discs with Scorsese’s Mean Streets, one of the few of Marty’s I have yet to watch. A few minutes later, any Film Noir sounded good. Things got a little more desperate at the twenty minute mark as I began to wonder about those early Jackie Chan films sitting on my shelves. But by the half hour mark even a Pauly Shore flick was starting to sound good to me. How low could I go? But I toughed it out for this review. Not sure if it was worth it but the way I figure it you readers owe me one!

Movie Reviews 321 – Parasite (1982)

November 25, 2017

While lesser known that B Movie maven Roger Corman, Charles Band has made as much of an impact with nearly 300 producer and more than 50 directing credits since the 70’s and he’s still going strong today. His many movie series include Puppet Master (a dozen films and another on the way), Trancers, Gingerbread Man, Evil Bong (yes Evil Bong is a series) and Demonic Toys. And just like Corman his films range between the remarkably original and fun to the mind numbing ‘What the hell was that I just watched?’. Parasite is one of those films that falls somewhere in between those extremes with glaring flaws but teetering on approval for the little things that do work.

The story takes place sometime in the future but aside from the use a laser weapons and the absurd acrylic pyramids placed above the 60’s era gas pumps you wouldn’t know it wasn’t contemporary. I think the use of a black Ferrari by the antagonist  was also supposed to deliver that futuristic feel, but … come on … it’s a Ferrari.

Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini) is on the run from laser armed uniformed men as he makes a dash across a desert. When he manages to elude his initial pursuers who are after some thermos sized container he takes up a room in a remote, nearly vacant town. We then learn that he escaped from some conglomerate lab where he had developed a parasitic lifeform for which he is now trying to find a cure. His quest is both altruistic in saving humanity but at the same time personal as he himself has parasite now growing under his abdominal skin. And time is running out fast.

The townfolk include a lone barkeeper, a rowdy group of young adults, an elderly glamour obsessed inn keeper and a young woman trying to maintain some level civilization (Demi Moore in only her second feature). Dean has to contend with the youths who are determined to find out what is in the cannister as well the Ferrari driving Wolf, a the top tier hunter from the conglomerate intent on stopping Dean from finding a cure. Although the exact reasoning behind the logic is never made clear the parasites are supposedly keeping mankind in check and under the control of the conglomerate. But when the youths finally get their hands on the cannister and unleash its contents, Dean’s plan unravels and everyone in town are in immediate danger.

The awful pretense of the futuristic setting aside as that could simply be lumped with budgetary woes, the film just does not make sense in so many ways. Why would any conglomerate care about perpetuating a parasite on a world already on the edge of dying? Are we to assume that this desolate backdrop is not the norm everywhere else? If that was the case why do the handful of residents stay there? There is talk and even evidence of dealing with nuclear fallout but if anything that even diminishes the argument that the conglomerate need those parasites.

But if you can put up with all the plot holes story does have a few interesting characters and those parasites, well the one unleashed from the canister anyhow, goes a long way to deliver the so fun scares. The slithering mass goes through several growth stages and it’s ever bigger chompers manages to get hold of people in some neat effects scenes.

One thing worth mentioning is that was originally filmed as a 3D movie so you can expect some weird camera angles and seemingly nonsensical zooming into objects during viewing in plain old 2D. And if you’re in the Charles Band bandwagon, you’ll feel right at home.

Movie Reviews 320 – PTU (2003)

November 11, 2017

Rather than arbitrarily selecting movies to review as I used to do when I started this blog, I’ve been trying to emphasize those that I do consider worthy of viewing, whether it be those that are outstanding or those that are quirky enough to have some redeeming entertainment value. Most of those I watch for review purposes are either ones I am already familiar with having seen them long ago or those that I have heard of through word of mouth in a positive manner. But every now and then I look at my library and pick a random title that I am unfamiliar with but bought based on decent ratings such as IMDB (which was probably a factor in my getting the title for my collection in the first place).

I say all this to explain how I ended up with Hong Kong director Johnnie To‘s police drama PTU here which has a bafflingly generous 6.9 IMDB rating and 80% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, both grades usually associated with the ‘crème de la crème’ of films. While I wouldn’t be so harsh as to assess PTU with it’s own title sans the “T” (That would be Pee-Yew, you know), I would hardly call it a classic either.

The plot about a police detective losing his issue revolver and then having to track it down seems somewhat a staple in asian movies being the main elements in earlier films like The Missing Gun (2002) and Kurosawa’s Stray Dog, (1949).  Sargent Lo Sa (Lam Suet) loses his gun after being ambushed by a triad gang after pestering them at a local restaurant. When the Police Tactical Unit arrives, (hence the PTU title which stumped me for a while) their leader Mike (Simon Yam) a friend of Lo’s agrees give him until morning to find the gun before reporting the fact which would irreparably harm his career.  But even Mike’s PTU squad members have reservations and to make matters worse both Lo and Mike have to dodge a suspicious Inspector (Ruby Wong).

The entire sequence takes place over one night from the jarring start at the restaurant which leaves one triad member dead to the comic twist of the final solution to the gun puzzle as dawn approaches. But the tale itself plays out like a Tarantino plot with more and more characters drawn into the ever increasing complex story. While I enjoyed some of the twists other elements like stretched out scenes were straining. One example was an endless flashlight drawn search in a stairway. Forgivable if there was any actual tension, but it in my eyes interminable especially given that the whole movie is only 88 minutes long.

The characters are interesting and when the scenes do work this movie is fun especially the first half. But when it drags it kills the atmosphere that has been built up to that point and you basically have to wait for the next interesting event. I think this is a hit or miss depending on your tolerance level and patience. For those that do enjoy it the good news is that this was popular enough to have spawned a whole series of Tactical Unit sequels, although I am in no hurry to seek them out myself.

Movie Reviews 319 – The Dark Half (1993)

November 3, 2017

When it comes to halves The Dark Half is equally parsed from both from the story content point of view and from the legendary creators behind the production, teaming a Stephen King story and putting it in the directorial hands of George Romero.

While I haven’t really validated any official metrics I’m fairly confident in saying that when it comes to movie and television adaptations, Stephen King is the one writer whose works have been used as source material more than anyone else. If IMDB is any indication, easily more than one hundred of his novels and short stories have been used as a basis, but that includes some which have been remade or those that have spawned an entire series of films, The Children of the Corn series having ten entries alone. His screen adaptation legacy basically mirrors his actual literary prolificacy.

Filmmaker George Romero who recently passed away will forever be noted for creating Night of the Living Dead which gave rise the modern zombie mythos, and he too has a rather lengthy acumen with horror although with fewer successes over the years, most being sequels to Night of the Living Dead.

But while The Dark Half is a film that combines the talents of these two heavyweights, its reception does not fall into the superior output of either creator and sadly must be considered a second-rate film, but one that does have a few merits.

As a young lad Thad (Timothy Hutton) occasionally suffered from seizures and when doctors investigate they find a partially absorbed parasitic twin growing within his brain which they remove. Years later and now writer, Thad enjoys enormous success as a trashy mystery writer using the pen name “George Stark” while languishing as a serious writer and part time professor using his real name. When a spunky kid figures out George Stark’s real identity, he tries to blackmail Thad hoping the stigma of being labelled a tawdry author is one he would prefer to remain secret. But Thad decides not to cave in and instead of burying the fact reveals himself to the world, even going so far as to glamorize the announcement by staging a hokey ‘George Stark’ burial photo op at a cemetery.

When the photographer of the photo op is killed in an accident and Thad’s fingerprints are found at the scene making him a prime suspect, the faux cemetery plot in which George Stark was figuratively intered is found to have been unearthed. The apparent animation of George as an corporeal entity begins to hunt and murder all of those involved with the prank, and soon Thad finds himself under deeper and deeper suspicion despite a sympathetic local Sheriff (Michael Rooker) trying to give him some leeway. Thad has to convince everyone of his innocence and put a stop to George, but how do you catch yourself?

Part of the problem with this film is that the evil doppelganger plot only goes so far and parts of the story are muddled. The movie first seems to play with the notion of a physical being at the start (that parasite), but then switches gears and opts for psychological entity taking human form. Some of the other characters including Thad’s wife (Amy Madigan) who play major roles end up being totally inconsequential. Other characters who figure into the plot are only loosely utilized. Hutton puts in a double shift playing both the roles of Thad and George but to his credit it took me quite a while to figure out if it really was him playing George given the remarkable contrast in voice, style and mannerism. I confess that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure until I read the end credits.

There are quite a few decent kill scenes that fans of the genre will find satisfying but the one truly shocking scene doesn’t even have a hint of violence. Aside from some those few moments the rest of the film is rather slow going and tedious. There is a recurring reference to a flock of turbulent sparrows that is supposed to be symbolic of Satan, but it comes off as silly rather than serious.

So I’d have to say this one is more for completists of either of the master creators, but if you’re a devotee to both men then I suppose it is mandatory viewing regardless.

Movie Reviews 318 – Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

October 27, 2017

I’ve been looking forward to watching Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte ever since reviewing Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which is probably my favorite Bette Davis movie. So successful was Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? that it inspired an entire subgenre of so called ‘psycho-biddy’ films of which  Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte is probably the most well known besides the progenitor.

The movie begins with a young Charlotte (Davis) having her plans of eloping with a married man (Bruce Dern) shattered on the eve of a lavish ball hosted by her wealthy father (Victor Buono). Her father did not approve of the romance and earlier in the evening coerced and bribed the young man to end the affair. Soon after Charlotte’s heart is broken she dazedly stumbles into the house full of celebrating guests and shocks everyone wearing a bloody dress and raving.

Presumed guilty but managing to evade prosecution on a technicality (and some southern hand greasing) Charlotte, now a spinster thirty years later, clings to the last legacy of her wealthy upbringing, the quickly deteriorating mansion. Alone except for the company of her wretched servant Velma (Agnes Moorehead) Charlotte maintains a low profile until a demolition crew comes to raze the homestead to make room for a bridge. This entices Charlotte to call upon her one last remaining relative, Miriam (Olivia de Havilland) to help her out of the predicament.

Miriam is shocked by Charlotte’s dire state and enlists the help of the local country physician Drew (Joseph Cotten), a former beau of Miriam’s, to tend to Charlotte’s physical and mental well being. But Charlotte begins to be haunted by the events of that dreadful night so long ago. She knows that everyone believes she killed her lover although she herself does not seem sure.

Suspicions of the murder vary between Charlotte, her angry father, the man’s widowed wife (Mary Astor), Velma  and a few other possibilities. But identifying the guilty party is just part of the intrigue here as we chip away at her present descent into madness and discover an even ghastlier surprise. This double mystery, one from the past and one in the present and how both are interconnected elevates the film thrill factor far beyond any mundane thriller.

No slouch herself under normal circumstance, de Havilland pales under the stellar Davis who makes magnificent use of those legendary eyes in numerous scenes. Perhaps understandably so given that de Havilland was a last minute substitute for Joan Crawford, the original choice for the role and who began the shoot until succumbing to Davis in their legendary offscreen war. The rest of the cast are all also in top form here, Buono (ironically playing Davis’ father here after playing her younger suitor in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) and Moorehead in particular. Another surprise inclusion is the use of some fairly graphic gore in a few select scenes, but at the same time not quite gratuitous and genuinely adding to the suspense.

While this wasn’t nearly as savory as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? it certainly merits a viewing. Now I’m tempted to seek out more of those other psycho-biddy movies. I need to know Who Slew Auntie Roo? Don’t you?

Movie Reviews 317 – Terror Train (1980)

October 6, 2017

A bunch of college students hire out a steam engine train for a short New Years eve trip with a lot of booze, music and some hanky panky. The students are all members of premed school and the organizers are some of the seniors who have past history of frat house hijinx. But a stranger has boarded this particular ride, taking advantage of the costume attire being worn by the partygoers. Before long students start disappearing and grizzly murdered bodies start appearing.

Basically a siege horror plot with the students stuck on the train, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis who was just beginning to foster her horror queen status at the time. The movie begins with an event that happened three years earlier in which a then sorority pledge Alana (Curtis) was used as a bait for a prank on a male frat pledge. We then learn that the misguided prank led to the victim having some long lasting psychological damage. So given this looming beginning sequence we pretty much know who the interloper is so a number red herrings in the plot are pointless. However we do have to figure out where he is hiding among the crowd and despite a twist intended to throw off viewers, it was easy for me to figure out who that was as well.

One of those red herrings is real life magician David Copperfield who plays a hired Illusionist to entertain the kids during the ride. No thespian, Copperfield does make up for it and adds some entertainment value with his sleight of hand and parlour tricks. The real treat however ends up being veteran actor Ben Johnson as the conductor who has as much screen time as Curtis and just as essential to the plot.

Once the killer has dispatched all the other seniors that were involved in the prank gone wrong the movie basically becomes a battle between Alana, the mystery killer and a race to get to the next train station. Basically your typical 80’s slasher with plenty of nubile women and a touch of disco glitter.

As the end credits rolled with a fair amount of French crew listed I suspected, and then confirmed that this was shot near my hometown city of Montreal. Alas, since the entire film takes place on the train there was no distinguishing landmark or backdrops.

A unique take on the college campus horror motif and with enough suspense to keep this one chugging along …

Movie Reviews 316 – Flatliners (1990)

September 29, 2017

Led by a driven rebel (Kiefer Sutherland), a quintet of med students and interns begin experimenting with inducing temporary death with the intent to answer the everlasting question of what, if anything, exists in the afterlife. Working at night in a what looks like a colossal roman chamber set in a museum under construction, Nelson (Sutherland) is the first to go under, pumped with drugs and having his heart jolted by a defibrillator normally used to revive people. Once reawoken, the thrill of the groundbreaking scientific achievement is quickly lost by the members of the group, each now jostling to be the next one to undergo the experience.

Part of the drama and tension is focused on how the members begin to pledge to remain lifeless longer than the previous volunteer and others vying for the opportunity, both advancing the boundaries of their scientific discovery and increasing the danger factor for the next experiment. But the repetitive “I want to go next” declarations with increasingly longer pledge times soon become tiresome.

Some members like Rachel (Julia Roberts) have personal reasons and seek specific answers regarding lost family members, while the others seem to simply seek the thrill. Despite assurances by Nelson that there were no aftereffects of the procedure, those who do undergo the lethal maneuver start having hallucinations of past tragic events and the people adversely affected by those events. Nelson himself is plagued by dreams of a little kid who tragically died. Joe (William Baldwin) is tormented by all the women he secretly videotaped while having sex, David (Kevin Bacon) is haunted by a young girl he bullied in school and Rachel is afflicted with visions of her dead father. Things then get a lot more complicated when the victims in those dreams soon become corporeal, and in the case of the kid tormenting Nelson in particular, start inflicting real injuries.

The discourse dallies around religion, the possibility of an afterlife and both philosophical and moral ramifications, but those are overshadowed by the plot devices centered on the guilt of past indiscretions and the terror of the macabre manifestations released. But the fact that almost each of the members have such dark pasts strains belief. The only credible role ends up being that of Randy played by Oliver Platt, the only one in the group who has no desire to join the others and undergo the ritual and not coincidentally the one character whose inclusion in the story is only to inject a bit of comedy.

My memories of this film were that of a far better viewing experience than watching it this time around and my current assessment falls to that of the title itself.

Beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeee………

Movie Reviews 315 – Blue Velvet (1986)

September 22, 2017

David Lynch‘s unique and often disturbing storytelling style was already well established when he wrote and directed Blue Velvet. After his debut Eraserhead had patrons scratching their heads he briefly turned to mainstream cinema with the highly successful Elephant Man and then followed that with the disastrous Dune adaptation. Blue Velvet was his triumphant return to his personal twisted turf, garnering accolades as much as controversy.

The tale of how a small town local returns when his father suffers a heart attack, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) stumbles upon a bloody human ear in a field. The local police detective effectively turns him away from the investigation, but the detective’s daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) proves to be much more insightful and leads him to spying on a woman (Isabella Rossellini) in a nearby apartment building. Breaking into her apartment one night Jeffrey discovers that Dorothy is being tormented by someone, but the reasons are unclear, and only later does he learn that she is being abused and debased by a Frank (Dennis Hopper), a crazed drug lord holding her family hostage.

Dorothy is a nightclub singer whose signature song is Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet with Frank being regular patron for her performances, always clutching and salivating over a piece of blue velvet fabric that he has cut from her housecoat. When Frank encounters Jeffery he strong-arms him into joining him and his motley crew of thugs who are nearly as insane as Frank into a night of audacious whorehouse and bar visits. All during this time Jeffrey is vying for Sandy while being seduced by a masochistic Dorothy who is never fully hinged.

Lynch’s suburbia noir, rumoured to be a partial biopic, is equally repelling and viscerally fascinating. A movie that begins with sunny white picket fences transitioning to Dorothy’s dark dingy crimson apartment, and then back again. Hopper’s portrayal of Frank is equally bipolar, one minute a sleazy screaming brute who regresses into a babbling baby when seducing Dorothy, only to snap back if she so much as looks at him directly. Dorothy’s torment goes beyond mere abuse and at her lowest point dazedly walks the evening streets fully unclothed, one of many scenes eliciting scorn from critics for having Rossellini put through such an ordeal. The fine line between art or exhibitionism is razor thin.

Marking the triumphant return of Dennis Hopper to Hollywood after a stint in rehab, Blue Velvet really must to be seen to be appreciated. Full of nuggets and subtleties like the organ music score playing as Sandy explains her dreams of robins to Jeff with street view of a church as a backdrop. The film never explains how and why Dorothy’s family got into the predicament with Frank in the first place, but this ambiguity and other non-traditional indiscretions to film storytelling ‘rules’ enhances the mystery of the film and part of what make them ‘Lynchian’.

No review of Blue Velvet is complete without mentioning Angelo Badalamenti fabulous score which aside from Vinton’s song equally effectively uses Roy Orbison’s “In dreams” hauntingly being lip synched by Dean Stockwell.

My MGM Special Edition DVD contained a documentary made a number of years after the movie that I found to be almost as mesmerizing as the movie itself and further mystifying the enigmatic director. He reportedly found the brutal rape scene uncontrollably funny and laughed throughout the filming. Another surprise addition was the wildly divergent review by Gene Siskel and Robert Ebert from one of their old “At the Movies” episodes, which really completed my time machine viewing experience.

Movie Reviews 314 – Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

September 15, 2017

Preceding the movie Shaft which arguably ignited the blacksploitation explosion of the 70’s and theaters subsequently being flooded with films based on the grittier aspects of African American ghetto’s, Cotton Comes to Harlem was one of the earliest efforts to test those waters. Directed by Ossie Davis (who also co-wrote the screenplay and provided some of the soundtrack) it delivers all the facets of sleaze, corruption, poverty and crime, but parcelled in the stereotypical slang and funk of the period and setting.

A slick urban preaching semi-messiah is scooping up donations from the poverty stricken residents of Harlem promising them a piece of land ‘back home’. But neighborhood cops “Gravedigger” Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) and “Coffin” Ed Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) aren’t buying it. The police higher ups and even the municipal officials think self proclaimed “Reverend” Deke O’Malley (Calvin Lockhart) is clean, but when the money amassed is stolen by hooded thieves, Coffin and Gravedigger set their sights on O’Malley.

What follows is a twisted chase for a bale of cotton involving O’Malley’s girl Iris (Judy Pace), mobsters, bumbling cops and a ragged street scavenger (Redd Foxx), all culminating in Harlem’s famed Apollo theater.

This film brings out both the worst of the seedy New York neighborhood of that era including the crime, dingy housing, littered streets, and drugs, while at the same time exemplifying the pride and self respect of most of those living there. Their general distrust of cops and authority is cooled by the respect they have for Gravedigger and Coffin who end up showing their prophet for what he really is.

This was a movie I was looking forward to rewatching, not having seen it in over thirty years. Watching it now I found that some parts did not age as well. While the comedy works fairly well  for the most part, a number of attempts at slapstick feel visibly forced and fall flat. The message is also a mixed bag, Gravedigger and Coffin delivering on their promise to return the money but relying on a partnership with seedier elements to do so. Surprising for a comedy, Davis also injected quite a lot of nudity and sex into the story, something that was probably considered ‘de rigeur’ for audiences at the time and helping it at the box office. But that too is an indicator of how time have changed. I thought that introducing the Apollo as part of the story was probably something not given as much thought at the time, but now serves as both a great tribute and a memorial for anyone watching the movie today.

Certainly one of the better movies of the genre and worthy of viewing, but if you want to watch a more typical and representative movie, one with more flash, action and pezzaz, stick with Shaft or Coffy.