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Black Caesar (1973)

Tommy Gibbs is a tough kid, raised in the ghetto, who aspires to be a kingpin criminal. As a young boy, his leg is broken by a bad cop on the take, during a payoff gone bad. Nursing his ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Helen
Art Lund ...
McKinney
...
Reverend Rufus
...
Mr. Gibbs (as Julius W. Harris)
Minnie Gentry ...
Momma Gibbs
Philip Roye ...
Joe Washington
William Wellman Jr. ...
Alfred Coleman
...
Bryant
...
Cardoza
Patrick McAllister ...
Grossfield
...
Crawdaddy
Myrna Hansen ...
Virginia Coleman
Omer Jeffrey ...
Tommy as a Boy
Michael Jeffrey ...
Joe as a Boy
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Storyline

Tommy Gibbs is a tough kid, raised in the ghetto, who aspires to be a kingpin criminal. As a young boy, his leg is broken by a bad cop on the take, during a payoff gone bad. Nursing his vengeance, he rises to power in New York City's Harlem. Angry at the racist society around him, both criminal and straight, he sees the acquisition of power as the solution to his rage. He performs a free-lance hit on a Mob contract to attract the attention of the head of a Mafia family. Reluctantly accepted into 'The Family,' he grows increasingly autonomous and aggressive, eventually starting a gang war. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Hail Caesar, Godfather of Harlem...The Cat with the .45-Caliber Claws!


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 February 1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Godfather of Harlem  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Originally offered to Sammy Davis Jr., who turned it down. See more »

Goofs

Towards the end, when Tommy leaves the building, the elevator door closes though his leg is in the doorway. See more »

Quotes

Tommy Gibbs: [at Mama's funeral] I gave her everything she wanted, Rufus, but she still wasn't ever happy.
Reverend Rufus: You know, I almost feel like I could pray for her.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Baadasssss Cinema (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

White Lightning (I Mean Moonshine)
Written by James Brown and Fred Wesley
Performed by James Brown
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Veni, Vidi, Vici ... Tommy!
4 March 2014 | by (the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls) – See all my reviews

This review's title obviously refers to a famous Julius Caesar quote, and personally I think the greatest thing about "Black Caesar" is the subtle title reference towards the great historical leader. I deliberately state "subtle" reference, because the name itself isn't mentioned anywhere throughout the entire film, but the similarities between protagonist Tommy Gibbs and the Roman emperor are clever and relevant. Tommy also builds his own way to the top; in this case the conquering of a mafia empire that quickly becomes as over sized, cluttered and unmanageable as the Roman Empire. His methods are also merciless and strategic, but he also gradually transforms into a dictator feared by his loved ones as well as the target of conspiracies and assassination attempts. I don't know about you, but I think it's quite an ambitious and intelligent concept for a supposedly simple and low-budgeted piece of 70's exploitation trash! That being said, I have to admit that I nevertheless expected even more from this blaxploitation classic. I'm certainly not an expert in this domain, but I've seen the most important ones ("Across 110th Street", "Ganja & Hess"), the most outrageously entertaining ones ("Foxy Brown", "Truck Turner") and the passable ones ("JD's Revenge", "Blackenstein"). "Black Caesar" somewhat balances between the first two categories, as the script isn't solid enough to be important and not cool enough to be outrageously entertaining. Basically it's just Fred Williamson looking mean and shooting white mobsters in the chest so that he can take their place in the New York gangster hierarchy. During this process he abuses and scares off the people he initially wanted to protect, like his mother and childhood friend. The film features too many dull parts and repetitive sequences. Every conflict is solved with a bullet and end with a close up of a dead body covered in thick and bright red blood syrup. The most memorable sequences include the intro, with a teenage Tommy enrolling the criminal life, a virulent taxi/on foot chase in busy NY streets and a sadist final confrontation between Tommy and his nemesis. Other terrific elements for exploitation fanatics to enjoy are the swinging soundtrack (with James Brown's unique voice) and authentically raw and gritty set pieces. Williamson is excellent, of course, but Art Lund gives an even more impressive performance as the disgustingly corrupt cop McKinney. Larry Cohen's direction is uneven, but it was one of the first ventures of this multi-talented and versatile cult genius. There's a sequel entitled "Hell Up in Harlem".


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