Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
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Sidney Poitier (who directed) and Bill Cosby play two working stiffs who sneak out of their homes to hang at Madame Zenobia's, a high-class after-hours joint. After bluffing their way in, they immediately set about enjoying themselves at the gambling tables and are on a roll when the joint is robbed. The two consider themselves lucky to have gotten out alive, but then Poitier's character finds out he's got a winning lottery ticket worth $50,000(don't laugh..back in '74, that was a LOT of money) and the two pals start a frantic search to find the robbers and locate the winning ticket (it's in a wallet taken during the robbery)
UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT is filled with quirky and oddball hustlers, grifters, crooked politicians, ghetto gangsters and cheap floozies, all brought to life by some of the most talented black actors of the day. And the movie also has two of the most beautiful actresses ever to be filmed, namely Rosalind Cash and Paula Kelly. Poitier and Cosby encounter a series of very funny adventures as their hunt for the winning lottery ticket forces them into a partnership with Geechy Dan Buford (an outlandishly hilarious Harry Belafonte) and Silky Slim (Calvin Lockhart) in order to get it back. Can the two working stiffs outhustle and outwit the hordes of street-wise slicks standing between them and a fortune? Watch the movie to find out and I think you'll agree that its worth the time to find out the answer.
Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby made two other films in this kind of comedy/caper genre. LET'S DO IT AGAIN is just as good (with a thrilling and side-splitting foot chase near the end and Jimmy J.J. Walker as the heavyweight champion boxer of the world) but A PIECE OF THE ACTION is a little bit more on the serious side with an added dose of social commentary...still, during the blaxplotation era of the '70's, these films were a delightful alternative to the 'kill-whitey-stick-it-to-The-Man-superbrotha-pimpin'-and-shootin-' movies that were also being produced then. I recommend all three of them very highly. Enjoy.
Steve (Poitier) is a happily married factory worker. Wardell (Cosby and his amazing beard) is Steve's cab driving, fast talking, rambunctious buddy. Wardell talks Steve into going to a high class, after hours social club called Madame Zenobia's. The more uptight Steve is having a great time tagging along with the more adventurous Wardell, right up until the place gets robbed by armed gunmen. But that's more than just a bad ending to a great night. The next day Steve looks in the paper and discovers he and his wife won the lottery but the ticket was in his wallet that the robbers stole. That sends Steve and Wardell off to track down the robbers and recover the wallet, leading them into a series of comical encounters with a number of colorful characters, including con man Sharp Eye Washington (Richard Pryor) and gangster Geechie Dan (Harry Belafonte doing a terrible impression of Marlon Brando from The Godfather). Steve and Wardell end up pursuing the robbers to, of all things, a church social and after a suitcase vs. hammer fight and the fakest looking pair of dives off a bridge you'll ever see in cinema well, I think you can guess the ending.
There's not really a whole lot more to say about Uptown Saturday Night. It's one of those comedies where there really aren't that many jokes. There's some slapstick and other broad humor, but mostly it's about watching the actors vamp and seemingly improv their way through their scenes. It's all fairly energetic and some of it's quite good. I genuinely enjoyed a bit more than the first half of the film, but after that I realized there was nothing more to the movie and it lost some of its zing. The funniest stretch in the film is probably when Steve and Wardell visit their local congressman (Roscoe Lee Browne) to complain about being robbed and it turns out the congressman is a closet Nixon fan passing himself off as another "brother from the 'hood".
There's really nothing that wrong with Uptown Saturday Night, although aside from some mild profanity it seems a lot more like a TV movie from the 70s than a big screen production. But how many other films have Poitier, Cosby, Cosby's immense beard, Belafonte and Pryor in them? If just that is enough for you, go out and rent a copy of this movie. But you can certainly find better movies starring each of those men individually.
While there, the place is held up by a hoodlum by the name of "Sliky Slim" and everyone is robbed of everything on their person. What Jackson later learns is that in his wallet that was stolen, was a sweepstakes ticket worth $50,000. The ensuing comedy is how Jackson & Franklin hit "the streets" looking for the robbers. That's what make the movie so funny. Poitier's & Cosby's characters are as square as a couple of L 7's, and they are in the "underworld" looking for their jackpot ticket.
The supporting cast is just as funny. Calvin Lockhart as Silky Slim, Richard Pryor as Sharp Eye Washington, Paula Kelly as Leggy Peggy, Harold Nicholas as Little Seynour, and of course, Harry Belefonte as Geechie Dan Beurford. (Belefonte actually had his mouth wired for this role like Marlon Brando did in "The Godfather" to make it look authentic like that movie)
This movie is a pretty entertaining watch. A lot of the dialog is "slang" that was popular in the 1970's, which sort of also gives you a historical perspective. (although I still wonder who the hell came up with "Jive Turkey") Worth adding to your DVD collection.
Flip Wilson shows up to do an unfunny version of his preacher man, not once but twice in the film. Richard Pryor is funny in a small part.
Scenes just go on forever and as good as Sidney is at some of his own comedy Belefonte needs to be put in a Troama movie with comedy acting like this, and after the half way point it practically becomes Belefonte's movie as his overacted and underfunny mugging pushes Cosby and Poitier out of the way and the movie goes into the toilet. Bad rear projection would be antic chase scene lower the bar again as it wraps up with some sorta Butch and Sundance high fall non gag with dummies.
Really lousy by the time it's over. 70's fashion and garishness top off the unpleasant time.