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Black Caesar (1973)

Raised in Harlem, Tommy Gibbs becomes a successful mob boss but he clashes with the rival Mafia and his old enemy, dirty cop McKinney.

Director:

Larry Cohen

Writer:

Larry Cohen
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Fred Williamson ... Tommy Gibbs
Gloria Hendry ... Helen
Art Lund ... McKinney
D'Urville Martin ... Reverend Rufus
Julius Harris ... Mr. Gibbs (as Julius W. Harris)
Minnie Gentry Minnie Gentry ... Momma Gibbs
Philip Roye Philip Roye ... Joe Washington
William Wellman Jr. ... Alfred Coleman
James Dixon ... Bryant
Val Avery ... Cardoza
Patrick McAllister Patrick McAllister ... Grossfield
Don Pedro Colley ... Crawdaddy
Myrna Hansen Myrna Hansen ... Virginia Coleman
Omer Jeffrey Omer Jeffrey ... Tommy as a Boy
Michael Jeffrey 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 February 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Godfather of Harlem See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When filming in Harlem, Larry Cohen was accosted by local gangsters who threatened to disrupt the shoot unless they were paid off. Instead, Cohen offered them small roles in the film. They helped so enthusiastically that they attended the premiere to sign autographs. See more »

Goofs

The mob boss' glass of red wine turns into a glass of water, and also swaps hands. 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 »

Alternate Versions

In the original theatrical version, when a wounded Tommy Gibbs is seen wandering in the slums at the film's conclusion, the film fades to the New York skyline with the caption AUGUST 22, 1972 appearing and then the end credits. However, on European prints and the version issued by MGM on VHS and DVD, they included a scene where a street gang robs, beats, and leaves Tommy for dead and then the usual skyline fade and credits. According to Larry Cohen on the DVD commentary, he was surprised MGM used the European film negative for the DVD release. Therefore, the current MGM version is labeled as an "accidental" director's cut. It also lacks continuity purposes for the subsequent sequel, HELL UP IN HARLEM when Tommy is mysteriously brought back to life when the film was released overseas. See more »

Connections

Featured in Baadasssss Cinema (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Blind Man Can See It
Written by James Brown and Fred Wesley
Performed by James Brown
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Larry Cohen does not miss an opportunity
2 April 2012 | by tomgillespie2002See all my reviews

Not one to miss on an opportunity, Larry Cohen's second feature film utilised the explosion of blaxploitation cinema after the successes of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) and Shaft (1971), and crafted his own "black" action film, modelled on the 1931 film Little Caesar. Fred Williamson plays the titular role, a boy from the streets, witnessing and being victim of brutality from the white community, and particularly a local police officer, McKinney (Art Lund). As an adult, Caesar's goal is to become kingpin of Harlem, and he won't let anything stand in his way.

The narrative is a story told over, which focuses on a person who looses everything in the pursuit of power, including childhood friends, wives, and particularly looses sight of the person that they are. It's always great to watch a Cohen movie from this period. When filming in the streets (in this case New York - of which is his usual setting), his guerilla-style is self evident: clearly in the making of these films, Cohen does not get any kind of permission to film, he simply turns up and does it. In one scene, Williamson has been shot, the camera follows him down the busy street from a roof top, and passers by seem to want to help him. It's these elements of exploitation cinema that I embrace.

Whilst this is certainly not one of Cohen's greatest (check out his horror output for some terrifically socio-political subtexts), the film oozes charm. Not only do we have the easy-cool of Fred Williamson, the film also has the ubiquitous Gloria Hendry , although not in her usual kung-fu-influenced fighting mode. Even though this film is less well known than Shaft or Superfly (1972), who's soundtracks were composed by soul giants Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield respectively, Black Caesar's soundtrack is provided by the godfather of soul himself, James Brown: Break it down! Heeyyyyaa!!

www.the-wrath-of-blog.blogspot.com


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