Black Caesar (1973 – DVD)

“As of today, we’re branchin’ out into new fields”

I haven’t seen that many Blaxploitation films but have spent a fair amount of time listening to their soundtracks by legends such as Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield and of course Isaac Hayes. The soundtrack to ‘Black Caesar’ is by none other than the godfather of soul James Brown and features his stone cold classic ‘The Boss’. He also recorded a soundtrack album for the sequel ‘Hell Up In Harlem’ which Director Larry Cohen didn’t use because he said it wasn’t “Funky enough”. Considering it features the outrageously funky ‘The Payback’, I’m eager to see that film and find out what could have possibly topped it!

‘Black Caesar’ chronicles the rise and fall of Harlem crime boss Tommy Gibbs, played with gleeful charm by Fred Williamson. Comparing this 70s classic to Ridley Scott’s 2007 film ‘American Gangster’ (Which tells a very similar story) it makes me think we’ve lost something in our polished modern cinema era.  Sure Scott’s biopic of Harlem hood Frank Lucas is beautifully shot and well acted but it doesn’t have the sense of rough-hewn fun that ‘Black Caesar’ has.  Larry Cohen’s film is wittier, more shocking, more politically hard-hitting and it’s also over an hour shorter than Scott’s movie, giving it a spritely machine-gun pace.  I might have to have a Blaxploitation binge including ‘Foxy Brown’, ‘Super Fly’, ‘Coffy’, ‘Truck Turner’ and the like.

 

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