Release Date: December 19th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Barry Shear
Written by: Luther Davis, Barry Shear
Based on: Across 110th Street by Wally Ferris
Music by: Bobby Womack, J. J. Johnson
Cast: Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Franciosa, Paul Benjamin, Ed Bernard, Richard Ward, Anthony Fargas, Norma Donaldson, Gilbert Lewis, Marlene Warfield, Nat Polen, Tim O’Connor, Burt Young, Charles McGregor, Paul Harris, Ric Mancini
Film Guarantors, 102 Minutes
“Look at me, huh. Look at me! You’re looking at a 42 year old ex-con nigga with no schooling, no trade, and a medical problem! Now who the hell would want me for anything but washing cars or swinging a pick? You gotta get your mind out of that white woman’s dream!” – Jim Harris
While many consider this blaxploitation, I thought it was a bit light in that regard. However, this also came out before that subgenre of film really pushed the envelope. This, honestly, has strong noir vibes and with that, it’s kind of interesting seeing early blaxploitation and a ’70s neo-noir flavor come together.
This also stars Yaphet Kotto just before he did Live and Let Die and Truck Turner, two films I love him in, the former being the one that really brought him a new level of notoriety and a pretty solid future, as an actor.
Kotto is solid as hell in this as the cop that wants to do the right thing, even though he is surrounded by rampant crime, violence and police corruption. Through all of that, he finds a way to win the day and to wreck the nefarious efforts of the Italian mafia and the black criminals who run Harlem.
This is a pretty decent movie from top-to-bottom, especially considering its limitations due to budget. It’s filmed in a lot of tight feeling spaces and while I’m not sure if that was due to the limitations or if it was intentional but it creates a sort of stifling atmosphere that actually adds to the tension of the movie.
The film is also greatly helped by the soundtrack and themes that were provided by Bobby Womack. The title theme would later be re-recorded and that better version was used by Quentin Tarantino in Jackie Brown.
All in all, Yaphet Kotto truly carries this picture, once he arrives on the scene. Without Kotto, the picture wouldn’t have been nearly as good. But he does make it work and it’s a pretty unique movie to begin with.