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CompleteMartialArts.com - Black Caesar


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Starring: Fred Williamson, Gloria Hendry, Art Lund, D'Urville Martin, Julius Harris
Directed By: Larry Cohen
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Video On Demand
Release Date: 2008-11-20
Running Time: 94
Studio: MGM
Theatrical Release Date: 1973-02-06

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Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: So You Try Hard or You Die Hard
Comment: This was a truly excellent movie, a gangster flick drawing heavily from the blaxploitation genre. Fred Williamson plays Tommy Gibbs, a young tough who works his way from shoeshine/mob messenger boy to crime boss. He uses the Italian mob and the corrupt cop who beat him severely as a teenager to gain a foothold and then turns the tables on all of them. None of it seems to matter, though, as he still can't satisfy the women in his life, no matter what he can give them. As his world begins to crumble around Tommy, the film builds to a stirring climax. Tommy's final revenge on the crooked cop is both poetic and brutal. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you.

The story moves at a quick pace, never dragging. There's plenty of nudity, violence, and cursing, so if that sort of thing bothers you, stay away. Fred Williamson is very convincing as Tommy and Art Lund is particularly slimy as McKinney, the corrupt, racist cop. Both come off as more than just cardboard "hero"/"villain" cutouts. The female characters aren't as strong as their male counterparts, pretty typical for the gangster genre, not just the blaxploitation films.

It should be noted as well that the movie boasts a fantastic soundtrack performed by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. "Down and Out in New York City" is one of my favorite James Brown numbers.

I highly recommend checking out this movie if you're into gangster films or the blaxploitation films of the seventies. This movie doesn't disappoint on either of those fronts and boasts a pretty good story to boot.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: The Hammer at his best!
Comment: Fred Williamson definitely exemplified "cool" in this film. Taken on the meanest and baddest folks in organized crime. He definitely "paid the cost to be the boss". James Brown layed it down on the soundtrack. A true 70's classic for the ages.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Tommy Gibbs Is One Bad Mobster
Comment: Taking its cues from a pair of classic mobster movies - Little Caesar (1930) and Scarface: The Shame of the Nation (1932) - Black Caesar aptly shows the blur between organized crime and crime fighting, with the impact reverberating through society.

Fred "The Hammer" Williamson magnificently portrays Tommy Gibbs, who - as a child - is facing straight down life's dead end street in a cold, uncaring city after being crippled by a racist cop; that is until he channels his ambition into the hustle for survival.

Tommy - who is equal parts gangster & Robin Hood - claws his way to the top of crime world, but the rules of the game never stay the same and betrayal by mobsters & cops is always right around the corner. The movie does a good job in depicting Tommy's complex character and who ultimately should carry the tag as "criminals."

The outstanding soundtrack is composed by James Brown & Fred Wesley, with Lyn Collins deliver a tour-de-force lead vocal in Mama Feelgood.

Black Caesar was released in February 1973 and its sequel, Hell Up in Harlem, debuting 10 months later. In 1974, Williamson - a former AFL star - was briefly part of the Monday Night Football broadcast team.

Willamson's nickname "The Hammer" came from the forearm shots he gave opposing players on the pro gridiron. Black Caesar finds Williamson tackling the lead role with a zeal that has made Tommy Gibbs eponymous with Celluloid gangsters.



Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: It's Okay but nothing special
Comment:
After about two viewings of Black Caesar I am rather disappointed with the results. The movie in hearled by many on amazon and by critics as being one of the better so-called blaxpoltation movies. Despite all the recommendations, I was not overly impressed by Black Caesar.

The movie does have many important chracters,elements,and plot but what makes the movie suffer is the bad acting of Fred Williamson. Williamson's preformance is much too wooden and flat to bring interest into a figure like Tommy Gibbs. Williamson is not alone either with most of his supporting cast providing little substance. The notable exception is the racist Irish cop played by Art Lund.

The script was written by a white[I am guessing Jewish] Larry Cohen and it definately shows. The dialogue is flat,boring,and unrealistic for the 50's Harlem setting. The script also is severly flawed by the same instances.

Black Caesar,while not being an awful film, has very little entertainment value. Many films actually are worse than Black Caesar but have a great amount of entertainment value. Black Caesar aspires to be a serious gangster film but falls from glory. Quite disappointing considering the freshness of the story. The story of a ghetto kid rising up in the mafia underworld would be compelling even in modern cinema.
For many that might not know the movie is supposed to be loosely based upon real life black gangsters named Nikki Barnes and Frank Matthews. Ironically, Frank Matthews was a gangster from the 60's-70's that ran most of the ghettoes in NYC including Harlem.


Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A tough, gritty blaxploitation classic not to be missed
Comment: Black Caesar (1973) is one heck of a good movie. I hate the term blaxploitation that is used to describe movies of this genre because it implies that these sorts of films are somehow second-class entries in the world of cinema. Black Caesar is a first-class ride from start to finish, taking as much from classic gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s as it does from earlier blaxploitation films such as Shaft. Larry Cohen gave us a tough, mean, dirty, gritty film that tells it and shows it like it is: plenty of cursing, gunplay, blood, profanity, nudity, and racism. I have heard that the starring role was originally written for Sammy Davis, Jr. Nobody loved Sammy more than I do, but there's just no way he could have done the things that Tommy Gibbs does effectively. A lot of people deride the acting skills of Fred Williamson, which makes no sense to me; the man is just fantastic in this film.

Tommy (Williamson) grew up on the streets of Harlem, where the living was hard. When a corrupt, racist cop smashed up his leg at a pay-off exchange gone wrong, young Tommy's future was set. Eight years in prison taught him everything he needed to know to pull off his master plan of becoming the man who runs Harlem. Just after he limps back into town, he scores a mafia hit in broad daylight and uses that audacious act to nose his way into the local Family. Back then, the Mafia didn't make a habit of embracing blacks, no matter how useful they could be. All Tommy asks for is a block in Harlem to call his own; he gets it, and a new reign of terror begins as Tommy and his associates begin cleaning house. At first, they talk about helping the blacks in the community at the same time, but this whole thing is really just about the money and the power. Ironically, Tommy finds himself working with the same slimy cop who broke his leg as a youth, but he's got the guy by the short hairs thanks to his acquisition of certain evidence against him.

As you might expect, a couple of blocks in Harlem is just the beginning for Tommy. He quickly expands his operation and puts the screws to the Italians running the show in New York. He becomes, for all intents and purposes, "the man" and gains control of all of Harlem. All the power and money can't make him happy, however; no one seems to appreciate the things Tommy can give them, especially his mother and his wife. As things start unraveling in his personal life, he is set up for a fall - and his Italian "friends" are ready and willing to take him down. The final half hour of the movie is nothing short of intense, as Tommy tries to deal with betrayal and simply stay alive. His final encounter with the racist cop who has tormented him for so many years makes cinematic history, as far as I'm concerned.

The music makes this fantastic film even better, as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, supplies the funky soundtrack. Songs such as Down and Out in New York City and Mama's Dead sharply define pivotal moments and make sure the film always fires on all cylinders. It's hard to believe Black Caesar was filmed in only 18 days, especially given some of the elaborate chase scenes taking place on New York streets. This is a masterpiece of a low-budget film. Maybe a couple of the sociological aspects of the film don't play as effectively as they did back in 1973, but Black Caesar has really lost nothing of its raw power and intensity over the years.


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