Cast & Crew
After smooth, sophisticated criminal Sidney Lord Jones gains early release from his prison sentence at San Quentin, he heads to Los Angeles to plan a robbery of $3 million worth of diamonds. In South L.A., brash former pro football player Travis Battle is chased by the police for a petty theft he did not commit, but because he is carrying a gun, flees to the diner owned by his half-brother John and stashes the weapon. The police soon burst in, and although John convinces them that they cannot search his diner without a warrant, they take Travis in for a lineup. Without evidence, crooked lieutenant Brian Knowles, openly acknowledged as the police department's "token black," is forced to let him go. Capt. Lloyd Harmon calls in Knowles to castigate him about the high number of unsolved crimes in the district, then orders him to keep close tabs on Sidney. Sidney, meanwhile, wearing a sharp white suit, visits his old cohort Stretch Finian, a nervous bookie who balks when he hears that Sidney needs $50,000 in order to carry out his plan to steal the jewels. As Sidney delegates Stretch to ask millionaire real estate mogul Bill Mercer for the money, Travis enters to request money with which to place a bet. Upon remembering that Stretch has complained publicly about the $2,300 Travis already owes him, Travis leaves in a fury, sparking Sidney's interest in the brash young man. Travis then asks John for the money, and when John refuses, incites a fistfight with him and grabs money from the diner register. Soon, however, both apologize, and John gives him $1,200 and promises to ask his friend, Roy Harris, a reverend who cracks safes on the side, for the rest. Later, Travis' girl friend, erotic masseuse Obalese Eaton, asks Travis if she can move in with him. He informs her that she will interfere with his plan to earn enough money to move back to his hometown in Texas and become a football coach, but minutes later, kisses her and allows her to stay for "a few days." Stretch brings Sidney to Mercer's beach home, where he keeps a young mistress named Lark Williams. Unimpressed by Sidney's plans to use the diamond money to support a bank for black businesspeople, Mercer, who is secretly insolvent, offers to fence the jewels himself. That night, Sidney has sex with a prostitute named Mona, who tells him that Mercer is broke. Sidney finds Stretch in church the next morning and asks him about Mercer, but Stretch believes the tycoon to be honest. Travis arrives to repay Stretch, and when the bookie refuses to take the money in church, Travis horrifies him by depositing the cash on the donation plate. After the service, Sidney and Stretch convince Roy to serve as the safecracker during the robbery. They then agree to hire John as the driver and Travis as the "muscle," despite Stretch's antagonism to the young man. Meanwhile, Mercer's partner, Tinker James, informs Mercer that he has failed to collect any of the money owed to him. After Mercer fills him in on his plot to steal the diamonds from Sidney, Tinker advises Mercer to coerce Stretch into giving Sidney the $50,000 stake. On the night of the theft, John hijacks a city bus, leaving the trussed driver in the back, and picks up Travis, Roy and Sidney. Donning masks fashioned in the likeness of President Richard Nixon, the group drops off Roy, who climbs into a manhole to tunnel into the jewelry store from underground. As John waits outside, Roy unlocks the door to admit Sidney and Travis, then uses his stolen laser gun to cut a hole in the safe. When a policeman wanders by outside, John plies him with alcohol. Despite Sidney's repeated warnings, Travis leaves his lookout post and loots the jewelry cases, then shoots out a security camera, alerting the policeman. When the officer runs drunkenly inside, Travis tosses him down the stairs, causing the policeman's gun to discharge into Roy. Carrying the wounded Roy, Sidney and Travis jump onto the bus and John speeds off, narrowly avoiding the police reinforcements called in. John takes Roy to Roy's wife Martha, who sobs over her husband's body as he dies. At the same time, Sidney brings Travis to Mercer's, where he and Tinker are waiting. When Mercer admits that he does not have the money yet to pay for the diamonds, Sidney moves to leave, prompting Tinker to pull out a gun. Sidney throws the bag of jewels at Tinker's head, causing the gun to discharge and wound Travis, who returns fire, killing Tinker. Travis wants to shoot Mercer but Sidney instead demands that Mercer offer to sell the jewels back to the insurance company for $1 million. Later, John calls Sidney to report that the police are arresting hundreds, including him, in an attempt to find the jewel thieves. As a result, the police station is so full that no one has time to listen to the bus driver, who has arrived to report the theft of his bus. Soon after, Mercer meets the insurance representatives, who agree to consider rebuying the jewels. Back at his house, Mercer is visited by detectives Holster and Matton, who report that Tinker's dead body has been recovered with a note in his pocket bearing Mercer's name. Mercer then lies that he was with Lark all night. As Travis and Sidney are driving to Obalese's massage parlor, a policeman pulls them over, and although Sidney warns Travis to be calm, Travis drives into the police car and speeds off. At the same time, the bus driver is finally allowed to make his report, in which he mentions Stretch's name. While Harmon orders Knowles to interrogate Stretch, Sidney and Travis hide out at Obalese's massage parlor. Sidney invites Travis to come to Chicago with him, and when Travis refuses, asks to borrow money. He then hires a taxi to take him to San Luis Obispo, and slips out of the city unnoticed. Meanwhile, Knowles beats a full confession out of Stretch, while Obalese drives a weakened Travis toward Texas until he collapses. She then enters a gynecology office and pulls a gun on the doctor, ordering him to treat Travis. Back in Los Angeles, Mercer is with Lark when the police come to arrest him, having learned his role in the robbery from Stretch. Mercer pulls an unloaded gun on the police, knowing they will kill him. When Harmon chastises Knowles for his corruption, which Stretch revealed in his confession, the lieutenant saves his job by mentioning that he spoke of the captain favorably during a television news interview. While Obalese drives Travis, revived with an IV, to Texas, Sidney's cab stops in a small town where a teenage beauty contest is being held. As Sidney watches appreciatively, two patrolmen recognize him. Pretending to be a celebrity judge of the show, he easily charms them, then leaves for the coast.
Raymond St. Jacques
A November 1971 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that New World Pictures would shoot Cool Breeze on location in San Francisco and at the American Zoetrope Studio. However, as noted in the Variety review, the production was shot mainly on location in Los Angeles, with the title sequence shot in San Francisco. According to the Los Angeles Times review, thirty-five locations were utilized. Cool Breeze marked the debut of director-writer Barry Pollack, an AFI graduate. The November 1971 Hollywood Reporter article added that most crew members would be young AFI students.
As noted in Filmfacts, Cool Breeze was M-G-M's fourth film adaptation of W. R. Burnett's novel The Asphalt Jungle. The 1950 version, called The Asphalt Jungle, was directed by John Huston and stared Sterling Hayden. That adaptation followed the novel more closely and ended with all of the thieves either dead or jailed. In 1958 director Delmer Daves reinterpreted the story as a Western entitled The Badlanders, and in 1963 director Wolf Rilla produced it as Cairo, an Egyptian thriller ( for all). The novel was also adapted into a television series that ran on ABC during 1961-1962, entitled The Asphalt Jungle and starring Jack Warden.
Cool Breeze marked the first film as cinematographer for Andrew Davis, who had acted as assistant cameraman on the 1969 documentary Medium Cool (see below). Davis went on to direct such films as 1993's The Fugitive. Actor Jim Watkins also made his feature-film debut in Cool Breeze. While the advertising campaign played heavily on the all-black cast, the New York Times reviewer pointed out that all of the major crew members were white men. Star Thalmus Rasulala had appeared in one previous film, The Out-of-Towners, under the name Jack Crowder. Although a November 1971 Hollywood Reporter news item adds May Mercer to the cast, her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Charles Cyphers Bill Henderson, Frank McRae and Hal Williams to the cast.
Due to the popularity of Cool Breeze, in December 1972 M-G-M and New World Pictures released Hit Man, a black-oriented version of Ted Lewis' novel Jack's Return Home, which had previously been adapted into the successful 1971 film Get Carter (see below for both). Several of the crew members and actors from Cool Breeze worked on Hit Man, including actors Sam Laws, Pam Grier and Rudy Challenger.
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1995
"Cool Breeze" is the third remake of John Huston's 1950 film noir "The Asphalt Jungle" (USA).
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1995 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Blaxploitation, Baby!" June 23 - August 10, 1995.)