Black Caesar


1h 34m 1973
Black Caesar

Brief Synopsis

Seeking vengeance against a racist society, a black gangster rises to the top of the mobs.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Crime
Release Date
Feb 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Larco Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
American International Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

A 30s-style ganster melodrama starring ex-footballer Fred Williamson as Tommy Gibbs--a power-hungry ghetto kid turned Harlem mobster.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Crime
Release Date
Feb 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Larco Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
American International Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

The Gist (Black Caesar) - THE GIST


Meet Tommy Gibbs, lowest of the low: his father abandoned his family, his mother scrubs toilets for a living, and he himself kneels at the feet of the White Man to shine their shoes. Tommy's so low, even down's starting to look like up.

Then one day, running an errand for some gangsters, he is maimed and left for dead. Gibbs survives-with a lifelong limp-and vows revenge. He will take everything of theirs, and more besides.

Flash forward: Gibbs is now a man (played by Fred Williamson). Systematically, he carries out a plan, conquering and killing the crime syndicate kingpins to claim the operation as his own. He is careful to leave his former tormentors alive-and keenly aware of their humiliation at the hands of a-no!-Black Man.

But with virtually unlimited power and wealth at his fingertips, Tommy's still restless. He wants something he can't have-to belong. And what he's got can be taken away in a moment... There is much to admire in Black Caesar (1973), not least Fred Williamson's extraordinary screen charisma. His forceful personality and iron-jawed good looks verge on godlike-how could a man like this ever have been on the bottom of anything? But writer-director Larry Cohen is more lucky than gifted-he doesn't direct Williamson so much as stage a movie with Williamson in it.

By his own admission, Cohen was working under reduced circumstances-the whole film was cranked out in a scant 18 days. Mind you, each of those 18 days was a grueling 18 hour slog. Inevitably, the production betrays its threadbare, exhausted origins.

For example, consider the much celebrated taxi chase. Williamson is wounded in an assassination attempt, and flees his would-be killers in a cab. Thick Manhattan traffic slows the taxi so much the gunmen can catch up on foot! The car weaves through pedestrians on the sidewalk as the assassins hover a few footfalls behind, jockeying for a clear shot at the bleeding target inside.

In concept, the chase is nothing short of brilliant-even unique, a rare accomplishment in the crowded field of movie car chases. In execution, however, the sequence is hobbled by poorly looped dialogue and cheap technique.

Despite Fred Williamson's riveting star turn and the memorable James Brown soundtrack, Black Caesar is generally stronger in its ideas than its style. Put another way: Cohen's a better writer than a director (at least at this early stage in his career).

For all that Tommy Gibbs does to build his empire, spend lavishly, and dispense extravagant gifts and violent payback in equal measure, none of these measures ever hide the hurt. Sure, he gets his revenge on McKinney, the corrupt and racist cop who maimed him, but the problem is Gibbs' wounds are deeper and more intractable than his limp. Getting even with Whitey is fairly straightforward but ultimately unsatisfying, because what he really needs is to reconcile with his parents. Coming to terms with his painful childhood is a prize that eludes him to the last.

Black Caesar distinctively ends at the present ("now" being 1973 natch)-its entire length having been a flashback. The past is prologue. Tommy Gibbs' world of gangsters and godfathers is a quaint relic of a time already gone by. Like the film noir gunmen he emulates, he's an anachronism-and in today's even harsher ghettos, a new breed of amoral street punks are taking over (an idea Cohen and Williamson flesh out in their 1996 Original Gangstas).

As the film builds to its brutal climax, Cohen has gradually yet masterfully turned Gibbs' story into an epic myth about American race relations. Gibbs and McKinney square off over a tin of shoe polish-a small prop, but by now imbued with enough symbolism to represent not just Gibb's hardscrabble youth but centuries of white-black inequality. Now, this is a movie that features a severed ear in a plate of spaghetti, an exploding turkey, a rape scene, and a phony priest who launders dirty money through his collection box. For a film jam-packed with two scoops of outrageous ideas, this one little can of shoe polish becomes the most powerful and evocative of them all.

In the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem (1973), Cohen and Williamson aspired to top themselves: they gave Tommy Gibbs a chance to lynch a white man, but not even this could match the simple raw might of Black Caesar's blackface scene.

For audiences in 1973, this was electric. Black Caesar endures today as a prime example of a genre now dead, but more importantly this is a film that connected to audiences in 1973 with confidence and authority. Contemporary viewers may find that blaxploitation films on the whole are tacky, but for their time they were revolutionary. The Civil Rights struggle had only just accomplished basic goals, the assassinations of black leaders and the turbulence of race riots were still fresh memories, and most American blacks experienced cruel prejudice as a daily matter of course. Thankfully, enough of this has changed that modern viewers can focus on the 'fros and pimp clothes-but back in the day, the sight of a Fred Williamson humiliating and replacing his white foes, even if only on a movie screen, meant the world.

Eventually the genre waned, in part due to controversy about the legitimacy of "black exploitation" movies in the first place.

"I never understood what this term 'black exploitation' meant," says Williamson, "I think it was created by idiots. When I work I'm very happy and the audience that goes to see the film is very satisfied and happy with the characters I've portrayed. So who's being exploited?"

Screenwriter, Director and Producer: Larry Cohen
Art Direction: Larry Lurin
Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton and James Signorelli
Film Editing: George Folsey, Jr.
Original Music: James Brown
Cast: Fred Williamson (Tommy Gibbs), D'Urville Martin (Reverend Rufus), Gloria Hendry (Helen), Philip Royce (Joe), Art Lund (McKinney), Val Avery (Cardoza), Minnie Gentry (Gibbs' mother), Julius Harris (Gibbs' father).
C-94m.

by David Kalat

Sources:
Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine
Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin
Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books
Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD
Patrick McGilligan, , University of California Press
Stanley Winter, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film, Avon Books
Steve Ramos, "It's Hammer Time Again," City Beat
Steve Ryfle, "The Last Action Hero," Shock Cinema Magazine
Tony Williams, "Larry Cohen," Senses of Cinema
The Gist (Black Caesar) - The Gist

The Gist (Black Caesar) - THE GIST

Meet Tommy Gibbs, lowest of the low: his father abandoned his family, his mother scrubs toilets for a living, and he himself kneels at the feet of the White Man to shine their shoes. Tommy's so low, even down's starting to look like up. Then one day, running an errand for some gangsters, he is maimed and left for dead. Gibbs survives-with a lifelong limp-and vows revenge. He will take everything of theirs, and more besides. Flash forward: Gibbs is now a man (played by Fred Williamson). Systematically, he carries out a plan, conquering and killing the crime syndicate kingpins to claim the operation as his own. He is careful to leave his former tormentors alive-and keenly aware of their humiliation at the hands of a-no!-Black Man. But with virtually unlimited power and wealth at his fingertips, Tommy's still restless. He wants something he can't have-to belong. And what he's got can be taken away in a moment... There is much to admire in Black Caesar (1973), not least Fred Williamson's extraordinary screen charisma. His forceful personality and iron-jawed good looks verge on godlike-how could a man like this ever have been on the bottom of anything? But writer-director Larry Cohen is more lucky than gifted-he doesn't direct Williamson so much as stage a movie with Williamson in it. By his own admission, Cohen was working under reduced circumstances-the whole film was cranked out in a scant 18 days. Mind you, each of those 18 days was a grueling 18 hour slog. Inevitably, the production betrays its threadbare, exhausted origins. For example, consider the much celebrated taxi chase. Williamson is wounded in an assassination attempt, and flees his would-be killers in a cab. Thick Manhattan traffic slows the taxi so much the gunmen can catch up on foot! The car weaves through pedestrians on the sidewalk as the assassins hover a few footfalls behind, jockeying for a clear shot at the bleeding target inside. In concept, the chase is nothing short of brilliant-even unique, a rare accomplishment in the crowded field of movie car chases. In execution, however, the sequence is hobbled by poorly looped dialogue and cheap technique. Despite Fred Williamson's riveting star turn and the memorable James Brown soundtrack, Black Caesar is generally stronger in its ideas than its style. Put another way: Cohen's a better writer than a director (at least at this early stage in his career). For all that Tommy Gibbs does to build his empire, spend lavishly, and dispense extravagant gifts and violent payback in equal measure, none of these measures ever hide the hurt. Sure, he gets his revenge on McKinney, the corrupt and racist cop who maimed him, but the problem is Gibbs' wounds are deeper and more intractable than his limp. Getting even with Whitey is fairly straightforward but ultimately unsatisfying, because what he really needs is to reconcile with his parents. Coming to terms with his painful childhood is a prize that eludes him to the last. Black Caesar distinctively ends at the present ("now" being 1973 natch)-its entire length having been a flashback. The past is prologue. Tommy Gibbs' world of gangsters and godfathers is a quaint relic of a time already gone by. Like the film noir gunmen he emulates, he's an anachronism-and in today's even harsher ghettos, a new breed of amoral street punks are taking over (an idea Cohen and Williamson flesh out in their 1996 Original Gangstas). As the film builds to its brutal climax, Cohen has gradually yet masterfully turned Gibbs' story into an epic myth about American race relations. Gibbs and McKinney square off over a tin of shoe polish-a small prop, but by now imbued with enough symbolism to represent not just Gibb's hardscrabble youth but centuries of white-black inequality. Now, this is a movie that features a severed ear in a plate of spaghetti, an exploding turkey, a rape scene, and a phony priest who launders dirty money through his collection box. For a film jam-packed with two scoops of outrageous ideas, this one little can of shoe polish becomes the most powerful and evocative of them all. In the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem (1973), Cohen and Williamson aspired to top themselves: they gave Tommy Gibbs a chance to lynch a white man, but not even this could match the simple raw might of Black Caesar's blackface scene. For audiences in 1973, this was electric. Black Caesar endures today as a prime example of a genre now dead, but more importantly this is a film that connected to audiences in 1973 with confidence and authority. Contemporary viewers may find that blaxploitation films on the whole are tacky, but for their time they were revolutionary. The Civil Rights struggle had only just accomplished basic goals, the assassinations of black leaders and the turbulence of race riots were still fresh memories, and most American blacks experienced cruel prejudice as a daily matter of course. Thankfully, enough of this has changed that modern viewers can focus on the 'fros and pimp clothes-but back in the day, the sight of a Fred Williamson humiliating and replacing his white foes, even if only on a movie screen, meant the world. Eventually the genre waned, in part due to controversy about the legitimacy of "black exploitation" movies in the first place. "I never understood what this term 'black exploitation' meant," says Williamson, "I think it was created by idiots. When I work I'm very happy and the audience that goes to see the film is very satisfied and happy with the characters I've portrayed. So who's being exploited?" Screenwriter, Director and Producer: Larry Cohen Art Direction: Larry Lurin Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton and James Signorelli Film Editing: George Folsey, Jr. Original Music: James Brown Cast: Fred Williamson (Tommy Gibbs), D'Urville Martin (Reverend Rufus), Gloria Hendry (Helen), Philip Royce (Joe), Art Lund (McKinney), Val Avery (Cardoza), Minnie Gentry (Gibbs' mother), Julius Harris (Gibbs' father). C-94m. by David Kalat Sources: Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD Patrick McGilligan,

Insider Info (Black Caesar) - BEHIND THE SCENES


Eddie Murphy once did a standup routine that went:

"Black Caesar, the blackest movie ever made. Filmed on the streets of Harlem with an all-black cast. You have never seen a black movie like this. Black Caesar: a Larry Cohen film."

The audience roared.

And this is then the question: how does a white Hollywood insider like Larry Cohen make a raw, angry work of black cinema like this? To hear Fred Williamson tell it, he didn't.

First, a few words about Fred Williamson. He spent 10 years as a professional football player, where he earned the nickname The Hammer, for a hammer-like blow he dealt his opponents on the field. Eventually he carried that nickname with him into a new career as an action movie icon, starring in the 1972 thriller Hammer. Williamson became one of the genre's top box office draws, a commercial power he parlayed into establishing himself as an independent filmmaker-writing, producing and directing his own starring vehicles.

Williamson is many things: a karate black belt and former architect, an oversized force of nature, and an inveterate self-promoter. His anecdotes are peppered with self-aggrandizing details-such as that he actually directed the football scenes in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1972), or that he convinced Otto Preminger to cast him in 1970's Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon by picking the old man up and threatening to throw him through a wall. He's butted heads famously with his co-workers, all of whom Williamson insists were in the wrong-Jack Arnold, Gordon Parks, Jr., Howard Cosell...

Williamson claims to have invented Black Caesar on his own. "Nobody ever made a black gangster movie with an Edward G. Robinson type character. Suit and tie, hat, a real Edward G. Robinson guy. I had this idea for Black Caesar." On the details, though, Williamson gets vague. In one telling, he pitched the idea to Larry Cohen, who in turn sold it to American International Pictures. In another version, he went straight to AIP's Sam Arkoff, who in turn hired Cohen to write and direct.

Cohen, unsurprisingly, tells a different tale.

But first, a word or two about him.

Larry Cohen is first and foremost a writer. A prolific, gifted writer. From his start in the world of live television drama in the 1950s to the present day, Cohen has scripted popular, profitable thrillers like nobody's business. The sequel to The Magnificent Seven (1966), The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), I, the Jury (1982), Spies Like Us (1985), Maniac Cop (1988), Body Snatchers (1993), Phone Booth (2002), and Cellular (2004) all bear Cohen's stamp. And like Fred Williamson, Cohen learned that taking control of the camera is an essential step in career freedom. As a director, Cohen has made numerous cult classics such as the It's Alive trilogy, God Told Me To (1976), Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), and The Stuff (1985). He's worked amicably with Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Mirisch, Joel Schumacher, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and Bette Davis.

Cohen is known for driving around with countless unsold scripts and story treatments in the trunk of his car-treasures waiting for their moment in the sun. When opportunities present themselves, Cohen is ready with the appropriate scripts close at hand. Take, for example, Phone Booth. In the 1970s, Cohen met with Alfred Hitchcock to develop a thriller set entirely in a phone booth. The project was never realized, the idea moldered in storage nearly two decades until the chance came to pitch it anew. 20th Century Fox bought it, Joel Schumacher filmed it, and happy audiences paid handsomely to see it. Patience has its rewards.

Which returns us to Black Caesar. Sammy Davis, Jr. pined to break free of the Rat Pack, and establish himself on his own, away from Dean Martin et al. Davis' manager asked Cohen to come up with some kind of starring vehicle. A longtime fan of Warner Brothers' classic films noir, Cohen took memories of Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931) and grafted them onto the true-crime life story of Harlem gangster Nicky Barnes.

Problem was, Sammy Davis, Jr. was in hock to the IRS and couldn't come up with the promised $10 grand he owed Cohen, so Cohen kept the script in his car, a movie without a star, waiting for another chance. One day, Sam Arkoff came calling for a blaxploitation idea (possibly at the behest of Fred Williamson) and Cohen called Black Caesar back into service.

In the years hence, these two headstrong filmmakers have each tried to efface the other's contribution to what was, we must assume, a collaboration. For Williamson, it's a matter of pride. "You're talking about something that was close to home to me," he says, "That came from me, that came from my life experience. Larry Cohen couldn't tell me how to relate to the black people and the black public. He had no idea... All the life that I had lived, I flowed into this character. Larry Cohen damn sure couldn't tell me. What the hell does he know about the relationships in black communities, about how black people really act and interact with each other?"

In the jaw-dropping final act, Williamson's character applies blackface to his white nemesis and forces him at gunpoint to sing "Mammy." Generations of degradation and exploitation come to a head in a single moment of intense drama-but the shadows of Cohen's life hang heavy on this scene, whatever Williamson may say. Cohen's grandfather was a vaudevillian minstrel who performed in blackface, back when the Cohens lived in Harlem-then a tony white neighborhood. For all that Williamson sees Black Caesar as a mythic take on his own rags-to-riches, underdog-vs.-prejudice life story, Cohen can just as well claim to be working out unresolved racial tensions of his own past. And let's not forget that the script closely parallels old black-and-white Hollywood classics and the true story of a real Harlem gangster-in other words, Black Caesar has the power it does because its story is resonant and relevant to lots of viewers, white and black alike. It "works."

In the original cut, Williamson's character is beaten to death-not by his white enemies, but a new generation of black street thugs in the ruins of his old ghetto. Test audiences responded so strongly to the film, AIP's Sam Arkoff realized he was sitting on a gold mine (the flick earned $2 million in domestic ticket sales in 1973, which for a low budget film in that era was quite a windfall). Hits like these demand sequels. So, Arkoff ordered Cohen to snip off the last 90 seconds of the film to leave Williamson's character to a dire but still uncertain fate-enough wiggle room for a round two.

The team reunited for a sequel, made so quickly Cohen was writing it as he shot it. "And it sure looks like it," Cohen admits. Hell Up in Harlem was released to theaters within months of its predecessor. Soon after, Williamson felt confident enough to launch his own company, Po' Boy Productions, and Cohen began making auteurist cult classics of his own.

23 years on, Williamson and Cohen reunited, but the tensions between them had not abated. Over time, the market for Williamson's low-budget quickies had dried up, and he had stopped making films. In 1995, he met Quentin Tarantino, whose boundless fandom for blaxploitation films re-energized Williamson. Inspired by Tarantino, Williamson decided to pay homage to the genre by taking the final scene of Black Caesar and expanding it to feature length in a film entitled Original Gangstas (released in 1996). He would reunite the top stars of the cycle-Jim Brown, Pam Grier, himself-in a story that pit their old-school kick-ass ways against an amoral new breed of teenage thugs. And who better to direct the thing than Larry Cohen?

Where Williamson expected Cohen to be the efficient B-movie hack he was back in 1973, Cohen had in the intervening years blossomed into a writer-director-producer-auteur, with an emphasis on "writer." He and Williamson clashed on the script and the production, resulting in an admirable misfire of a movie, a noble failure.

Perhaps it was a fool's errand. In what way could they have ever hoped to top the raw energy and electric power of their first, best collaboration. Black Caesar, the blackest movie you ever saw. A Larry Cohen-Fred Williamson picture.

by David Kalat

Sources:
Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine
Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin
Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books
Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD
Patrick McGilligan, , University of California Press
Stanley Winter, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film, Avon Books
Steve Ramos, "It's Hammer Time Again," City Beat
Steve Ryfle, "The Last Action Hero," Shock Cinema Magazine
Tony Williams, "Larry Cohen," Senses of Cinema

Insider Info (Black Caesar) - BEHIND THE SCENES

Eddie Murphy once did a standup routine that went: "Black Caesar, the blackest movie ever made. Filmed on the streets of Harlem with an all-black cast. You have never seen a black movie like this. Black Caesar: a Larry Cohen film." The audience roared. And this is then the question: how does a white Hollywood insider like Larry Cohen make a raw, angry work of black cinema like this? To hear Fred Williamson tell it, he didn't. First, a few words about Fred Williamson. He spent 10 years as a professional football player, where he earned the nickname The Hammer, for a hammer-like blow he dealt his opponents on the field. Eventually he carried that nickname with him into a new career as an action movie icon, starring in the 1972 thriller Hammer. Williamson became one of the genre's top box office draws, a commercial power he parlayed into establishing himself as an independent filmmaker-writing, producing and directing his own starring vehicles. Williamson is many things: a karate black belt and former architect, an oversized force of nature, and an inveterate self-promoter. His anecdotes are peppered with self-aggrandizing details-such as that he actually directed the football scenes in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1972), or that he convinced Otto Preminger to cast him in 1970's Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon by picking the old man up and threatening to throw him through a wall. He's butted heads famously with his co-workers, all of whom Williamson insists were in the wrong-Jack Arnold, Gordon Parks, Jr., Howard Cosell... Williamson claims to have invented Black Caesar on his own. "Nobody ever made a black gangster movie with an Edward G. Robinson type character. Suit and tie, hat, a real Edward G. Robinson guy. I had this idea for Black Caesar." On the details, though, Williamson gets vague. In one telling, he pitched the idea to Larry Cohen, who in turn sold it to American International Pictures. In another version, he went straight to AIP's Sam Arkoff, who in turn hired Cohen to write and direct. Cohen, unsurprisingly, tells a different tale. But first, a word or two about him. Larry Cohen is first and foremost a writer. A prolific, gifted writer. From his start in the world of live television drama in the 1950s to the present day, Cohen has scripted popular, profitable thrillers like nobody's business. The sequel to The Magnificent Seven (1966), The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), I, the Jury (1982), Spies Like Us (1985), Maniac Cop (1988), Body Snatchers (1993), Phone Booth (2002), and Cellular (2004) all bear Cohen's stamp. And like Fred Williamson, Cohen learned that taking control of the camera is an essential step in career freedom. As a director, Cohen has made numerous cult classics such as the It's Alive trilogy, God Told Me To (1976), Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), and The Stuff (1985). He's worked amicably with Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Mirisch, Joel Schumacher, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and Bette Davis. Cohen is known for driving around with countless unsold scripts and story treatments in the trunk of his car-treasures waiting for their moment in the sun. When opportunities present themselves, Cohen is ready with the appropriate scripts close at hand. Take, for example, Phone Booth. In the 1970s, Cohen met with Alfred Hitchcock to develop a thriller set entirely in a phone booth. The project was never realized, the idea moldered in storage nearly two decades until the chance came to pitch it anew. 20th Century Fox bought it, Joel Schumacher filmed it, and happy audiences paid handsomely to see it. Patience has its rewards. Which returns us to Black Caesar. Sammy Davis, Jr. pined to break free of the Rat Pack, and establish himself on his own, away from Dean Martin et al. Davis' manager asked Cohen to come up with some kind of starring vehicle. A longtime fan of Warner Brothers' classic films noir, Cohen took memories of Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931) and grafted them onto the true-crime life story of Harlem gangster Nicky Barnes. Problem was, Sammy Davis, Jr. was in hock to the IRS and couldn't come up with the promised $10 grand he owed Cohen, so Cohen kept the script in his car, a movie without a star, waiting for another chance. One day, Sam Arkoff came calling for a blaxploitation idea (possibly at the behest of Fred Williamson) and Cohen called Black Caesar back into service. In the years hence, these two headstrong filmmakers have each tried to efface the other's contribution to what was, we must assume, a collaboration. For Williamson, it's a matter of pride. "You're talking about something that was close to home to me," he says, "That came from me, that came from my life experience. Larry Cohen couldn't tell me how to relate to the black people and the black public. He had no idea... All the life that I had lived, I flowed into this character. Larry Cohen damn sure couldn't tell me. What the hell does he know about the relationships in black communities, about how black people really act and interact with each other?" In the jaw-dropping final act, Williamson's character applies blackface to his white nemesis and forces him at gunpoint to sing "Mammy." Generations of degradation and exploitation come to a head in a single moment of intense drama-but the shadows of Cohen's life hang heavy on this scene, whatever Williamson may say. Cohen's grandfather was a vaudevillian minstrel who performed in blackface, back when the Cohens lived in Harlem-then a tony white neighborhood. For all that Williamson sees Black Caesar as a mythic take on his own rags-to-riches, underdog-vs.-prejudice life story, Cohen can just as well claim to be working out unresolved racial tensions of his own past. And let's not forget that the script closely parallels old black-and-white Hollywood classics and the true story of a real Harlem gangster-in other words, Black Caesar has the power it does because its story is resonant and relevant to lots of viewers, white and black alike. It "works." In the original cut, Williamson's character is beaten to death-not by his white enemies, but a new generation of black street thugs in the ruins of his old ghetto. Test audiences responded so strongly to the film, AIP's Sam Arkoff realized he was sitting on a gold mine (the flick earned $2 million in domestic ticket sales in 1973, which for a low budget film in that era was quite a windfall). Hits like these demand sequels. So, Arkoff ordered Cohen to snip off the last 90 seconds of the film to leave Williamson's character to a dire but still uncertain fate-enough wiggle room for a round two. The team reunited for a sequel, made so quickly Cohen was writing it as he shot it. "And it sure looks like it," Cohen admits. Hell Up in Harlem was released to theaters within months of its predecessor. Soon after, Williamson felt confident enough to launch his own company, Po' Boy Productions, and Cohen began making auteurist cult classics of his own. 23 years on, Williamson and Cohen reunited, but the tensions between them had not abated. Over time, the market for Williamson's low-budget quickies had dried up, and he had stopped making films. In 1995, he met Quentin Tarantino, whose boundless fandom for blaxploitation films re-energized Williamson. Inspired by Tarantino, Williamson decided to pay homage to the genre by taking the final scene of Black Caesar and expanding it to feature length in a film entitled Original Gangstas (released in 1996). He would reunite the top stars of the cycle-Jim Brown, Pam Grier, himself-in a story that pit their old-school kick-ass ways against an amoral new breed of teenage thugs. And who better to direct the thing than Larry Cohen? Where Williamson expected Cohen to be the efficient B-movie hack he was back in 1973, Cohen had in the intervening years blossomed into a writer-director-producer-auteur, with an emphasis on "writer." He and Williamson clashed on the script and the production, resulting in an admirable misfire of a movie, a noble failure. Perhaps it was a fool's errand. In what way could they have ever hoped to top the raw energy and electric power of their first, best collaboration. Black Caesar, the blackest movie you ever saw. A Larry Cohen-Fred Williamson picture. by David Kalat Sources: Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD Patrick McGilligan,

In the Know (Black Caesar) - TRIVIA


Even if you've never seen Black Caesar before, chances are you've heard its theme song, "Down and Out in New York City," by legendary soulster James Brown.

Brown was not originally slated to do the soundtrack to the film-that gig was to have gone to Stevie Wonder. Director Larry Cohen screened the rough cut of Black Caesar for Wonder, who worried about associating himself with something so dark and violent. James Brown had no such objections, and took the assignment with gusto.

Perhaps too much gusto. Given a three minute scene to score, Brown recorded five minutes; given a five minute scene, Brown recorded seven minutes of music. Cohen and his editor George Folsey, Jr. struggled to figure out how to fit the overlong passages into the film, and called Brown's manager to explain their predicament. "So James Brown gave you more than you needed," he retorted, oblivious, "What's the problem?"

In addition to James Brown, Cohen found himself working with another larger than life talent on the project-Rick Baker. Still a decade away from his first of many Oscar® wins, the make-up magician created realistic bullet holes and a gory severed ear for Black Caesar. Cohen still has that rubber ear, a souvenir of the shoot.

One of the supporting players in the picture was D'Urville Martin, an outstanding character actor who played alongside Williamson in numerous blaxploitation flicks--The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972), The Soul of Nigger Charley (1973), and Blind Rage (1978). D'Urville Martin followed the career trajectory of so many of Black Caesar's personnel and became a filmmaker and producer in his own right. In 1975, Martin directed Rudy Ray Moore's cult classic Dolemite.

Many of Larry Cohen's films have a marked satirical edge. His dark sense of humor has held him in good stead over the years, and indeed he got his professional writing start as a comedy writer, selling jokes to standup comics when he was just a teenager.

It was comedy that launched his directing career, as well. In 1972, Cohen wrote a pitch black comedy thriller called Bone, which he shopped to various studios with a unique pitch: "If you let me make the movie, I only need $85,000 to get started," he offered, "If you don't want to put up the rest of the money, you don't have to, and if you don't get your $85,000 back, I'll write you a free screenplay." Although Bone never did earn its $85 grand back, it got Cohen's foot in the door-and led directly to Black Caesar. Producer Sam Arkoff saw Bone and hired Cohen because it showed he "really knew how to direct those black actors." Although this puzzled Cohen (in what way would black actors be different to direct? And assuming they were, Bone only had one black actor, Yaphet Kotto, in it), he didn't look the gift horse in the mouth-and the commercial success of Black Caesar gave Cohen (and so many of his coworkers) the ability to go on to bigger things.

by David Kalat

Sources:
Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine
Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin
Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books
Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD
Patrick McGilligan, , University of California Press
Stanley Winter, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film, Avon Books
Steve Ramos, "It's Hammer Time Again," City Beat
Steve Ryfle, "The Last Action Hero," Shock Cinema Magazine
Tony Williams, "Larry Cohen," Senses of Cinema

In the Know (Black Caesar) - TRIVIA

Even if you've never seen Black Caesar before, chances are you've heard its theme song, "Down and Out in New York City," by legendary soulster James Brown. Brown was not originally slated to do the soundtrack to the film-that gig was to have gone to Stevie Wonder. Director Larry Cohen screened the rough cut of Black Caesar for Wonder, who worried about associating himself with something so dark and violent. James Brown had no such objections, and took the assignment with gusto. Perhaps too much gusto. Given a three minute scene to score, Brown recorded five minutes; given a five minute scene, Brown recorded seven minutes of music. Cohen and his editor George Folsey, Jr. struggled to figure out how to fit the overlong passages into the film, and called Brown's manager to explain their predicament. "So James Brown gave you more than you needed," he retorted, oblivious, "What's the problem?" In addition to James Brown, Cohen found himself working with another larger than life talent on the project-Rick Baker. Still a decade away from his first of many Oscar® wins, the make-up magician created realistic bullet holes and a gory severed ear for Black Caesar. Cohen still has that rubber ear, a souvenir of the shoot. One of the supporting players in the picture was D'Urville Martin, an outstanding character actor who played alongside Williamson in numerous blaxploitation flicks--The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972), The Soul of Nigger Charley (1973), and Blind Rage (1978). D'Urville Martin followed the career trajectory of so many of Black Caesar's personnel and became a filmmaker and producer in his own right. In 1975, Martin directed Rudy Ray Moore's cult classic Dolemite. Many of Larry Cohen's films have a marked satirical edge. His dark sense of humor has held him in good stead over the years, and indeed he got his professional writing start as a comedy writer, selling jokes to standup comics when he was just a teenager. It was comedy that launched his directing career, as well. In 1972, Cohen wrote a pitch black comedy thriller called Bone, which he shopped to various studios with a unique pitch: "If you let me make the movie, I only need $85,000 to get started," he offered, "If you don't want to put up the rest of the money, you don't have to, and if you don't get your $85,000 back, I'll write you a free screenplay." Although Bone never did earn its $85 grand back, it got Cohen's foot in the door-and led directly to Black Caesar. Producer Sam Arkoff saw Bone and hired Cohen because it showed he "really knew how to direct those black actors." Although this puzzled Cohen (in what way would black actors be different to direct? And assuming they were, Bone only had one black actor, Yaphet Kotto, in it), he didn't look the gift horse in the mouth-and the commercial success of Black Caesar gave Cohen (and so many of his coworkers) the ability to go on to bigger things. by David Kalat Sources: Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD Patrick McGilligan,

Yea or Nay (Black Caesar) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "BLACK CAESAR"


"...this Black Caesar is essentially black bad guys against white bad guys in gory warfare that evolves more as exploitation than as clear, convincing exposition of man's inhumanity to man. One can't avoid the feeling that Larry Cohen, the writer-director-producer, has stacked his melodrama largely for black machismo and constant carnage....Mr. Williamson, who led the slave revolt in the recent The Legend of Nigger Charley [1972], this time is equally imposing, tough and unflappable-if not as dignified-as the "Black Caesar," who seems to be subject to some of the shocks as well as the fate of the original Caesar. And the performances are as obvious as the program blurb which proclaims him "the cat with the 45 caliber claws."
- The New York Times

"This is one of the most celebrated films in the blaxploitation genre, and it deserves all the praise you can heap on it. This is an epic in every way."
-Todd Doogan, The Digital Bits

"One of the true highlights of the blaxploitation genre."
-Donald Guarisco, All Movie Guide

"A Scarface-like rags-to-corruption tale reminiscent of the Warner gangster films of the 1930s. Though more significantly dated relative to the other films in the series, Black Caesar retains a loyal following and is highlighted by a truly impressive taxi chase down the sidewalks of New York."
-Wade Major, Box Office.com

"[Director Larry] Cohen works against himself. He creates fascinating characters and then lets his actors mess them up. He conceives witty and elaborate action scenes and then tries to film them without investing enough of the budget to the let the sequences pay back."
-Doug Pratt, DVD-Laser.com

"Unfortunately it all remains too crude to convince one of its better intentions."
-Time Out Film Guide

"Cohen's technique is almost laughably crude, but a core of frightening conviction remains."
-Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"Black Caesar contains many fine cinematic moments. The scenes between Gibbs and his father show first rate acting and emotional truth. One of Williamson's best performances."
-Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is... What It Was

Compiled by David Kalat

Yea or Nay (Black Caesar) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "BLACK CAESAR"

"...this Black Caesar is essentially black bad guys against white bad guys in gory warfare that evolves more as exploitation than as clear, convincing exposition of man's inhumanity to man. One can't avoid the feeling that Larry Cohen, the writer-director-producer, has stacked his melodrama largely for black machismo and constant carnage....Mr. Williamson, who led the slave revolt in the recent The Legend of Nigger Charley [1972], this time is equally imposing, tough and unflappable-if not as dignified-as the "Black Caesar," who seems to be subject to some of the shocks as well as the fate of the original Caesar. And the performances are as obvious as the program blurb which proclaims him "the cat with the 45 caliber claws." - The New York Times "This is one of the most celebrated films in the blaxploitation genre, and it deserves all the praise you can heap on it. This is an epic in every way." -Todd Doogan, The Digital Bits "One of the true highlights of the blaxploitation genre." -Donald Guarisco, All Movie Guide "A Scarface-like rags-to-corruption tale reminiscent of the Warner gangster films of the 1930s. Though more significantly dated relative to the other films in the series, Black Caesar retains a loyal following and is highlighted by a truly impressive taxi chase down the sidewalks of New York." -Wade Major, Box Office.com "[Director Larry] Cohen works against himself. He creates fascinating characters and then lets his actors mess them up. He conceives witty and elaborate action scenes and then tries to film them without investing enough of the budget to the let the sequences pay back." -Doug Pratt, DVD-Laser.com "Unfortunately it all remains too crude to convince one of its better intentions." -Time Out Film Guide "Cohen's technique is almost laughably crude, but a core of frightening conviction remains." -Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader "Black Caesar contains many fine cinematic moments. The scenes between Gibbs and his father show first rate acting and emotional truth. One of Williamson's best performances." -Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is... What It Was Compiled by David Kalat

Black Caesar


Meet Tommy Gibbs, lowest of the low: his father abandoned his family, his mother scrubs toilets for a living, and he himself kneels at the feet of the White Man to shine their shoes. Tommy's so low, even down's starting to look like up.

Then one day, running an errand for some gangsters, he is maimed and left for dead. Gibbs survives-with a lifelong limp-and vows revenge. He will take everything of theirs, and more besides.

Flash forward: Gibbs is now a man (played by Fred Williamson). Systematically, he carries out a plan, conquering and killing the crime syndicate kingpins to claim the operation as his own. He is careful to leave his former tormentors alive-and keenly aware of their humiliation at the hands of a-no!-Black Man.

But with virtually unlimited power and wealth at his fingertips, Tommy's still restless. He wants something he can't have-to belong. And what he's got can be taken away in a moment... There is much to admire in Black Caesar (1973), not least Fred Williamson's extraordinary screen charisma. His forceful personality and iron-jawed good looks verge on godlike-how could a man like this ever have been on the bottom of anything? But writer-director Larry Cohen is more lucky than gifted-he doesn't direct Williamson so much as stage a movie with Williamson in it.

By his own admission, Cohen was working under reduced circumstances-the whole film was cranked out in a scant 18 days. Mind you, each of those 18 days was a grueling 18 hour slog. Inevitably, the production betrays its threadbare, exhausted origins.

For example, consider the much celebrated taxi chase. Williamson is wounded in an assassination attempt, and flees his would-be killers in a cab. Thick Manhattan traffic slows the taxi so much the gunmen can catch up on foot! The car weaves through pedestrians on the sidewalk as the assassins hover a few footfalls behind, jockeying for a clear shot at the bleeding target inside.

In concept, the chase is nothing short of brilliant-even unique, a rare accomplishment in the crowded field of movie car chases. In execution, however, the sequence is hobbled by poorly looped dialogue and cheap technique.

Despite Fred Williamson's riveting star turn and the memorable James Brown soundtrack, Black Caesar is generally stronger in its ideas than its style. Put another way: Cohen's a better writer than a director (at least at this early stage in his career).

For all that Tommy Gibbs does to build his empire, spend lavishly, and dispense extravagant gifts and violent payback in equal measure, none of these measures ever hide the hurt. Sure, he gets his revenge on McKinney, the corrupt and racist cop who maimed him, but the problem is Gibbs' wounds are deeper and more intractable than his limp. Getting even with Whitey is fairly straightforward but ultimately unsatisfying, because what he really needs is to reconcile with his parents. Coming to terms with his painful childhood is a prize that eludes him to the last.

Black Caesar distinctively ends at the present ("now" being 1973 natch)-its entire length having been a flashback. The past is prologue. Tommy Gibbs' world of gangsters and godfathers is a quaint relic of a time already gone by. Like the film noir gunmen he emulates, he's an anachronism-and in today's even harsher ghettos, a new breed of amoral street punks are taking over (an idea Cohen and Williamson flesh out in their 1996 Original Gangstas).

As the film builds to its brutal climax, Cohen has gradually yet masterfully turned Gibbs' story into an epic myth about American race relations. Gibbs and McKinney square off over a tin of shoe polish-a small prop, but by now imbued with enough symbolism to represent not just Gibb's hardscrabble youth but centuries of white-black inequality. Now, this is a movie that features a severed ear in a plate of spaghetti, an exploding turkey, a rape scene, and a phony priest who launders dirty money through his collection box. For a film jam-packed with two scoops of outrageous ideas, this one little can of shoe polish becomes the most powerful and evocative of them all.

In the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem (1973), Cohen and Williamson aspired to top themselves: they gave Tommy Gibbs a chance to lynch a white man, but not even this could match the simple raw might of Black Caesar's blackface scene.

For audiences in 1973, this was electric. Black Caesar endures today as a prime example of a genre now dead, but more importantly this is a film that connected to audiences in 1973 with confidence and authority. Contemporary viewers may find that blaxploitation films on the whole are tacky, but for their time they were revolutionary. The Civil Rights struggle had only just accomplished basic goals, the assassinations of black leaders and the turbulence of race riots were still fresh memories, and most American blacks experienced cruel prejudice as a daily matter of course. Thankfully, enough of this has changed that modern viewers can focus on the 'fros and pimp clothes-but back in the day, the sight of a Fred Williamson humiliating and replacing his white foes, even if only on a movie screen, meant the world.

Eventually the genre waned, in part due to controversy about the legitimacy of "black exploitation" movies in the first place.

"I never understood what this term 'black exploitation' meant," says Williamson, "I think it was created by idiots. When I work I'm very happy and the audience that goes to see the film is very satisfied and happy with the characters I've portrayed. So who's being exploited?"

Screenwriter, Director and Producer: Larry Cohen
Art Direction: Larry Lurin
Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton and James Signorelli
Film Editing: George Folsey, Jr.
Original Music: James Brown
Cast: Fred Williamson (Tommy Gibbs), D'Urville Martin (Reverend Rufus), Gloria Hendry (Helen), Philip Royce (Joe), Art Lund (McKinney), Val Avery (Cardoza), Minnie Gentry (Gibbs' mother), Julius Harris (Gibbs' father).
C-94m.

by David Kalat

Sources:
Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine
Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin
Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books
Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD
Patrick McGilligan, , University of California Press
Stanley Winter, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film, Avon Books
Steve Ramos, "It's Hammer Time Again," City Beat
Steve Ryfle, "The Last Action Hero," Shock Cinema Magazine
Tony Williams, "Larry Cohen," Senses of Cinema

Black Caesar

Meet Tommy Gibbs, lowest of the low: his father abandoned his family, his mother scrubs toilets for a living, and he himself kneels at the feet of the White Man to shine their shoes. Tommy's so low, even down's starting to look like up. Then one day, running an errand for some gangsters, he is maimed and left for dead. Gibbs survives-with a lifelong limp-and vows revenge. He will take everything of theirs, and more besides. Flash forward: Gibbs is now a man (played by Fred Williamson). Systematically, he carries out a plan, conquering and killing the crime syndicate kingpins to claim the operation as his own. He is careful to leave his former tormentors alive-and keenly aware of their humiliation at the hands of a-no!-Black Man. But with virtually unlimited power and wealth at his fingertips, Tommy's still restless. He wants something he can't have-to belong. And what he's got can be taken away in a moment... There is much to admire in Black Caesar (1973), not least Fred Williamson's extraordinary screen charisma. His forceful personality and iron-jawed good looks verge on godlike-how could a man like this ever have been on the bottom of anything? But writer-director Larry Cohen is more lucky than gifted-he doesn't direct Williamson so much as stage a movie with Williamson in it. By his own admission, Cohen was working under reduced circumstances-the whole film was cranked out in a scant 18 days. Mind you, each of those 18 days was a grueling 18 hour slog. Inevitably, the production betrays its threadbare, exhausted origins. For example, consider the much celebrated taxi chase. Williamson is wounded in an assassination attempt, and flees his would-be killers in a cab. Thick Manhattan traffic slows the taxi so much the gunmen can catch up on foot! The car weaves through pedestrians on the sidewalk as the assassins hover a few footfalls behind, jockeying for a clear shot at the bleeding target inside. In concept, the chase is nothing short of brilliant-even unique, a rare accomplishment in the crowded field of movie car chases. In execution, however, the sequence is hobbled by poorly looped dialogue and cheap technique. Despite Fred Williamson's riveting star turn and the memorable James Brown soundtrack, Black Caesar is generally stronger in its ideas than its style. Put another way: Cohen's a better writer than a director (at least at this early stage in his career). For all that Tommy Gibbs does to build his empire, spend lavishly, and dispense extravagant gifts and violent payback in equal measure, none of these measures ever hide the hurt. Sure, he gets his revenge on McKinney, the corrupt and racist cop who maimed him, but the problem is Gibbs' wounds are deeper and more intractable than his limp. Getting even with Whitey is fairly straightforward but ultimately unsatisfying, because what he really needs is to reconcile with his parents. Coming to terms with his painful childhood is a prize that eludes him to the last. Black Caesar distinctively ends at the present ("now" being 1973 natch)-its entire length having been a flashback. The past is prologue. Tommy Gibbs' world of gangsters and godfathers is a quaint relic of a time already gone by. Like the film noir gunmen he emulates, he's an anachronism-and in today's even harsher ghettos, a new breed of amoral street punks are taking over (an idea Cohen and Williamson flesh out in their 1996 Original Gangstas). As the film builds to its brutal climax, Cohen has gradually yet masterfully turned Gibbs' story into an epic myth about American race relations. Gibbs and McKinney square off over a tin of shoe polish-a small prop, but by now imbued with enough symbolism to represent not just Gibb's hardscrabble youth but centuries of white-black inequality. Now, this is a movie that features a severed ear in a plate of spaghetti, an exploding turkey, a rape scene, and a phony priest who launders dirty money through his collection box. For a film jam-packed with two scoops of outrageous ideas, this one little can of shoe polish becomes the most powerful and evocative of them all. In the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem (1973), Cohen and Williamson aspired to top themselves: they gave Tommy Gibbs a chance to lynch a white man, but not even this could match the simple raw might of Black Caesar's blackface scene. For audiences in 1973, this was electric. Black Caesar endures today as a prime example of a genre now dead, but more importantly this is a film that connected to audiences in 1973 with confidence and authority. Contemporary viewers may find that blaxploitation films on the whole are tacky, but for their time they were revolutionary. The Civil Rights struggle had only just accomplished basic goals, the assassinations of black leaders and the turbulence of race riots were still fresh memories, and most American blacks experienced cruel prejudice as a daily matter of course. Thankfully, enough of this has changed that modern viewers can focus on the 'fros and pimp clothes-but back in the day, the sight of a Fred Williamson humiliating and replacing his white foes, even if only on a movie screen, meant the world. Eventually the genre waned, in part due to controversy about the legitimacy of "black exploitation" movies in the first place. "I never understood what this term 'black exploitation' meant," says Williamson, "I think it was created by idiots. When I work I'm very happy and the audience that goes to see the film is very satisfied and happy with the characters I've portrayed. So who's being exploited?" Screenwriter, Director and Producer: Larry Cohen Art Direction: Larry Lurin Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton and James Signorelli Film Editing: George Folsey, Jr. Original Music: James Brown Cast: Fred Williamson (Tommy Gibbs), D'Urville Martin (Reverend Rufus), Gloria Hendry (Helen), Philip Royce (Joe), Art Lund (McKinney), Val Avery (Cardoza), Minnie Gentry (Gibbs' mother), Julius Harris (Gibbs' father). C-94m. by David Kalat Sources: Brett McCormick, "Fred Williamson: The Hammer Strikes!" Psychotronic Magazine Darius James, That's Blaxploitation, St. Martin's Griffin Gerald Martinez et al, What It Is...What It was!, Hyperion Books Larry Cohen, commentary track on the MGM Black Caesar DVD Patrick McGilligan,

Quote It (Black Caesar) - QUOTES FROM "BLACK CAESAR"


GODFATHER (Val Avery): You know, I never heard no ding speak Italian before.
TOMMY GIBBS (Fred Williamson): How many of us do you know?

McKINNEY (Art Lund): Right now you're as high as a junkie with a $100 habit, but everyone crashes-limpy.
TOMMY: Well that's fine. You gave me my education, now I'm putting your kids through college.

GIBBS (to his lawyer): I grew up wearing your things, mister. Everything wore out, got dirty, or outgrew. I even ate your leftovers.

GIBBS: It's a jungle out there, and it takes a jungle bunny to run it!

GIBBS (to his estranged father): Has it ever occurred to you that I've been waiting 25 years just to kill you?

REVEREND RUFUS (D'Urville Martin): I'd like to pray for her. I really would. I kinda feel I really could... pray for her.

"Hail Caesar, Godfather of Harlem-the Cat with the .45-Caliber Claws!"
- promotional tagline

Compiled by David Kalat

Quote It (Black Caesar) - QUOTES FROM "BLACK CAESAR"

GODFATHER (Val Avery): You know, I never heard no ding speak Italian before. TOMMY GIBBS (Fred Williamson): How many of us do you know? McKINNEY (Art Lund): Right now you're as high as a junkie with a $100 habit, but everyone crashes-limpy. TOMMY: Well that's fine. You gave me my education, now I'm putting your kids through college. GIBBS (to his lawyer): I grew up wearing your things, mister. Everything wore out, got dirty, or outgrew. I even ate your leftovers. GIBBS: It's a jungle out there, and it takes a jungle bunny to run it! GIBBS (to his estranged father): Has it ever occurred to you that I've been waiting 25 years just to kill you? REVEREND RUFUS (D'Urville Martin): I'd like to pray for her. I really would. I kinda feel I really could... pray for her. "Hail Caesar, Godfather of Harlem-the Cat with the .45-Caliber Claws!" - promotional tagline Compiled by David Kalat

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1995

Released in United States on Video February 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1973

Released in United States 1995 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Blaxploitation, Baby!" June 23 - August 10, 1995.)

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1973

Released in United States on Video February 1988