BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Barry Shear's Across 110th Street remains a hard-hitting look at racial violence in the streets of New York City. Loaded with hundreds of F-bombs, there's no denying its visceral power and, while the film gets lumped in with a lot of other Blaxploitation flicks from the era, the gritty realism it parades on the streets of Harlem keeps it one step ahead of the rest. More people should be seeing this and, thanks to Kino Lorber, the unnervingly real film can be appreciated in high definition.
The film stars Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto. That alone should draw a film buff into this web of street tension as they bounce off each other's talents quite nicely. Both actors bring their A-game to this cops-and-criminals saga as they – two cops of different races and different methods – wind up working the same case involving the gunning down and robbing of two different Mafia members by a trio of small time crooks, Jim (Paul Benjamin), Joe (Ed Bernard), and Henry (Antonio Fargas), all out of options on how to survive the city.
The streets are about to explode as Harlem is brought to its knees by the mafia. Hell-bent on enacting revenge for the mafia, Nick D'Salvio (Anthony Franciosa) viciously hunts whorehouses and alleyways for the three men responsible for the crime, tearing a hole through Harlem (hence the title). And, holy shit, is this film ever politically and socially charged with meaning. It's frightening just how many people don't give it the credit and respect it deserves.
The film is a 1970s crime classic. No one, after actually watching it, will deny the movie of that claim. No one. Unfortunately, it NEVER gets mentioned when people talk of other classics from the era like The Godfather, The French Connection, or Taxi Driver. And it's a shame because this treatment of racial tension, uneasy partnerships, and charged underprivileged situations is still relevant. Much of Across 110th Street hits where it counts with thought-provoking dialogue and honest domestic situations that feel all too real.
Shear's film stands apart from other Blaxploitation offerings like 1971's Shaft, Trouble Man and Superfly from 1972, and 1976's Car Wash. It is the antithesis to what they offer and far too many people don't realize that. They hear Bobby Womack's main theme (also used in Tarantino's Jackie Brown) and think differently. It is then interesting to note then that the version the film uses of that hit song is a slowed down one and much less obvious and radio-friendly. It's thoughtful and meditative.
There's no comic book swagger in the strut of Across 110th Street. No over-the-top gushing in its violence either. The blood has purpose. While the description of the movie – whether it be from MGM or Kino-Lorber – leads one to think it is all jive-talkin' shenanigans, nothing could be further from the truth. Far too much of Shear's film is honest to goodness real in its portrayal of race relations, white privilege, and street crime.
The violence and preserve-the-established-power-structure throughout Across 110th Street defies easy categorizing. It is morally charged and, as a result, the film is completely without fist-pumping moments. Blaxploitation this is not. You might even say it is downright depressing. The main themes are astonishingly real for a commercially released film and are STILL shocking in just how brutally honest they are.
You really need to give it a chance. Critics, on the other hand, need to stop being so damn dismissive of it. Across 110th Street deserves a second chance.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Barry Shear
Writer: Luther Davis
Cast: Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Franciosa
Genre: Action | Crime
Tagline: If you steal $300,000 from the mob, it's not robbery. It's suicide.
Memorable Movie Quote: "What else brings whites to Harlem but business?"
Distributor: United Artists
Release Date: December 19, 1972
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 9, 2014
Synopsis: Two New York City cops go after amateur crooks who are trying to rip off the Mafia and start a gang war.
Available on Blu-ray - September 9, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Locked to region A
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Across 110th Street with a crisp 1080p transfer in its original 1.84:1 aspect ratio. There are some scratches in the print used but the locations in the city are really striking and come through in the upgrade. Grit is everywhere; grit and age. It's probably not the prettiest of prints they could have used for the upgrade but it will do just fine. You can feel the exhaust blowing on your skin while watching. Colors are well-saturated and resist bowing to the ravages of time. The blood effects pop with deep reds. Black levels are strong, too. Shadows run deep and the contrast is high. The release is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track.
There is a Theatrical Trailer and that's it.