BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Anyone's education in cinema involves stopping for a spell in New York City. While you are there, though, be sure to not skip out on the knowledge that can be gained by watching 1970's fascinating Cotton Comes to Harlem.
For a lot people, actor and author Ossie Davis' Cotton Comes to Harlem is THE movie that singlehandedly launched the Blaxploitation era of filmmaking. It is both funny and violent and, loaded with awesome action beats and severely righteous dialogue, a film that showcases the talent within the black community at a time when a majority of Hollywood's stars were white as snow.
Based on the novel by Chester Himes, Cotton Comes to Harlem sees Coffin Ed Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) and Grave Digger Jones (Godfrey Cambridge), two black New York City detectives, getting involved in a church-sponsored, government-supported Back-to-Africa movement that has riled up the streets of Harlem. It is a swindle, after all, and it seems only these two men are willing to get to the truth behind the shade that's thrown by the government.
After a hilarious and brutal car chase involving the theft of $87,000 leaves Uncle Budd (Redd Foxx) with a valuable bale of cotton, it seems there truly might be only one rule to live by in order for the black community to get ahead in this American life: by any means necessary. Fuck the wheels of justice, man. Sometimes they just aren't going to spin and hit pavement.
Using stereotypes to break through reality, Cotton Comes to Harlem is often purposefully hilarious and politically charged in its exploration of the darker side of this American life. The film, a big financial hit on its mediocre budget, is also STILL an absolute overnight sensation. Man, does this beast roar with pride and soul.
Co-starring Calvin Lockhart, J.D. Cannon, Judy Pace, and Blazing Saddles' Cleavon Little, Cotton Comes to Harlem is a movie that cares little for the wisecracks, shoot-outs, ghetto-comedy gold it consistently churns out. It is instead better read as a satirical sociological statement ... with exotic dancers.
The plot – much like the novel – is a confusing mix of characters and situations but, with Melba Moore belting out "Ain't Now But It's Gonna Be" over the opening credits, none of that matters when you realize our heroes are more concerned with protecting people from racism than they are in upholding the law. This is a political commentary powered by a fast-footed engine that would sooner crash the car than ever stop its raucous spree.
Cotton Comes to Harlem is now available on blu-ray from Kino Lorber. While they haven't loaded their release with any meaningful supplemental items, this is a must own for any serious fan of cinema.
Always bet on black, baby.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 97 mins
Director: Ossie Davis
Writer: Arnold Perl
Cast: Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, Calvin Lockhart
Genre: Action | Comedy
Tagline: Introducing COFFIN ED and GRAVEDIGGER, two detectives only a mother could love.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Now what would a bail of cotton be doing in Harlem?"
Distributor: United Artists
Release Date: May 27, 1970
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 9, 2014
Synopsis: Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are two black cops with a reputation for breaking the odd head. Both are annoyed at the success of the Reverend Deke O'Mailey who is selling trips back to Africa to the poor on the installment plan. When his truck is hijacked and a bale of cotton stuffed with money is lost in the chase, Harlem is turned upside down by Gravedigger and Coffin Ed, the Reverend, and the hijackers. Much of the humor is urban black, which was unusual in 1970.
Available on Blu-ray - September 9, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-25)
Region Encoding: A
The AVC encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) presentation of Kino-Lorber's transfer of Cotton Comes to Harlem is full of great detail. Close-ups are solid and the Harlem surroundings are fertile with crisp cityscapes and black shades. The transfer is supple with texture and especially shines when it comes to some of the outfits worn by the exotic dancers. Minor print damage, at the beginning of the film, settles down after a bit. The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix is merely adequate for this release.
A theatrical trailer is included.
- Trailer (2 min)