Hell Up In Harlem
From The Deuce
- Black Godfather is back...and there's gonna be Hell up in Harlem.
- He may never get to heaven, but he's raisin' Hell up in Harlem.
- Released in 1973
- Running Time: 94 Min.
- Production Co: American International Pictures (AIP)
- Distribution Co: American International Pictures (AIP) (1973) (USA) (theatrical)
Cast and Crew
- Directed by Larry Cohen
- Written by Larry Cohen
- Starring: Fred Williamson, Julius Harris, Gloria Hendry, Margaret Avery
- Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff, Larry Cohen, James Dixon, Peter Sabiston, Janelle Webb
- Original Music by Fonce Mizell, Freddie Perren
- Cinematography by Fenton Hamilton
- Film Editing by Franco Guerri, Peter Honess
Starting moments before the murder attempt on Tommy Gibbs' life in Black Caesar, this faster-paced and livelier (i.e. trashier) follow-up takes liberties with elements of the original's conclusion, but more than makes up for its deviousness with a bevy of fight scenes and two new villains that seem to be having fun with the material.
Yet, all the cheap thrills and high-intensity brawls can't disguise the fact that something's missing, especially in the performance of Fred Williamson, who seems to have distanced himself from the character in the mere months between the production of these two features.
Knowing that she could have helped put Tommy Gibbs in an early grave, Helen, his best friend's wife and his ex-lover, goes to the District Attorney, hoping to save the gangster's life before it's too late. Too bad for Helen, DA Di Angelo's in on the assassination, and he's dropping off the trigger man at that very moment.
After getting shot on his way out of Tiffany's, Tommy, who once ruled the rough streets of New York City, has no one to turn to but the father that left him and his mother behind. In a last ditch effort to maintain his role as kingpin of NYC's vice, Tommy gets his pops to hide the ledgers, which include the dirty dealings of every politician and elected official in the city, under a rock in Harlem and take his nearly lifeless body to the local ER.
If something seems out of whack here, it's the fact that Tommy was severely beaten by a group of young ruffians at the end of the original and basically left for dead. Although this element could have been added into the follow-up, the production team probably decided to excise it completely, as to not stir up any confusion... in turn, causing more confusion.
After getting stitched up, Tommy cuts a deal with the wily Di Angelo (who’s definitely the bad guy in this one, since McKinney bit it in the original, and there's no logical way they could have gotten around that) and heads back to the streets to kill off everybody who set him up. Even though Tommy and Di Angelo are supposed to be on the level, the coppers try to pick off "Papa" Gibbs on his way out of the hospital. Unfortunately for the boys in blue, the old man isn't too bad with his "lefts and rights" and it's not long before he's Tommy's right hand man, adorned in a pimp hat and matching fur coat.
Tommy also takes on the smart and tough Zachariah as his enforcer, but Zack's desire for fame outweighs his devotion to Tommy, leading to a power struggle in the last reel.
As for the action, expect kung-fu fights, scuba-gear clad crime syndicate takeovers and roundhouse kicking beach babes. What you shouldn't expect is much interest in Tommy's character, who stays in the background as his supporting cast outshines him in this interesting, if a bit undercooked, sequel to the blaxploitation classic.
Reviewed by Mdeapo 02:01, 18 February 2009 (UTC)