The Guy From Harlem/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Pictures don’t lie; case in point: the breathtakingly primitive carbon-copy movie poster for The Guy From Harlem. It’s an apt representation (along with its thoroughly un-inventive title) about what lies within: Blaxploitation’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
(Non-actor) Loye Hawkins plays Al Conners, a former New York City policeman-turned Miami private detective. Tall, good looking, “suave,” yet wooden, Hawkins has a Phillip Michael Thomas quality that works in tandem with the other decidedly low-rent—but no less fun—proceedings at hand.
Memorable characters—all of whom walk around over-lit sets delivering mind-numbing dialogue with a straight face—include dead-voiced secretary Sue (the improbably named Wanda Starr), buff, over-tanned kidnapper/bodybuilder Big Daddy (Scott Lawrence), and, most enjoyable of all, unrelentingly hostile Cathy Davis (Wanda DeBauld)—“I said: when am I gettin’ outta’ here honky?!”—a young woman who is being held for ransom but makes her disdain for her horny white captor crystal clear.
Several “fights”—in one a character is supposedly knocked unconscious after gently being pushed to the ground, flubbed, forgotten or hastily rearranged lines—“what is… what… what might that be?”, and a limp, hand-delivered, obviously empty legal-sized envelope (that is supposed to contain five thousand dollars in cash)—“it’s all there, count it!” are just a few of this film’s extraordinary low lights.
So are the consistent Zero Grade production values—shoddy photography, tinny music (including a theme song that sound like a 70s parody), poor sound effects, repeated scenes (!), clunky “continuity” editing, and a mise-en-scene whose major features include rented (exceedingly tacky) hotel rooms, a makeshift stage (is that really a back woods shack?!) and an empty field as a climactic fighting arena.
A jaw-dropping fiasco, The Guy From Harlem that is an absolute must see for trash film fans. Put it on at a party and watch your guests sit down and stare at the screen with their mouths wide open! Thrillingly inept.
Josiah Howard is the author of four books including Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide (now in a fourth printing). His writing credits include articles for the American Library of Congress, The New York Times and Readers Digest. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, Howard also lectures on cinema and is a frequent guest on entertainment news television. Visit his Official Website.