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Black Caesar (1973)

April 30th, 2006 · No Comments

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The rise and fall of Harlem gang lord Tommy Gibbs (Fred Williamson, former star defensive back for the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs), who, like Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney before him, alienates everyone on his way to the top and has no one to turn to on his way down.

Written, produced and directed by Larry Cohen, who was considered a good director of Black actors because his debut film Bone featured Yaphet Kotto. Cohen was approached by Sammy Davis Jr. about doing a dramatic role in the crime genre, leading Cohen to pen a treatment based on Little Caesar to play off Sammy’s height.

American International Pictures quickly put it into production with Williamson to cash in on the “Blaxploitation” craze. Black Caesar was promoted as “he Godfather of Harlem” and was a big hit.

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Other than an attention grabbing opening sequence that takes place in 1953, set to the first of three bad ass James Brown songs, “Down and Out In New York City,” Black Caesar has surprisingly little else going on. Art Lund stands out as the towering mick cop who is Tommy’s childhood nemesis, but otherwise, the entire cast here is a talent vacuum.

Black Caesar is routine, unimaginative and dull. The movie was shot in a mere 18 days on a $450,000 budget, but features none of the rain dog grittiness or entertaining style that so many more of AIP’s Blaxploitation flicks like Coffy or Blacula would boast.

Makeup effects master Rick Baker was on hand to provide the bullet holes and a fake ear that Tommy slices off with a razor blade.

Tags: Blaxploitation

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