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Tommy Gibbs is a tough kid, raised in the ghetto, who aspires to be a kingpin criminal. As a young boy, his leg is broken by a bad cop on the take, during a payoff gone bad. Nursing his vengeance, he rises to power in Harlem, New York. Angry at the racist society around him, both criminal and straight, he sees the acquisition of power as the solution to his rage.
A lot of blaxploitation movies (even the good ones) can be pretty dopey male power fantasies, with incredible aesthetic window dressing to make up the difference - the music, the style, the characters, the acting, the dialogue, etc. But Black Caesar is a rare case of a very dark and complex character study that at times seems shackled by those same genre trappings.
But the overall effect is pretty unforgettable, mostly thanks to director/writer Larry Cohen and star Fred Williamson, both of whom are unafraid to portray Tommy Gibbs as a sometimes-loathsome killer who seems to have been doomed from childhood to one of several possible tragedies - he just ended up with the one that left him rich, powerful,…
Expected an typically "badass" blaxploitation experience but got something much closer to the classical tragedy the title references; a young hood rises to unprecedented power within the organized crime infrastructure of New York City and then realizes these cats did not come to praise black Caesar but, contrarily, to body him. Interesting to watch this on the heels of The Iceman, another movie about an outsider who gets in over his head with the Family only to find out that the organization only tolerates the Other for as long as it proves useful. But this is way better, with an ending that left me dazed and wounded - the music, so expertly composed and performed by James Brown, cuts out and we're left in stark silence; everybody in the audience I saw this with seemed to shuffle out in the same sad way.
All my favorite scenes were just Fred Williamson silently reacting to the racism around him.
Second best shinebox scene in cinema history, and it's a closer competition than you might think.
Who among us wouldn't trade it all to be Fred "The Hammer" Williamson dispassionately tossing fur coats from a high rise balcony one by one?
This review's title obviously refers to a famous Julius Caesar quote, and personally I think the greatest thing about "Black Caesar" is the subtle title reference towards the great historical leader. I deliberately state "subtle" reference, because the name itself isn't mentioned anywhere throughout the entire film, but the similarities between protagonist Tommy Gibbs and the Roman emperor are clever and relevant. Tommy also builds his own way to the top; in this case the conquering of a mafia empire that quickly becomes as over sized, cluttered and unmanageable as the Roman Empire. His methods are also merciless and strategic, but he also gradually transforms into a dictator feared by his loved ones as well as the target of conspiracies…
As far as blaxploitation posters go... You can't beat Black Caesar. Nothing comes close. The film is pretty groovy too.
....The Cat With The .45 Calibre Claws - Not only is this Larry Cohen's best film alongside It's Alive, it's also one of the greatest gangster movies ever made. As for James Brown's score? An essential for any soundtrack collection.
"Did you know a man's beard keeps right on growing, even after he's dead?"
Larry Cohen applies his weirdo wit to the blaxploitation picture and comes away with something far more tragic and complex than I was expecting.
It starts with an act of racially motivated violence against a young Tommy Gibbs by a cop. Thrown down the stairs, beaten to hell, slurs slung, Gibbs is left within an inch of his life. Cut to years later, and Gibbs, now played with significant jaw by Fred Williamson, has put himself on the path to become the head of the NYC crime life. He fights the police, he destroys the Italian mob, he brings his harlem gang to the top. At…
James Brown OST
Fred Williamson looking like a million bucks while walking down the street to James Brown would've been enough, but (stating the obvious alert) Cohen's (& Williamson's) willingness to make Black Caesar a complicated piece of shit is what really makes this film. & also Cohen's disdain for subtlety (cf. that pan from the shinebox to the American flag) (or everything about that fantastic conclusion, from the shoe polish to the garbage pile).
I only wish I found Cohen's brand of brashness more to my liking; for every one of his films that rubs me the right way, there are two that give me a serious rash. Then again, that I'm able to hang at all with a filmmaker who has no problem following up this pointed sucker-punch of a film with an ill-conceived batshit sequel like Hell Up In Harlem is a minor miracle.
Nos encontramos en la década de los 70 y el Blaxplotation esta en alza. Películas de bajo presupuesto y actores desconocidos con temáticas tan identificativas como el racismo, clases sociales, mafias... Todo ello acompañado de canciones reivindicativas por parte de los grandes maestros de la música negra, porque negra es su identidad, negra es su carta de presentación, negros son sus protagonistas y negro es el futuro que tenían estas películas en la época, destinadas a un publico minoritario.
Corría el año 1973 cuando el bueno de Larry Cohen se atrevió a hacer una versión negra de la gran obra maestra del cine moderno, El Padrino (de Coppola). Una película referencia para amantes de esta corriente fílmica llamada “Blaxplotation”.
A young boy whose leg is broken by a crooked cop aspires to be a kingpin criminal to exact his revenge on society. "Black Caesar" is actually very, very good. It might be the best blaxploitation movie I've seen. Most blaxploitation movies, while fun, are very much racial and sexual power fantasies. The problem doesn't square itself on the racial dynamics. Those are what make sticking it to the man so fun. It's the sexual dynamics (both misogyny and homophobia) that make them problematic. But "Black Caesar" is legitimately a great movie despite these minor setbacks (and I only say "minor" because they're not as blatant here as they are in other films of the genre).
This film, directed with…
Aunque ya se veía lo cabronazo que podía llegar a ser, prefiero al Cohen de los ochenta que al de la explotación pre-American Gangster.
Pretty straightforward gangster movie by Cohen who at this point in time hasn't let loose yet. Williamson is a boss (who paid the cost), but aside from that nothing that really caught my attention. I liked the ending, but I hear the sequel kinda nixes it so boo-urns 2 that.
"Uhhhh....on second thought, don't go get your fuckin' shine box."
"GIBBS (to his Father): Has it ever occurred to you that I've been waiting 25 years just to kill you? "
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