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One of the Best Films of the Day, That Set the 70s STYLE
on May 18, 2002
"Cotton Comes to Harlem" is a solid, funny, and most of all, cool movie which was, besides "Shaft" and "Coffy," to set the trend of the black movies of the 70s. Look how Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques walk and talk, and you'll know the meaning of "style."
Based on Chester Himes's novel, the film follows the two super-cool cops who suspect that Rev. O'Malley's "Back to Africa" campaign (minimun entry 100 dallors needed) is a fraud to steal money from people living in Harlem. But things get complicated when, during the rally, the organization is attacked by masked gangsters who took the money of $87,000, and that was done under the nose of the very cops. Determined to nail the criminal, and possibly the preacher himself, the detective Gravediffer & Coffin start their investigation, and do it in their own fashion.
The film keeps the fast pace with a tightly knit web of characters including Reverend's beautiful wife Iris. But most charming part of the film remains the same today: its being funny and smart. In fact, you will see among violent actions suddenly unexpected humor. The best thing of the film is, in my book, the car chase scene that include "the cemetary chase" and "a flying guy." The film also ends with a showdown in the Apollo Theater (though I don't know whether the inside scene of it was really shot there) And the real Harlem locale of the 70s, which helps to create the authentic atomospher, would be someday a precious record of the New York City.
In short, this is a film Quentin Tarantino with his known flair for characters and story might have shot 30 years ago. Some part of the film look, I admit, dated today when you see women's parts are little better than secondary, just catering obligatory sex scenes. Still, those scenes have been given slight touch of humor, that might almost compensate for the lack of the screen goddess like Pam Grier. Buy this one, along with "Coffy" and "Shaft" and perhaps "Across the 110th Street." That makes a quick course of learning what the blaxploitation films are all about.
Those two main charaters are to reappear in "Come Back Charlston Blues," which is, unfortunately, not as good as this one.