If your copy of New Jack City is starting to fall apart from being watched so many times, it might be time to expand your horizons. Check out these classic flicks that Hollywood forgot.
By Justin Remus
“The baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town!” was the tagline, and they weren’t kidding. In the flick that made her a star, Pam Grier goes on the hunt for the scum who turned her sister into a junkie, systematically gunning down each and every one of them. But it’s not your typical blaxploitation flick. Coffy makes a moral statement …
…by depicting a world where everyone is on the take and corruption is the norm. On a lighter note, funky 70’s fashions abound and the Roy Ayers soundtrack is classic. Plus, you get to see Pam’s big ones not once, but several times. That alone makes it worth seeing.
Across 110th Street
Extremely violent yarn of three Harlem locals (including Antonia Fargas, a.k.a. Huggy Bear) who dress up as cops and rob a Mafia numbers house, pocketing 300 Gs and killing virtually everyone in sight (including two real policemen). Two mismatched cops, one black (Yaphet Kotto), one white (Anthony Quinn), are assigned to track down the amateur crooks before a sadistic mob enforcer gets them first. Highly suspenseful with a graphic edge to it, the flick is elevated by its use of actual Harlem locations. Bobby Womack did the theme song, which was reused in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
The Harder They Come
The first reggae musical (with an amazing soundtrack), it’s also the first English-language film with English subtitles because of its nearly impenetrable Jamaican patois. The story is nothing new: country boy Ivan (Jimmy Cliff) moves to the city and has a song he thinks will be a hit. But first he has to deal with a crooked record producer, a shady pre–Suge Knight impresario. Ivan resorts to selling ganja, becoming a folk hero when he a kills a crooked cop and goes on the run. Richly-textured, with terrific insight into Jamaican shanty life, it’s the prototype for today’s Black gangster genre.
Nothing But A Man
Almost a semi-documentary, this is a quietly powerful look at what it was like to be Black in the segregated South. Needless to say, it was no picnic, which Ivan Dixon (Sgt. Kinchloe of Hogan’s Heroes fame), a railroad worker, quickly finds out when he tries to settle down and marry a schoolteacher. He just tries to be himself, but encounters a type of prejudice that he’s never faced before. The movie is subtle and lacking in melodrama, which makes it even more honest and perceptive. This one is too far off the beaten path for Blockbuster, although it’s still easily available via the Internet.
If you think politics is boring, think again. Lumumba is a biopic of the first post-colonial prime minister of the Congo. It’s an also excellent thriller, superbly enhanced by Eric Ebouaney’s dignified performance as the charismatic beer salesman-turned-political leader. Overcoming incredible obstacles, he ascends to power but is betrayed by both his closest confidents and the CIA, who promptly dispose of him in violent fashion. Not exactly a date movie, but the story of Lumumba’s courageous sacrifice makes for enthralling cinema.
Copyright Star Media Spring 2005