Hell Up in Harlem (1973) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Larry Cohen
Starring: Fred Williamson, Julius Harris, Gloria Hendry, Margaret Avery
Rated: R/Region A/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from Olive Films
Tommy Gibbs, a fearless, bulletproof tough guy blasts his way from the gutter to become the ultimate soul brother boss. When he steals a ledger with the name of every crooked cop and official on the mob’s payroll, he becomes the most hunted man in the city. Enlisting the aid of his father and an army of Harlem hoods, Gibbs goes from defense to offense, launching a deadly attack on his enemies that sets off a violent chain reaction from Harlem all the way to the Caribbean, climaxing in one of the hottest turf-war shoot-outs in Hollywood history.
The sequel to Larry Cohen’s Black Caesar, which also came out the same year called Hell Up in Harlem, might be a bit of a mess in some senses of the word but is also an entertaining one none the less. Tommy finds himself double-crossed more than once in this movie, as he’s got both cops and people in his inner circle after him and trying to cut him down. This causes issues between him and not just his baby mama, but his own father as well. This is a movie that doesn’t believe in dragging anything at all out, as we cut quickly from one scene to the next. One minute people are leading Tommy in to be operated on by gunpoint, then the next scene we have people scuba diving to fight cops on another island and have a little hand to hand combat with a woman who also knows karate. So, it’s a total exploitation flick, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. Even if all in all the plot is riddled with some of the oldest gimmicks in the book.
Fred Williamson is a blaxploitation legend and a movie like this shows why that is the case. He plays the role of the “Black Caesar” Tommy Gibbs perfectly and you can’t help but get behind him as he deals with dodging bullets, backstabbers, and women. The disc comes to us from Olive Films and looks pretty darn good. Better than you’d expect a movie like this to look. Larry Cohen crafted some interesting stuff during his days as directing and this one is a fun one if nothing else. You actually get an audio commentary on this release which helps make it an easier decision on if you are still unsure on pulling the trigger or not, but I think if you already own any Fred Williamson movies, then you GOT to have this one to go with it.
– Audio Commentary with director Larry Cohen and filmmaker Steve Mitchell
Quality of Transfer: 90%