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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tough, gritty blaxploitation classic not to be missed
Black Caesar (1973) is one heck of a good movie. I hate the term blaxploitation that is used to describe movies of this genre because it implies that these sorts of films are somehow second-class entries in the world of cinema. Black Caesar is a first-class ride from start to finish, taking as much from classic gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s as it does from earlier...
Published on 5 Aug 2005 by Daniel Jolley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
This is one of those films you really want to like but just disappoints.

It starts off promisingly enough, setting up the scenario of a corrupt cop and a victimized kid going up against the mob. But as the story wears on it makes less and less sense. It's also hampered by low production values and pedestrian editing - which are hard to forgive, even in a...
Published on 8 Nov 2012 by classic 1965


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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tough, gritty blaxploitation classic not to be missed, 5 Aug 2005
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Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Caesar [DVD] (DVD)
Black Caesar (1973) is one heck of a good movie. I hate the term blaxploitation that is used to describe movies of this genre because it implies that these sorts of films are somehow second-class entries in the world of cinema. Black Caesar is a first-class ride from start to finish, taking as much from classic gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s as it does from earlier blaxploitation films such as Shaft. Larry Cohen gave us a tough, mean, dirty, gritty film that tells it and shows it like it is: plenty of cursing, gunplay, blood, profanity, nudity, and racism. I have heard that the starring role was originally written for Sammy Davis, Jr. Nobody loved Sammy more than I do, but there's just no way he could have done the things that Tommy Gibbs does effectively. A lot of people deride the acting skills of Fred Williamson, which makes no sense to me; the man is just fantastic in this film.
Tommy (Williamson) grew up on the streets of Harlem, where the living was hard. When a corrupt, racist cop smashed up his leg at a pay-off exchange gone wrong, young Tommy's future was set. Eight years in prison taught him everything he needed to know to pull off his master plan of becoming the man who runs Harlem. Just after he limps back into town, he scores a mafia hit in broad daylight and uses that audacious act to nose his way into the local Family. Back then, the Mafia didn't make a habit of embracing blacks, no matter how useful they could be. All Tommy asks for is a block in Harlem to call his own; he gets it, and a new reign of terror begins as Tommy and his associates begin cleaning house. At first, they talk about helping the blacks in the community at the same time, but this whole thing is really just about the money and the power. Ironically, Tommy finds himself working with the same slimy cop who broke his leg as a youth, but he's got the guy by the short hairs thanks to his acquisition of certain evidence against him.
As you might expect, a couple of blocks in Harlem is just the beginning for Tommy. He quickly expands his operation and puts the screws to the Italians running the show in New York. He becomes, for all intents and purposes, "the man" and gains control of all of Harlem. All the power and money can't make him happy, however; no one seems to appreciate the things Tommy can give them, especially his mother and his wife. As things start unraveling in his personal life, he is set up for a fall - and his Italian "friends" are ready and willing to take him down. The final half hour of the movie is nothing short of intense, as Tommy tries to deal with betrayal and simply stay alive. His final encounter with the racist cop who has tormented him for so many years makes cinematic history, as far as I'm concerned.
The music makes this fantastic film even better, as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, supplies the funky soundtrack. Songs such as Down and Out in New York City and Mama's Dead sharply define pivotal moments and make sure the film always fires on all cylinders. It's hard to believe Black Caesar was filmed in only 18 days, especially given some of the elaborate chase scenes taking place on New York streets. This is a masterpiece of a low-budget film. Maybe a couple of the sociological aspects of the film don't play as effectively as they did back in 1973, but Black Caesar has really lost nothing of its raw power and intensity over the years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 8 Nov 2012
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classic 1965 (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Caesar [DVD] (DVD)
This is one of those films you really want to like but just disappoints.

It starts off promisingly enough, setting up the scenario of a corrupt cop and a victimized kid going up against the mob. But as the story wears on it makes less and less sense. It's also hampered by low production values and pedestrian editing - which are hard to forgive, even in a low-budget film, when the plot gets so lame and the performances become so wooden.

All in all it's a poorly-executed film that woefully fails to live up to its billing. I'm being generous giving it 3 stars - 2.5 would be about right - because I really admire Fred Williamson and the cast seem to trying really hard to make the best of the poor hand they've been dealt by the script and the director.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed oppertunity, 12 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Black Caesar [DVD] (DVD)
I love Blaxplotation films, i don't mind whether their campy or more serious like Black Caeser i judge the film as it was intended to be viewed, all are enjoyable in their own right. I can't in honesty give this film anymore than 3 stars though as Director Larry Cohen (It's alive) completely rear ends this movie with his shoddy directing. The story is strong and Willamson is fantastic as Tommy Gibbs, a street punk who works his way up to being the top boss usurping the local mafia in the process. Had this been handled by another director this movie could easily have been taken more seriously by critics and public alike, Cohen's record as a schlock b movie director is pretty bad, even by the standards set by it's peers and Black Caeser never engages as well as it should. Take the scene at the end where Williamson is being chased in a cab by the mafia, it's so badly shot and edited the impact and tension of the scene is never heightened to the level it should have,i know this is a low budget production but so was Shaft which was far more slickly and professionally shot by the excellent Gordon Parks. It sounds like i probably hate this film, i don't, Williamson is superb throughout and is one reason to watch this but i always look at this movie as somewhat as a missed opportunity. I would still recommend this to any fans of the genre but it never quite gelled with me as some of the other movies in this genre did.

As with other MGM soul cinema releases the 1.85 framed transfer is pretty good but not quite as sharp as Coffy or Foxy Brown and a few other releases in this series. The mono soundtrack is unfortunately not quite as good as the others in this collection, the sound can be indistinct in places and sounds shrill and hollow, probably because no ADR or looping was done due to it's low budget.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Gangster drama., 20 Sep 2014
This review is from: Black Caesar [DVD] (DVD)
Black Caesar is not one of the best blaxploitation films. It's more serious than Jack Hill's films, with a negative feeling, lacking in entertainment. It could have been a lot better. The best films that i've seen lately are Norifumi Suzuki's "Girl Boss Revenge"(1973) and Kan Mukai's early "pink" film "The Bite"(1965).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish Blaxploitation!, 11 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Black Caesar [DVD] (DVD)
Full of funky hip dudes letting us know in abundance how cool they are! Trouble is, only a few can rule!
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Black Caesar [DVD] by Larry Cohen (DVD - 2003)
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