The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shaft (1971)


John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is the ultimate in suave black detectives. He first finds himself up against Bumpy (Moses Gunn), the leader of the black crime mob, then against black nationals, and finally working with both against the white mafia who are trying to blackmail Bumpy by kidnapping his daughter.

Across 110th Street (1972)

"Across 110th Street" (1972) is a gritty NYC crime drama based on the novel "Across 110th" by Wally Ferris. This movie features a stellar cast, and there were no amateurs here. Everyone that starred in this film was seasoned and perfectly cast for the role. Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn are the NYC equivalent of Sidney Poiter and Rod Steiger from "In the Heat of the Night." While the movies are entirely different, there is no denying the similar dynamics of the character duo in each film.

"Across 110th Street" was the first movie from the 1970s that I saw in high-definition. The intro to the film is one of the most prolific theme songs of all time, sung by Bobby Womack and produced by J.J. Johnson. When the movie came on, NYC appeared, which panned to the drive through Manhattan with the mobsters turning onto 110th street. Watching movies from the 1970s in HD made all the sense in the world. After that, there was no turning back to DVD and VHS tapes. This film was an unfiltered glimpse of Harlem, and that's what we got throughout the entire movie. Interestingly, the original TV series "Law and Order" uses similar cinematography to "Across 110th Street." You know, the shaky and in-your-face camera movement through crowds of New Yorkers.

The "Across 110th Street" soundtrack is one of the best in all film history. So what I  said isn't an overstatement, either. It's a masterful piece of work. Plus, the soundtrack came out the same year as "Superfly," "Blacula," "Trouble Man," and "The Harder They Come." So including those could lead to a great discussion on their significance. J.J. Johnson was a busy individual in 1972, and the "Across 110th Street" soundtrack had more cuts than the original release. The deluxe edition of the OST included additional tracks, and there are even more songs not included in the deluxe edition. 

Nevertheless, I could go on and on about this movie, but if you have yet to see it, I highly recommend it. Otherwise, this is a classic film. Enjoy!

Director: Barry Shear
Writers: Luther Davis (screenplay by), Wally Ferris (from the novel "Across 110th" by)

Starring Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Franciosa, Antonio Fargas, Paul Harris, Ed Bernard, Gloria Hendry, Gilbert Lewis, Richard Ward, Paul Benjamin, Norma Donaldson, Marlene Warfield, Nat Polen, Tim O'Connor

After a robbery in Harlem turns into a scene of mass murder, promising young black police officer William Pope (Yaphet Kotto) is assigned to the case, along with surly, prejudiced Italian-American cop Frank Mattelli (Anthony Quinn). The pair clashes during their tense investigation as they try to track down the three suspects and apprehend them. Also searching for the fugitives is ruthless mobster Nick D'Salvio (Tony Franciosa), who will stop at nothing to retrieve the stolen money.

Available on Blu-ray (out-of-print) and streaming services. It's time for this to be upgraded to 4k.

Link to soundtrack review
Bobby Womack & J.J. Johnson - Across 110th Street (1972)