Now on Blu-ray: The Badass Blaxploitation Sequel ‘Hell Up in Harlem’

Costume SuperCentre Canada

Hell Up in Harlem

In the early ‘70s, a genre emerged that catered to an audience often ignored in cinema. Commonly known as Blaxploitation, movies like Shaft and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song gave a voice to the voiceless, a form of cinematic escapism where strong, capable black people could be the heroes instead of window dressing on the periphery of white people’s boring-ass stories. One of the stars to emerge from Blaxploitation was Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, a former football star who found a second career as a leading man.

One of the genre’s classics is Black Caesar (also known in some markets as The Godfather of Harlem), which was written and directed by Larry Cohen and featured a blistering soundtrack by the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. Released in 1973, Black Caesar was a hit with its race-flipping take on the gangster classic Little Caesar. Despite the film’s ending which seemed to indicate that Tommy Gibbs (Williamson) had met a grisly fate in front of Tiffany’s on 5th Street in New York City, a sequel would pick up right where the first one ended and would be released in the same year. Now that sequel, Hell Up in Harlem, is finally available on Blu-ray from the good people at Olive Films. While certainly inferior to its predecessor, Hell Up in Harlem is a still a fun piece of Blaxploitation filmmaking, continuing the genre’s trend of strong black leads and stories concerned with social issues that were ignored in other aspects of filmed media.

Cohen’s film wastes no time in getting the story moving, with Tommy Gibbs bleeding after an assassination attempt by his rival DiAngelo (Gerald Gordon), a corrupt district attorney who wants to seize control of the drug trade. Tommy is able to escape and heal, though he and his father Papa Gibbs (Julius Harris) are soon to be engaged in a turf war despite Tommy’s wishes that the family business exit the drug trade. Things take a dark turn when Helen (Gloria Hendry), Tommy’s ex-wife and the mother of his son, is murdered by Zach (Tony King), Papa King’s hitman. These events lead to a falling out between the father and son crime duo. However, Zach was working with DiAngelo and has orchestrated this falling out, and soon Tommy Gibbs, who has left Harlem, will return to his hometown and raise all sorts of hell on his quest for vengeance.

So much of the joy within Hell Up in Harlem comes when Tommy Gibbs is carrying out his quest for vengeance against those who’ve done him wrong. After healing from his wounds from the conclusion of the first film, Tommy takes on those who set him up for assassination, including one wild sequence where he and an army of collaborators seize a beachside mansion, forcing their foes to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at gunpoint. It’s added an extra twist with the home’s black staff of maids also in on the violent siege. Towards the end, Tommy becomes a one-man wrecking crew, staging various hits in public places. If there’s one thing that the genre of Blaxploitation mastered, it was catharsis. Anti-heroes taking up arms exerting bloody revenge against their oppressors always providing a certain level of thrills, something that Quentin Tarantino has had no problem utilizing in his own later films.

Nothing against the musical compositions of Fonce Mizell and Freddie Perren and performed by Edwin Starr, but they’re not James Brown. As Larry Cohen told me earlier this year, a legal dispute between James Brown and Samuel Z. Arkoff, head of American International Pictures, over the soundtrack for Slaughter’s Big Score prevented the Godfather of Soul from reprising his role as creating the film’s soundtrack. Sadly, the music that James Brown had made with Hell Up in Harlem in mind would end up being one of his most memorable albums, The Payback, which is frequently used in movies to this day.

The Olive Films edition of Hell Up in Harlem features a brand new audio commentary track from the film’s writer, producer, and director Larry Cohen. The genre master is known for his honesty when talking about his work and the stories behind the scenes and this is no different. The only other special feature available on the disc is the film’s original trailer, which is a work of art in and of itself.

Hell Up in Harlem is a lean, mean work of Blaxploitation that may not stand as one of the genre’s high water marks but still entertains to this day thanks to the natural charms of Fred Williamson and the brazen instincts of Larry Cohen. It’s a film that works right off its predecessor and wastes no time in telling its violent story of retribution in the seedy underworld of Harlem. This is one of the few times you could look at a movie and accurately say, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

YogaOutlet.com

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Red Sparrow
Better Dead than ‘Red Sparrow’

There’s usually an element of sexiness with spy stories. They hide...

Ryan Coogler and the Cast of ‘Black Panther’ Discuss Bringing Wakanda to the Screen

After years of anticipation, Wakanda is finally making its way to...

Ready Player One Come with me
New ‘Ready Player One’ Trailer Hints at a World of Pure Imagination

We’re living in an odd age where nostalgia has taken over...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
This Bulb Takes Awhile to Light Up – Yu-Gi-Oh! Wave of Light Review

Celestial fairies and counter traps take a while to yield results...

6.0/10
The Dynasty Alters Its Course – Dynasty Warriors 9 Review [PC]

The long-time franchise changes the formula and ventures into a big...

gaming pcs
Prebuilt Gaming PCs: A Better Option in 2018?

A fellow member of the gaming master race, Founder of Easy...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
8.5/10
Ninja-K #4: Much Ado About Ninjas

NINJA-K #4 Written By: Christos Gage Color By: Andrew Dalhouse Art By: Juan...

BLACK [AF]
‘BLACK [AF]’ is Imperfect yet Full of Potential

Comics Twitter convinced me to bet on BLACK, the series about...

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of ‘The Prisoner’ with Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, and Titan Comics

The Prisoner has been hailed as television’s first masterpiece; a surreal...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
WWE Slam Crate Starts the Year Off Right

In just two weeks time WWE’s Royal Rumble not only continues...

January’s Loot Crate is Here!

January is a month where resolutions are made, hopes are extended...

Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba
Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 Will Be Great For Your Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 will be great for your collection of Yu-Gi-Oh...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Epic Fighting 37 Full Results

Epic Fighting 37 took place tonight from the Four Points Sheraton...

Bellator 193 Full Results

January 26, 2017 – Tonight Bellator returned to Pechanga in Temecula,...

Bellator 192 Full Results including the Welterweight Championship and Heavyweight Grand Prix

January 20, 2018 – Tonight, airing for the first time on...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Magic Hat Brewing Teams-Up with Dropkick Murphys for an Ale as Smooth as Their Sound

Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing Company teams up with Boston’s Dropkick Murphys...

Cultural Junkdrawer ASSult on AVN pt 2: The Future!

Pt 2 of my AVN 2018 Recap! With Lloyd Kaufman, Pancakes...

Adult Continuity Presents: ASSult on AVN Pt 1: Sex Dolls and Concrete!

A firsthand account of the 2018 AVN show and ANE.

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming. Related

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...

%d bloggers like this: