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BLACK CAESAR

USA, 1973 (MIFF 1998, Funky! Freaky! Foxy! - Blaxploitation Cinema)

Director: Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen's two Blaxploitation flicks - Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem - are often accused of ripping off the genre whitey-style. But Cohen is a sharp genre-crossing exploitation master. He delivers the funk and the action in Black Caesar and rams it hard and fast. Fred Williamson - ex-fighter and wannabe actor - sweats, grins, chomps and shoots in characteristic fashion. Loosely based on Little Caesar and fused with the exploits of real life heroin kings in Harlem. Gangsta style rules: Williams' Tommy Gibbs dresses like he's in a 30s gangster movie. You hardly ever find references to the Blaxploitation gangster cycle in any historical compendiums of the gangster genre published in the 70s. Scared? Embarrassed? Ignorant? To have overlooked Black Caesar amounts to racism - the same racism which allowed Washington to plaster PG stickers on Gangsta Rap records. Shoot 'em up, Fred. - Philip Brophy

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