Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cotton Comes To Harlem

Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970)
Dir:Ossie Davis ( Black Girl/Gordon's War)
Starring: Godfrey Campbridge ( Watermelon Man) Eugene Roche (Webster/Slaughterhouse 5)
Redd Foxx (Sanford and Son)
Cotton Comes To Harlem is one of the more famous Blaxploitation films although it never reached the cult status of Shaft or Super fly it was a big budget production. This one is definitely not the typical style though , As it has more of a Buddy cop comedy feel to it.
   The story follows two detectives Gravedigger Jones and Ed "Coffin" Johnson as they stakeout a slimy Reverend who is robbing the people of Harlem through promises of a ship that will take all the folks of the ghetto back to Africa. During a speech rally by Rev. O'Malley in order to come up with enough donations to make this trip possible some masked assailants arrive and open fire on the Reverend and his followers before snatching an armored van filled with the donation money. Quickly Coffin and Gravedigger give chase and a hot pursuit through Harlem follows.Eventually the chase comes to a fiery end as the two fleeing vehicles crash and upon investigation the money is nowhere to be found.

Immediately Digger suspects the Reverend is behind the money missing and they go to question O'Malley's girlfriend Iris. She assures them that she has no idea of his whereabouts and not trusting the women they place her under watch of a fellow officer. While the two agents are looking for the rev. has found refuge in a deceased friends wives home. Things appear to be looking up until Iris manages to escape the custody of the cop by seducing him and she finds him in the arms of his new friend Maddy. Meanwhile a mysterious bail of Raw Cotton has found it's way to Harlem and is found by a local junk man Uncle Bud (Redd Foxx)

Word of the cotton spreads fast and a local mobster Calhoun now is on the hunt for the bale as is the reverend and no one knows quite why this bail is so sought after. Uncle bud in need of some quick cash decides to sell the Bale to another junk man Goodman. The mobsters and O'Malley's boys all set out to find this Cotton at Goodman's yard one night and Coffin and Digger catch wind so they stake the place out, To witness the unexpected meeting of the two gangs. A fire fight takes place and shortly after while police are cleaning up the wreckage O'Malley suspiciously turns up and the boys take him in for questioning. While at the station Iris is in custody as well for the murder of Maddy and she has already spilled the beans on The reverends plot. It turns out that the Bale contains 87 thousand dollars and he hired the goons to stage the shooting at his rally in order to keep the money to himself. outside the station the people of Harlem demand that the Reverend be released and a riot ensues, Once O'Malley's attorney shows up to get him released the Police Captain takes Jones and Johnson off of the case due to their unorthodox antics so they find someone that hates the Rev just as much to find the location of the Cotton. Their only option being Iris , So she is snuck out of the jail and sets out to the church.

Iris Makes her way to the church and enters a secret doorway to find that Rev. O'Malley has been taken captive by Calhoun and his goons. She tells them the backhanded plans of the Rev. and says she will give up the location of the Bale if they kill O'Malley .Before they go that far Calhoun checks outside to see if Iris was followed and Jones and Johnson spring into action while O'Malley bribes Iris and makes his escape. It turns out that the Bale was sold to the Apollo Theater and is being used as a prop in a stage show. Later we see Iris hiding in the audience of the Apollo as O'Malley arrives and shortly after so does Calhoun in Black face. The Reverend goes on stage and reveals Calhoun as the man who tried to steal the cities money and he throws him to the angered crowd, When Coffin Ed makes the save putting him in cuffs as Digger goes after the Reverend and his sidekick Iris. The final standoff takes place and The Reverend is revealed for the scumbag he is as the people all turn their backs on him. One officer searches the Bale and finds no money inside , So naturally he blames Jones and Johnson for taking it, But the two crafty Agents manage to get the money from a local mafia owned business and by the time the Bale makes it to the precinct the money has been returned to the Bale. As Coffin and Gravedigger prepare to drive off they receive a letter , It is from Uncle Bud stating that he in fact took the money and has retired to live in Africa Wealthy and happy in his old age.

Cotton Comes to Harlem is not the typical Blaxploitation flick, as it is as I said more of just a African American Buddy Cop Comedy. It is truly a fun ride even if it is a bit hard to follow in the beginning , once the story starts rolling it is quite enjoyable. The banter between the two detectives is genuine and makes the two leads truly likable. Plus you cannot go wrong with Redd Foxx in any facet no matter how small his role is in my eyes, Because that guy is a legend.The movie manages to stray from being to goofy and still delivers the comedic goods when need be even when the film is to be taken seriously. I don't know that I would even classify this one as a Blaxploitation film at all honestly because even though there are some similar traits this film does not have the exploitative approach as more of the films in the genre, Perhaps because this one was made by an African American instead of a Jewish man like so many of the Blaxploitation films were. This one is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy films like Harlem Nights and the like . If you are looking for a Shaft type flick look elsewhere but if you are just looking for a fun ride this one does come through.
Ass Kickin': 6 ( Allot of action and fire fights to keep you entertained)
Jive:7 ( The dialog in this one is one of it's strong suits, There are quite a few classic lines in this one)
Funk:5.5 ( Pretty nice soundtrack to this one but nothing too memorable)
Playa's and Whitey's:6 ( The characters are all well developed and all serve their places well)
Ass and Tittay's:4 ( Not heavy on the nudity but this one is a buddy cop comedy so I guess there really was no need for the skin)
Overall on the Funk-O-Tron: 6.5 out of 10

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