Thursday, October 4, 2018

Across 110th Street (1972) Pseudo Blaxploitation Noir

One of the first legitimate Hollywood attempts to exploit the Blaxploitation phenomena. This film is not only a stylish and an excellent replica of the Blaxploitation formula but also a throwback to the type of Film Noirs the French called "policiers" otherwise known here as the police procedural. I say "Pseudo Blaxploitation" because it was written, produced and directed by "whitey," at least the music was by Bobby Womack and J.J. Johnson.

They used that Blaxploitation formula to make a compelling and gritty film. It was directed by Barry Shear (Wild in the Streets (1968), The Todd Killings (1971), written by Luther Davis based on Wally Ferris' novel. The excellent cinematography was by Jack Priestley ( a cinematographer and camera operator for 48 episodes of Naked City TV Series (1958–1963).

Across 110th Street stars Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Franciosa and Paul Benjamin. The twist is supplied at the very beginning of the piece.

Its $300,000 mob money "cut" (a percentage of the monthly take from numbers, drugs, gambling, and prostitution) between the black Harlem gangsters led by Doc Johnson (Richard Ward) and their Italian counterparts led by Nick D'Salvio (Anthony Franciosa) Franciosa here is looking like a silver haired prototype John Gotti like mobster.

East Harlem at top center & left behind Welfare/Roosevelt Island (East River)
The Mafia accountant, his bodyguard and three Harlem gangsters are ambushed by three black freelancers led by ex con and currently a building super, Jim Harris (Paul Benjamin). The other two are Joe Logart (Ed Bernard) a dry cleaner and Henry J. Jackson (Antonio Fargas) a wheel man and small time hustler.

ill gotten gains mob accountant bodyguard  Burt Young far right

In the book

the holdup

The two freelancers that break into the "bank room" in the safe house are tricked out in real cop uniforms, and out to stick it to the man in general. When one of the gangsters makes a wrong move Harris makes Swiss cheese out of them all with his 9mm machine gun. Harris machine guns down blacks and whites indiscriminately. On their getaway in a black painted Checker sedan, they kill two NYPD cops just arriving at the scene.

Jim Harris (Paul Benjamin)

Jim Harris with Henry J. Jackson (Antonio Fargas)

A Checker sedan getaway car

All this results in the NYPD, the Italian Mob and the Black mob all after the same three perps. The new black detective in charge of the case is Lt. William Pope (Yaphet Kotto) his precinct Captain Frank Mattelli is played by Anthony Quinn. Pope and Mattelli have different approaches to police work, Pope is a by the book liberal, Matelli is get results the old school way brutal.

Nick D'Salvio (Anthony Franciosa) 

Lt. William Pope (Yaphet Kotto) 

Captain Frank Mattelli( Anthony Quinn)

Doc Johnson (Richard Ward)
Doc Johnson's hoodies have the inside scoop to the underbelly of the Harlem ghetto they are the point men combing the dives and gutters, spreading around Benjamins looking for tip offs. When ever they track down a clue they pass the info to D'Salvio.

Shevvy (Gilbert Lewis)
Joe Logart (Ed Bernard) left, and possibly Mel Winkler

It all goes Noirsville when Doc's right hand man Shevvy (Gilbert Lewis) finally tracks down Henry J. Jackson in a Harlem Whorehouse, and D'Salvio goes medieval on his sorry ass. He not only crucifies him but also cuts off his nuts, nice guy.


1965 Cadillac Coupe DeVille

Central Park

Apollo Theater

125th Street Harlem

The Red Rock Tavern, Carolina Market and the Cold or Gold Glass Bar

 Henry J. Jackson (Antonio Fargas)

Low angle


Dutch angle



Gloria (Norma Donaldson)

Overhead shot

Low Dutch Angle

Low Dutch Angle

Charles McGregor

The film addresses Black and White relations in New York City, Black and White integration into the New York Police Department, the new (for the time) progressive attitudes to police procedures, and the dynamics between street wise Mattelli and by the book Pope.

All the actors are top notch Quinn, Benjamin, Kotto, Ward, Lewis, Bernard, and Fargas are very believable. Franciosa gives a good scenery chewing performance as the torture loving capo.

Its a reasonable facsimile Blaxploitation film with an obvious message, and a good Neo Noir 9/10.

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