Hell Up in Harlem

Film

Action and adventure

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Time Out says

This sequel to Black Caesar sparks from a marked tension between blaxploitation conventions and Cohen's maintenance of an ironic distance from his 'hero', who survives an opening semi-reprise of the earlier film's ending (having Harlem Hospital commandeered at gunpoint) to rise/fall/resurrect himself as underworld overlord of New York. The jerkily episodic narrative loosens its tremendous pace about half-way in, even if Cohen keeps jostling the formula with inventive story loops and staccato bursts of action, but it's the overall evidence of a film shot literally 'on the run' that makes this such a delight. Action constantly erupts to general bewilderment and brilliant effect on unsanctioned New York streets, while tourist trap monuments to American democracy serve as hit-and-run locations for conspiracy or corruption, as if in a dry run for Cohen's Private Files of J Edgar Hoover. Black maids force-feeding soul food to Mafiosi, a colour-reverse lynching, and a ludicrous foot-plane-foot chase sequence constitute just a few of the sly energies emitted en route to a characteristically ambivalent ending.
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Release details

UK release:

1973

Duration:

96 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Larry Cohen

Cast:

Margaret Avery, Gloria Hendry, Julius W Harris, Fred Williamson, D'Urville Martin

Music:

Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell

Production Designer:

Larry Lurin

Editor:

Peter Holmes, Franco Guerri

Cinematography:

Fenton Hamilton

Screenwriter:

Larry Cohen

Producer:

Larry Cohen

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