I beg you to believe its reputation, it is a masterpiece, done by the boy genius who mastered Theater, then Mastered Radio, then Mastered Films! But it would cost him. He made a powerful enemy with this film (the first of many), and for all intents it cost him his career.
The studios going forward would be at odds with Welles, and he would never again have the budget, the control, and the resources, he had in this his first film. Every film going forward would be a war to get financed, and a war to get finished, and a war with studios to get his vision on the screen. And despite being hobbled he still managed to make, masterpieces.
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, THE STRANGER, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, BLACK MAGIC, THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed is talented, but what elevates this movie is pure Orson Welles), TOUCH OF EVIL, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, all in one way or another are Welles’ vision hampered, but even mitigated Orson Welles, is cinema at its finest.
An absolute masterpiece. This film both emotionally and stylistically was then and remains now, staggeringly unequaled. It is great to see Director Albert Hughes, back in the directing chair for the upcoming excellent looking THE GOOD LORD BIRD mini-series.
I do not count his amateur student film EGGSHELLS. This is Tobe Hooper’s Debut Film. And almost 50 years later… still groundbreaking.
Ossie Davis’ debut film does not get the praise it deserves for just being groundbreaking in terms of its action, its car chase scene, its mix of brutal colded blooded violence, and near Shakespearean comedy relief characters, and its performances. I hate the term Blaxploitation, and this is not that. This is straight up a great film, and a brilliant adaptation of Chester Himes iconic hard-boiled characters.
After decades of real Hollywood Black Exploitation (where people of color’s definition was relegated to token clowns, servants, thugs, or sidekicks) Davis’ COTTON COMES TO HARLEM was one of the first post JIm Crow films, to offer multiple characters of colors, as heroes, as the protagonists, as tellers of their tale, rather than a side note in someone else’s story.
In ways, it was the BLACK PANTHER of its day, showing Hollywood that action/genre films by and about characters of color could be profitable. And beyond all that it is just a GREAT film. A must own film. The Blu-ray is almost out of print, and when films like this go out of print— they go out of print. So get your copy today while they are available.