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Warner Home Video presents
Uptown Saturday Night (1974)

Wardell: No, no, now see, wait a minute; first, that was the hardest hittin', fastest, baddest, little black man of colored descent, I have ever seen in my life; but I had him on the run, didn't I, 'Home'?"
Steve: Didn'tcha. Now wait a minute, what did he hit me with, his foot or his hand?
Wardell: Both of them, at the same time.

- Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier

Review By: Joy Howe and Mark Zimmer  
Published: January 12, 2004

Stars: Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte
Other Stars: Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, Clayton Lockhart, Paula Kelly, Roscoe Lee Browne, Harold Nicolas
Director: Sidney Poitier

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language, implied nudity, sexual references, comic violence)
Run Time: 01h:44m:06s
Release Date: January 13, 2004
UPC: 085392889020
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-B B+

DVD Review

What a fun movie. This is a highly entertaining comedy that's being marketed as if it were "blaxploitation," but it's really a higher-budget (and higher quality) black buddy movie. Sidney Poitier both directs and stars, and is joined by a wide ensemble of black actors of the period: Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, Harry Belafonte, Calvin Lockhart, Roscoe Lee Browne, Paula Kelly, and Harold Nicolas. Although there are elements (both in plot and the all-star nature of the picture) that might seem reminiscent of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, this is a rather different caper, and a good deal funnier to boot.

Bill Cosby, playing the character Wardell Franklin and his unsophisticated pal, Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier), get in a pinch while trying to put a little innocent excitement into their routine but happy married lives. Wardell convinces his buddy Steve to accompany him to a private club where Wardell hopes to get an innocent taste of the high life, consisting of ogling "gorgeous girls". Well, it's never that simple, now, is it? Girls and craps tables in private clubs inevitably lead to no good. And if the two innocent newcomers suffer the "no good", well....before long the chase is on. It's a fairly mellow chase, but a chase nonetheless.

This movie takes place in the mid 1970s and the scenes of everyday black life are happily and whimsically sketched. The church picnic is one that anyone would be lucky to visit for an hour or two. The characters who are involved in various shenanigans are done with a light touch. Practically everything about this movie is kindly yet funny, including the fight scenes. The costumes, particularly the men's suits, seem to be way over the top if not self-conscious parodies, but then, this was the '70s, after all: the decade of sartorial excess. These polyester wide-lapel suits might not have drawn snickers back then, but rather, envious glances. Seeing them now is quite amusing.

This movie is full of famous actors, although I did not recognize Harry Belafonte until the second viewing. Flip Wilson is excellent as a determined but soulful black Reverend, preaching about keeping one's mouth shut against other members of the church. Richard Pryor is also excellent in a brief scene as a private eye trying hard to go on the lam himself. The women who star are uniformly good. Rosalind Cash, as Steve's other half, Sarah, is excellent as the kindly and understanding wife, giving a portrayal of stand-by-your-man loyalty that would put Tammy Wynette to shame. Except when she gets a notion, that is. Paula Kelly plays Leggy Peggy, the wife of Congressman Lincoln (Roscoe Lee Browne). She is naturally eyecatching, in the true sense of the words; charming with her vivacity and energy. She is certainly the most interesting and animated woman here and just plain fun to watch.

This was the first of three "Black Buddy" movies that Poitier and Cosby did together; the others being Let's Do It Again and A Piece of the Action. I've not seen the other two movies, but I don't see that there is much room left for any improvement in character development or plot. One of the motivating factors for Poitier to make such a movie, which didn't feature him as his usual stuffy upper-class character, was to ensure that he wouldn't lose his appeal to the black community. While this role might not have exactly established a street cred for Poitier, he's plenty credible in a working class, "average guy" role in this movie.

The humor is warm-hearted and genuinely funny, with character taking precedence over slapstick for the most part. To top it all off, there's a killer score by legendary jazzman Tom Scott, making it a pleasure for the ears as well. Definitely worth checking out.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: For a thirty-year-old picture, this looks quite good indeed. The picture is detailed with excellent color and black levels. Shadow details and textures are generally quite strikingly good. There is some aliasing and minor dot crawl at times, but it's not terrible. There's some nominal speckling, but otherwise the source print is flawless.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a decent 1.0 mono that seems to accurately reproduce the original sound. Music tends to be a shade on the thin side in the bass area, and is occasionally slightly tinny and compressed sounding. There's some moderate hiss and noise but nothing beyond what's to be expected in a low-budget film of this vintage. It's by no means a home theater showpiece but it's adequate. This would have been an excellent disc for an isolated music track, but alas none is to be found.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by film professor Dr. Todd Boyd
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: "What I like about this movie that I think is better than a lot of black comedies that you see now is that the humor in here is really smart...intelligent...not just guffaws...physical comedy; not the sort of Stepnfetchit, eye-rollin', head scratchin', and speech-slurred jeffin' that you see with some individuals."

The commentary and retrospective are additional pleasures. Informal and chatty but not to the point of being irritating, Dr. Todd Boyd, professor at USC School of Cinema and Television (or as he calls himself on the track, "Dr. B"), gives us all sorts of background and information about the context, the history of similar black movies, and the actors. I won't spoil the pleasure of his tidbits or especially his closing shtick. He does have a habit of injecting "You know" a couple of times into nearly every sentence, and from time to time falls into the trap of narrating the movie.

In addition to an anamorphic trailer in nice shape, there's a featurette retrospective, The Lowdown on Uptown, comprised of an interview with writer Richard Wesley and additional comments by James Earl Jones and Armond White, NY press critic. Each provides interesting information about the creation of the movie. Wesley tells who the roles were originally intended for and how the actors determined the final assignments. The short (7m:06s) retrospective is yet another quality addition to this package.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

An excellent, kindly, feel-good comedy that aims more toward family film entertainment than blaxploitation film fans; this is a gem!

 


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