Tougher than Shaft and smoother than Superfly, this high-voltage sequel to Black Caesar explodes with enough action to incinerate New York City. Packed with machine-gun mayhem and riveting adventure, Hell up in Harlem is n... more »othing less than a modern-day tribute to the classic 30s gangster film. Fred Williamson (Original Gangstas) is Tommy Gibbs, a fearless, bulletproof tough guy who blasts his way from the gutter to become the ultimate soul brother boss. When he steals a ledger with the name of every crooked cop and official on the mob's payroll, he becomes the most hunted man in the city. Enlisting the aid of his father and an army of Harlem hoods, Gibbs goes from defense to offense, launching a deadly attack on his enemies that sets off a violent chain reaction from Harlem all the way to the Caribbean, climaxing in one of the hottest turf-war shoot-outs in Hollywood history.« less
"But, not as good as Black Caesar. There was a good deal of action in this film, more than the predecessor, and you can definetly tell that a lot more money was spent on this movie, however it lacked the originality and spontanaity of the first film. The action scenes were better, and the story was very well thought out, but the movie just lacked something. Tommy Gibbs is still a super ... though, and I wouldn't wanna mess with him. "Hell Up In Harlem" just strikes me as a sequel with a LOT of potential, and energy that would have made a fine film, but the tale gets caught up too much in trying to out do the first film, instead of building upon it. ... I think this is a must see for fans of the fisrt film, but don't be surprised if you are disappointed."
Great sequel to Black Ceasar
B-Movie Fan | 06/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fred Williamson is the man. He was the sexiest african american actor of the 70's..and still sexy today..:-) It was a great sequel. The James Brown sound tracks were right on! I would suggest buying the 2 DVD special. It's a great deal. I've seen Black Ceasar and Hell up in Harlem sold for a lot more.I will always love Fred Williamson. If you are Fred Williams fan..you will like him in One down..two to go" the "Kill Reflex".."Bucktown". I can go on and on. I own every film that Fred Williamson has been in."
Smashing! Fred Williamson in a Rough and Touch Action Film
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/02/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One video guidebook dismissed it as a "turkey"; another called it "bomb." "Hell Up in Harlem" didn't and won't get critical acclaim, that's for sure. But I say, it's terrific!Don't get me wrong. From purely artistic point of view, the film IS awful. It doesn't know where it goes; it is full of hurriedly shot scenes with shoddy editing; and most of all, didn't Fred Willaimson die at the end of "Black Caesar"?BUT ... Yes, but "Hell" still entertains us. And much more fun than you expect from lukewarm reception from critics. Okay, so, let me tell you what you see in this movie. Tommy Gibbs (Williamson) is not dead, and he is sent to a hospital under the guard of gangsters who take hostages of other patients and doctors (wow!) while having the operation. And Gibbs comes back, with his father (Julius Harris), and again they fight and rule. But again another corrupt white DA is waiting for the time to divide and destroy them.Well, forget the story. The point is, you see lots of action one after another, so you never stop and think about it. Just look how Fred Williamson wipes out his enemies. He assassinates one of them with a rifle from the Broadway signboard; he massacares the mobsters in the Florida Keys with a help from ... two middle-aged, Afro-American maids (the kind of housemaids you see in "Gone with the Wind") who hold guns with most wooden posture and grinning faces. Even Coney Island is no longer a peaceful place for amusement. Fred Williamson takes up a beach parasol (among other things on the beach) and, OUCH!! one of the gangsters meets nasty death instead of the cozy sunshine on his stomach. Looking back from now, "Hell Up in Harlem" seems to have gone a little too far. The chain of its incredible plot twist and intense actions may make some of us tired of watching it, and some wise-cracking lines may make some of us very uncomfortable (for example, listen to a one-liner about "soul food" and watermelon). But it is still fun. Probably it was produced too quickly, but again Larry Cohen's fast-paced direction seldom gets us bored with unique hand-held camera and authentic locations. And the film gives one of the earliest performance of Oscar nominated Margaret Avery (for "The Color Purple", 13 years later). Anyway, my final verdict. Don't think; just enjoy watching this outrageous film. This is what you call fun."
This Sequel to Black Caesar Fails to Measure-Up
B-Movie Fan | 05/04/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Hell Up In Harlem is a sequel to Black Caesar. Black Caesar, clearly "inspired by" the classic gangster film, Little Caesar, showed the evolution of Tommy Gibbs (Fred Williamson) from errand boy for the mob to Black Godfather of Harlem. It was never in any danger of winning an Oscar, but it was a classic blaxploitation movie and well worth seeing.
You had to suspend your disbelief a little to enjoy it, (the Black Gangsters are better than the Italian ones at everything, including speaking Sicilian and if the Mafia was as bumbling as they are shown in these films, it seems like somebody would have pushed them out of power years ago.) . . . but the movie was fun and the characters were interesting. The story, although not original, held together well and more importantly, held our attention.
The movie did well enough at the box office to demand a sequel. Unfortunately, the sequel lacks the focus and energy of the original. It picks up the story right where the original ended, but with the twist that the ending of the original has been changed (Gibbs died in the original). In the sequel, instead of dieing, Gibbs manages to have his gangsters take over a hospital. He utilizes ledgers that show payoffs to politicians, to get him and his gang safe passage and a dismissal of all charges. Then he goes back to the business of running Harlem . . . or at least he tries to. He is faced with dissention from within the ranks of his own gang and resentment from the white power structure that he has driven out of Harlem.
Most of the cast and characters are back for the sequel, but they seem to have mutated, and not for the better. Revered Rufus, Gibb's oldest friend, has now become a televangelist who preaches against Gibb's, but not against Gibb's rivals in the Mafia. Gibb's father, who in the first film turned down Gibb's offer of money and power in order to go back to selling cosmetics, now becomes an assassin and later a Black Godfather in his own right. If these sorts of changes sound hard to follow, that's because they are . . . the fact that we are never given any reason for the character's changes doesn't exactly help our understanding.
The plot, such as it is, fails to tell a coherent story. Gibb's character bounces back and forth between sadism (punishing his ex-wife by kidnapping her children, who aren't his, he just doesn't want her to see them) and trying to explain why he isn't just like the white criminals who used to run Harlem (while running Harlem pretty much like they used to do). One minute he is trying to start a family with his new wife, the next he is abandoning her.
Fred Williamson projects a lot of charisma on screen and this movie definitely has some camp value, but all in all it's just not a good movie. Some scenes still have entertainment value, but they are so overdone that they are almost painful to watch. (The black maids "punishing" their former Mafia employers by forcing them to eat soul food, the New York City black gangsters launching an amphibious attack in the Caribbean via "snorkel" etc.)
All in all, this movie is only for those who want to complete their blaxploitation movie collection. "
Freddie Gibbs is Back ! ! !
Eddie Landsberg | Tokyo, Japan | 05/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was the infinitely more popular sequal to BLACK CAESAR (American International Films and Blaxploitation's answer to THE GODFATHER.) In truth, BLACK CAESAR is really where the story is at... but HELL UP IN HARLEM is a lot more visually exciting in terms of costumes and action. Basically it takes up where CAESAR ended finding every loose string it could, and using them for HK style movie cut fast paced action and chase scenes. As for the soundtrack... you can get it on CD now(!) CEASAR's soundtrack was by JB - - but I think Edwin Starr actually gave him a good run for his money capturing all that Starsky and Hutch meets SPEED type action...
Whatever you do, if you really want to appreciate the campy element of this film, be sure to see PART ONE first... and you'll realize how ridiculous the story in this one is (especially the extremes to which it went to keep certain actors working as well as others who were unavailable) - - but enjoy it just as much ! (In the end though, nothing will ever beat Glory Hendry getting the afro wig knocked over her head in CAESAR... but still, Tommy Gibb's dad turned (occasionally bedwetting) gangster ain't so bad either !"