Harlem Scuffle – Rediscovering ‘Across 110th Street’ (US 1972 – 102 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - May 21, 2015
Harlem Scuffle – Rediscovering ‘Across 110th Street’ (US 1972 – 102 mins)

Made at the beginning of the Blaxploitation era, the tough and very violent crime flick ‘Across 110th Street’ is an exciting New York drama with a gritty realism and an above average cast, all of whom look like they could explode at any time.

When the Mafia and other assorted hoods band together to track down the three low-life’s who killed and then made off with $300,000 of the Mafia’s money, two mis-matched cops are determined to catch the killers before the vengeful mobsters get hold of them.

One of the best things about this explosive drama is the casting of two powerhouse actors. Double Oscar winner Anthony Quinn and the terrific Yaphet Kotto are perfect here as the clashing cops, with Quinn’s racist veteran Frank Mattelli prone to corruption while Kotto’s educated Lieutenant Pope goes by the book. Following a terrific run in the 1960’s 57 year old Quinn was entering another interesting period at this time. After this movie he would go on to play ruthless old men in such pictures as ‘The Don is Dead’ (’73) and ‘The Inheritance’ (’76), before other ethnic roles followed with ‘The Message’ (’77) and ‘The Greek Tycoon’ (’78). The vastly talented Yaphet Kotto went on co-star in the cult favourites ‘Blue Collar’ (’78) and ‘Alien’ (’79), and would later give a superb turn as an FBI agent in the exceptional comedy-thriller ‘Midnight Run’ (’88). Anthony Franciosa is also good as the psychopathic Nick D’Salvio, the Mafioso assigned to recover the stolen loot. The top-notch supporting cast includes Antonio Fargas and Paul Benjamin as two of the three fugitives, a pre ‘Live and Let Die’ Gloria Hendry, and Burt ‘Rocky’ Young as a victim of the opening robbery.

Wonderfully atmospheric, the Harlem locale is very well utilized and is filled with grubby tenements and dimly lit brothels. The Bobby Womack soundtrack is excellent, especially the memorably funky theme song which was later used by Tarantino for ‘Jackie Brown’ (’97). The violence is strong and unflinching, including a memorable eye-gouging and the opening bloodbath.

Prolific television director Barry Shear does some of his best work here, using hand-held cameras to show the sweaty claustrophobia of numerous situations. Shear had earlier made the under-rated crime drama ‘The Todd Killings’ (’71), and later the violent actioner ‘Deadly Trackers’ (’73) starring Richard Harris and Rod Taylor.

‘Across 110th Street’ manages to escape its Blaxploitation label and remain an edgy and effective crime piece. It’s a film full of shootings, shocks and vengeful paybacks, but has an authentic feel and thankfully takes itself very seriously. The acting is great and wonderfully real, especially by the two legendary tough leads, and it thoughtfully depicts the strained race relations between both cops and the mob. A sober-sided slice of the Seventies New York crime scene, it’s one of those rare thought-provoking movies where, come the end, there are no real winners.

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2 Comments on "Harlem Scuffle – Rediscovering ‘Across 110th Street’ (US 1972 – 102 mins)"

  • squeesh

    Good review of a great crime film that’s been overlooked and neglected to some extent due to its “blaxsploitation” label—always nice to see this genuine classic get some well-deserved props.

    • admin

      Thanks. I always thought the movie deserved more recognition, and with such talented leads, it certainly elevated it above others in the genre.

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