Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Army To Get The Dope Out Of Harlem

In past posts, I lamented the absence of badass favorites DARK OF THE SUN and SITTING TARGET on DVD. To the list add GORDON'S WAR, a hard-hitting hunk of heavy blaxploitation filmed in Harlem by director Ossie Davis (COTTON COMES TO HARLEM) and released by 20th Century Fox in 1973.

The late Paul Winfield, nominated for an Oscar the year before for SOUNDER, contributes another strong performance as Gordon, a Green Beret who returns from Vietnam to learn his wife has died from a drug overdose--a habit she picked up while Gordon was overseas. Overcome with grief, he organizes a group of three Army buddies and makes war on the pimps and pushers of the neighborhood, including the colorfully named Big Pink, Luther the Pimp, and the dude who runs Harlem's action: druglord Spanish Harry (Gilbert Lewis).

Grittier and less cartoony than many other black action flicks of the era, GORDON'S WAR benefits from some of the seediest New York locations ever put on film (also a highlight of Davis' previous directorial effort), nice chemistry among the four leads--Winfield, Carl Lee as poetry-reading Bee, Tony King as behemoth Roy and David Downing as wisecracking Otis--and a serious approach by scripters Howard Friedlander and Ed Spielman (white guys who created TV's KUNG FU). There's no shortage of violence either, the highlights being a brutal leg-breaking and an exciting car/motorcycle chase through the streets of Harlem.

For some reason, Fox hasn't gotten around to putting this one out on DVD, even though just about every other blaxploitation movie of the period seems to be available. I don't see how there could be a market for BROTHERHOOD OF DEATH and BLACK SHAMPOO, but not for this. Available only on a long OOP prerecord VHS from CBS/Fox, GORDON'S WAR is an outstanding urban crime drama with a message as poignant today as it ever was.

No comments: