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Trivia / Black Caesar

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  • Breakaway Pop Hit: In a way. James Brown's original score for the film was rejected by American International, who claimed that it was the same old material they heard before. Brown repackaged the soundtrack as The Payback, which sold millions of copies and was heralded as a classic of the funk genre. Meanwhile, while Harlem has its fans, most consider it to be a cheap cash-in on the goodwill built up by the original film, while Edwin Starr's score is barely remembered.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • American International Pictures forced Cohen to start filming Harlem while Caesar was still running in theatres - and it shows. For his part, Cohen admits on the DVD Commentary that Harlem was nothing but a quick cash-in.
    • James Brown wrote the score for Harlem on spec (without pay), but American International inexplicably changed their minds at the last minute and rejected his score (reportedly claiming it was the "same old stuff"), instead opting to use one written and performed by Edwin Starr. Brown eventually repackaged his album as The Payback, which went certified gold and became a landmark funk album.
  • Old Shame: Larry Cohen hated Hell Up in Harlem (as the production studio forced him to fast-track it after the success of the first film). He regretted ever working on it, and has taken the opportunity to slam it every chance he gets.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Caesar and Harlem read like a playbook of every bad vice from the mid-70s. Aside from the usual trappings (afros, bell-bottoms), it has:
    • The film begins with the main character working as a shoeshine boy, who is charging a dime per shine. Not only is this plot-relevant (Tommy is working as an accomplice to a mob hitman, and holds on to the target when he tries to escape), but it's also prominently referenced in James Brown's "Down and Out in New York City" from the soundtrack, making that an example as well.
    • The plot of both films is motivated by Tommy gaining access to, and stealing, the ledgers from The Mafia for leverage. Nowadays, it's hard to see what the big deal would be, as most businesses store their filing on computers or online (and may not even use old-fashioned ledgers in the first place).
    • Times Square is portrayed as the grimy, sleazy center of town, as opposed to its renovation in the early 80s as an LCD mecca.
    • In Harlem, Big Papa is able to walk into a subway station and gun down a rival dealer, then walk off nonchalantly. He'd never be able to get away with such a thing in modern times, where subways are outfitted everywhere with security cameras.
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    • Also in Harlem, Tommy chases his former lieutenant Zach through an airport and all the way to the other side of the country, with both of them using different flights. Not only are both of them able to run through security checkpoints (both on and off the flight) without a problem, but their fight spills out into the baggage claim rack and the tarmac after they land.


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