Uptown Saturday Night (1974)

“Never have so few owed so much to so many.”

Synopsis:
A factory worker (Sidney Poitier) and his taxi-driving buddy (Bill Cosby) visit a chic after-hours club one night, where they’re held up at gunpoint by a gang of masked robbers. When Poitier realizes that a winning lottery ticket is in his stolen wallet, he and Cosby set out to recover their valuable property; soon they find themselves embroiled in a vicious gang war between Geechie Dan Beauford (Harry Belafonte) and Silky Slim (Calvin Lockhart).

Genres:

Review:
Sidney Poitier directed and co-starred in three comedic “buddy pictures” with Billy Cosby during the mid-1970s; Uptown Saturday Night was the first of these. It’s lighthearted, innocuous fare, with a smattering of enjoyable moments and performances sprinkled throughout (the inimitable Harry Belafonte is nearly unrecognizable as a stuffed-cheeks “don”), but the screenplay drags in parts, ultimately seeming more like an excuse for amusing vignettes than a compelling narrative. It doesn’t offer nearly as many genuine laughs as its much sillier follow-up, Let’s Do It Again (1975), which I recommend as “must see” viewing instead.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fun, believable rapport between Cosby and Poitier
    USN Rapport
  • Cosby smooth-talking his way out of a confrontation with “Little Seymour Pettigrew”
    USN Smooth Talking
  • Harry Belafonte as Geechie Dan Beauford — clearly having fun riffing on Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone
    USN Goochie

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look simply for historical purposes.

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One Response to “Uptown Saturday Night (1974)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Yes, it’s innocuous-enough – it does what it sets out to accomplish as a commercial (popcorn) flick, modest in its entertainment level. Even though, as a director, Poitier usually moves things along at a nice clip, it probably would benefit from being a bit tighter.

    As an actor, it’s nice seeing Poitier loosening up a bit more – with comic material, for a change. But my favorites were Belafonte (who more or less steals the film as Geechie Dan) and Paula Kelly in a small but nice role as Leggy Peggy (she manages to sell over a so-so part as though she were selling a song, as in ‘Sweet Charity’; she has real presence).

    Overall, not wildly memorable but it does little harm while it’s running.

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