Book Of Numbers

Release Date:  4/11/1973
Genre:  Drama/Crime
Rating:  R
Director:  Raymond St. Jacques
Studio(s):  Brut Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures
Running Time:  81 mins.

Cast:  Raymond St. Jacques, Philip Michael Thomas, Freda Payne, Hope Clarke, Willie Washington, Jr., D’Urville Martin, Doug Finell, Sterling St. Jacques, C. L. Williams, Jerry Leon, Gilbert Green, Irma P. Hall.

Story:  Blueboy Harris and Dave Green are struggling to make a living as waiters in the deep South during the Depression.  They assess their options and decide that there’s more money to be made on the shadier side of the law, so they set up a numbers racket.  It proves to have been the right decision and things are going smoothly for them until a white crime boss finds out about their success which leads to struggles with the mafia, the KKK and a corrupt police force.  Source(s):;


Buck and the Preacher

Original Release Date:  4/28/1972 (New York City)
Genre:  Western
Rating:  PG
Director:   Sidney Poitier
Studio(s):  Columbia Pictures; E & R Productions Corp.; Belafonte Enterprises
Running Time:  102 mins.

Cast:  Sidney Poitier (Buck), Harry Belafonte (The Preacher), Ruby Dee (Ruth), Cameron Mitchell (Deshay), Clarence Muse (Cudjo), Denny Miller (Floyd), Nita Talbot (Madame Esther), John Kelly (Sheriff), James McEachin (Kingston), Lynn Hamilton (Sarah), Doug Johnson (Sam), Errol John (Joshua), Tony Brubaker (Headman), Julie Robinson (Sinsie), Enrique Lucero (Chief).

*Spoilers Ahead*

Story:  After the Civil War, former slave and Union Army sergeant Buck becomes a wagon master and leads wagon trains of freed slaves from Louisiana to the unsettled territories of Kansas in search of a better life.  In order to ensure safe passage and food for his company, Buck negotiates with the Native Americans in the area. He pays them, and in turn they allow him to kill limited numbers of buffalo for food, and to pass through their land.  Night Riders, a group of violent white mercenary soldiers hired by Southern plantation owners raid the African American wagon trains and settlements to either scare them back to Louisiana or kill them.  The raiders attempt to kill Buck by setting a trap at the farm belonging to his woman Ruth, however he escapes.

While in flight he comes across a former slave and glib con man who wears clerical garb, spouts biblical verses and calls himself Preacher.  Buck forces the Reverend to switch horses with him and the disgruntled Preacher proceeds to a small boomtown.

Preacher is then accosted by the night rider’s leader, who recognizes Buck’s horse and demands to know Buck’s location. After Preacher, who introduces himself as Reverend Willis Oakes Rutherford of the High and Low Order of the Holiness Persuasion Church, convinces him that he does not know Buck’s whereabouts, the leader offers him a $500 reward for Buck, dead or alive.

Although the Preacher initially had a desire to get even with Buck, he changes his mind and decides to work with Buck after seeing the carnage the white raiders inflict on the African American travelers. Buck, Ruth and the Preacher do whatever it takes to get the wagon train west, including ambushing some of the raiders in a brothel, robbing a bank, and taking on the entire band of raiders.

Buck and Preacher are chased up a rocky hillside and a prolonged shootout ensues, during which they kill several posse members and are wounded themselves.  Just as they are about to be gunned down, the watching Native American chief sends his warriors to help them. The surviving posse members are either killed or frightened off.

Later, the settlers survey the beautiful valley before them then bid farewell to Buck, Ruth and Preacher, who ride north toward their own destinies.

Notes:  After the opening credits, a written statement describes the plight of freed slaves attempting to start new lives after the Civil War and dedicates the film to “those men, women and children who lie in graves as unmarked as their place in history.”  Buck and the Preacher marked the first film collaboration of longtime friends Poitier and Belafonte, and several reviewers compared the film to the 1969 hit Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Other critics commented positively on Poitier’s direction and the unusual presentation of African-American settlers and their interactions with Native Americans.

Although the August 1971 Look article stated that Poitier and Belafonte hoped the film would “be successful enough to repeat,” a sequel to Buck and the Preacher was never produced. Poitier and Belafonte next worked together on the 1974 comedy Uptown Saturday Night, which was also directed by Poitier.  Sources:;; Wikipedia.  Photo Sources/gifs:;;



The Liberation of L. B. Jones

Original Release Date:  3/18/1970
Genre:   Drama
Rating:  R
Director:  William Wyler
Studio(s):  Liberation Company, Columbia Pictures
Running Time:  102 mins.
Cast:  Roscoe Lee Browne (L.B. Jones), Yaphet Kotto (Sonny Boy Mosby), Lola Falana (Emma Jones), Lee J. Cobb (Oman Hedgepath), Lee Majors (Steve Mundine), Anthony Zerbe (Willie Joe Worth), Arch Johnson (Stanley Bumpas), Barbara Hershey (Nella Mundine), Zara Cully (Mama Lavorn), Brenda Sykes (Jelly), Fayard Nicholas (Benny).

Details:  Based on Jesse Hill Ford’s 1965 novel The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones. The novel, in turn, was based on events that happened in a Southern town where the writer lived. After he wrote the book, he was verbally attacked for writing about the events that had occurred in his town.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Story:  Steve and Nella Mundine arrive in Somerton, Tennessee, where Steve is to join the law firm of his uncle Oman Hedgepath.  Arriving on the same train is Sonny Boy Mosby, a young black man bent on avenging a childhood beating inflicted by white policeman Stanley Bumpas.  Hedgepath is persuaded by Steve to accept the case of Lord Byron Jones, a wealthy black funeral director who is seeking a divorce from his considerably younger wife Emma, alleging she had an affair with white police officer Willie Joe Worth, whom he suspects is the biological father of her unborn child.

Emma contests the suit, hoping to receive a settlement sufficient enough to allow her to maintain her lavish lifestyle.  Fearful of scandal, Worth demands that Emma not contest the divorce and severely beats her when she refuses to cooperate. Then, with the aid of fellow officer Stanley Bumpas, Worth arrests Jones on false charges after he refuses to drop the suit. Jones escapes the officers and  they pursue him into a junkyard.  They eventually corner him and he is handcuffed.  With dignity Jones refuses to cooperate even at gunpoint, and Worth shoots him, with Bumpas casually watching. Worth, initially cool, is suddenly horrified by what he has done but Bumpas coldly hangs Jones’ body on a wrecker hook.

Bumpas then castrates Jones and removes the dead man’s shoelaces to make it look like it was done by other blacks in a revenge killing. Initially another black man and Emma are forced to confess to the murder, but Hedgepath quickly discovers that the man was in jail at the time of the murder and that the confessions were coerced.  A remorseful Worth confesses but Hedgepath and the town mayor decline to prosecute the murderers. Sonny Boy Mosby avenges Jones’ murder by pushing Bumpas into a harvester, making it appear to be an agricultural accident. Despairing of southern justice, the Mundines leave town, departing on the same train as Sonny Boy Mosby.

Notes:  Lola Falana was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year – Actress, the film marked her debut on the big screen.  Also marks the film debut of Brenda Sykes.  Sources:  IMDB;;;; Wikipedia.



Cotton Comes To Harlem

Original Release Date: 5/27/1970
Genre:  Action
Rating:  R
Director:  Ossie Davis
Studio(s):  Formosa Productions, United Artists
Running Time:  97 mins.

Godfrey Cambridge as Gravedigger Jones
Raymond St. Jacques as Coffin Ed Johnson
Calvin Lockhart as Deke O’Malley
Judy Pace as Iris Brown
Redd Foxx as Uncle Budd/Booker Washington Sims
Emily Yancy as Mabel
John Anderson as Bryce
Lou Jacobi as Goodman
Eugene Roche as Anderson
J.D. Cannon as Calhoun
Mabel Robinson as Billie
Dick Sabol as Jarema
Cleavon Little as Lo Boy
Theodore Wilson as Barry
Leonardo Cimino as Tom

Details:  Two black police detectives suspect a preacher’s “Back to Africa” movement is a scam.  The film is based on Chester Himes’ novel of the same name.  It was followed two years later by the sequel Come Back, Charleston Blue.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Story:  Cotton Comes to Harlem opens with a Back-to-Africa rally, led by the charismatic conman Reverend Deke O’Malley. O’Malley persuades hardworking families to pay $1,000 for the chance to return to Africa and escape white oppression. Deke raises $87,000, but before he can pocket the money, a group of masked white men hijack the money and flee the scene in a meat truck.  O’Malley follows in an armored car, himself pursued by black police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.  During the pursuit, a bale of cotton, in which the hijackers hid the money, falls off the back of the truck and disappears onto the streets of Harlem. A junkman named Uncle Bud finds the cotton and stacks it onto his cart.

Back-to-the-Southland opens its headquarters in Harlem.  The business is run by Colonel Calhoun, a Southerner who wants to convince black people to return to the South and pick cotton. Calhoun believes blacks need the steadying hand and guidance of whites to show them the way.  The headquarters advertises for a bale of cotton as Calhoun was behind the theft of the money during the rally.

Grave Digger and Ed take on the case.  Unaware of the missing bale of cotton or its significance, the detectives pursue Deke, who is in hiding, suspecting that he may have staged the hijacking to take off with the $87,000.  They pursue leads that might led them to either the conman or the missing money with the help of “pigeons” (police informants), prostitutes, drug runners, and conmen.  

Eventually the cotton ends up with Billie, an exotic dancer who intends to use it as a prop in her show. As she begins her act in Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Calhoun in blackface and O’Malley appear onstage in an effort to get to the cotton and the money. In doing so, the two are exposed and arrested by Coffin Ed and Grave Digger.

The detectives subsequently coerce a Mafia Don to compensate O’Malley’s disgruntled congregation for the elusive $87,000.  Grave Digger and Coffin Ed learn that Uncle Bud absconded to Africa with the money, where he is enjoying a new lifestyle.

Notes:  Cotton Comes to Harlem saw the film debut of Judy Pace, and Cleavon Little. It was also the credited debut of Redd Foxx, who was already well-known as a veteran night club comic, leading him to be considered for the TV Show Sanford and Son. Cambridge also starred as a white man who turns black in the motion picture comedy Watermelon Man, which opened the same day as Cotton Comes to Harlem.  The film’s inspirational opening theme song, “Ain’t Now But It’s Gonna Be,” was written by Ossie Davis and performed by Melba Moore.  Source(s):;; blaxploitationpl.blogspot;  Photo Sources/gifs:  IMDB;; tumbler; youtube.