Cast & Crew
Dressed in police uniforms, two black men, Jim Harris and Joe Logart, break into an apartment in Harlem and steal $300,000 in cash from underlings of Italian-American gangster Don Gennarro. Although Joe and Jim had wanted to avoid violence, when Joe nervously drops something, one of the gangsters goes for a gun, igniting a melee that ends when all of the gangsters are dead. Joe and Jim quickly flee into a rickety getaway car driven by drug addict Henry J. Jackson, but during their escape the car hits a white policeman, who later dies. As Capt. Frank Mattelli arrives at the building, mobs of spectators have gathered to jeer at the police. Inside the apartment, Frank is irritated to see college-educated black police lieutenant William Aliceworth Pope at the crime scene. Fifty-five-year-old Frank, an old-fashioned racist nearing forced retirement, bristles when informed that "the brass" have put Pope in charge of the investigation. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Gennarro tells his son-in-law, Nick D'Salvio, about the theft and orders him to retrieve the money and severely punish those responsible because showing weakness would cause their family to lose control of Harlem. Nick then goes to see Doc Johnson, a black crime boss who has controlled Harlem for Gennarro for fifteen years, and offers $5,000 for each of the robbers. Doc contemptuously says that he is in charge in Harlem and calls Nick an aging errand boy for his father-in-law. That evening, as the affable Henry J. prepares for a night out, he calls the dry cleaning shop where Joe works to gloat about their success. Worried, Joe calls Jim to warn him that Henry J. is high again and might talk too much. While the police have little success in obtaining information in Harlem, Shevvy, who works for Doc, investigates on his own. Later, at a Harlem brothel, while Henry J. parties with several women, Jim shows the robbery money to his girl friend, Gloria Roberts, who pleads with him to return it. Although Jim confesses that he never wanted to kill anyone, he tells Gloria that he intends to keep the money, arguing that a black ex-convict has little opportunity beyond being a super in his rundown, Lenox Avenue apartment building. Following the discovery of the abandoned getaway car, the police bring in the registered owner, Glenn W. Fears, for questioning. Although Fears had nothing to do with the robbery, he refuses to reveal the name of the person who recently bought the car, prompting Frank to beat him. When Pope stops Frank, the two exchange angry insults, after which Fears threatens to sue Frank. Meanwhile, acting on their own tip, Nick and his henchmen intimidate Mrs. Fears, who reveals that they sold the car to Henry J. Nick tracks Henry J. down at the brothel and brutally beats him, horrifying the other patrons, who are too frightened to resist when Nick takes Henry J. away. A short time later, Henry J., who was crucified and castrated by Nick's men, is being taken to the hospital in an ambulance but dies after revealing Jim's name to Frank and Pope. Stunned by what happened to Henry J., Frank goes to confront Doc, but when Doc's man draws a gun, Pope draws his gun. A bemused Doc compliments Pope for being a college man and offers to put him on the payroll, just like Frank, who has gotten $2,500 a month for the past two years. Frank's embarrassed rationalization that he only took gambling money garners even more contempt from Pope. Meanwhile, when two white patrolmen go to Joe's shop to pick up their uniforms, he overhears them talking about Henry's J.'s crucifixion. At the same time, Pope and Frank go to question Henry J.'s estranged, common-law wife, and she recalls that he had a friend named Jim Harris whom he used to visit in prison. Observing her neatly kept apartment and shy little daughter, Frank cannot bring himself to tell them what really happened to Henry J. and says that he was killed in a hit and run accident. Pope asks her to come and identify the body, but Frank says there is no need, then gently hugs the little girl and gives Mrs. Jackson a large amount of cash from his pocket, lying that they found it on Henry J.'s body. After Joe's boss at the dry cleaner is tortured, a terrified Joe tells Jim that he wants to take his share of the money and go to a friend's place in New Jersey. Although Joe blames himself for the killings during the robbery, Jim insists that it was not his fault. At the police station, Frank and Pope go through the files of all black ex-convicts named Jim Harris and narrow them down to three choices, including Pope's selection, a petty criminal with epilepsy. Meanwhile, Joe hails a cab in Harlem, but when the cab driver calls in his location to the cab company, Shevvy receives the transmission. He, Nick and some henchmen then corner the cab and eventually chase Joe to a high-rise building under construction. There Joe is tortured and tied upside down on an overhang until he reveals Jim's name, after which Nick orders the rope loosened, causing Joe to fall to his death. At the same time, Jim realizes that he also must leave Harlem and says goodbye to Gloria. On the streets, though, Jim begins to have a seizure and remembers that he has left his epilepsy pills behind. He then calls Gloria, who says she will meet him at the apartment. Unknown to Gloria, Shevvy has been watching her and follows her, then calls Nick. At the police station, Frank tells Pope that he is retiring and will give him all of the information he needs to help his career. Just then, Doc calls for Pope and tells him where Jim is. Frank warns Pope that Doc did this to confirm that Frank is "out" and he "in," but Pope insists that he is his own man, then asks Frank if he is coming to the building. In the morning, while Gloria is tending to Jim, Nick and his men arrive. Nick shoots through the door, killing Gloria, then Jim returns fire, killing Nick and his men. Scurrying to the roof with his pack of money just as the police arrive, Jim almost escapes, but is shot. Knowing he is about to die, Jim throws the pack over the ledge into a school playground, where the children surround it. As Frank joins Pope on the roof, Jim takes aim to shoot Frank but is killed by Pope. Unseen by the police, Shevvy has taken position on a nearby rooftop and moments later shoots and mortally wounds Frank in the head. Because Shevvy's gun had a silencer, the shot is undetected until Frank falls to the ground, holding onto Pope's hand.
Samuel Blue Jr.
George Di Cenzo
Andrea Lynn Frierson
Dallas Edward Hayes
Nick La Padula
Byron "buzz" Brandt
John Caper Jr.
George De Titta
J. J. Johnson
J. J. Johnson
Richard L. O'connor
John E. Quill
John E. Quill
George C. Villasenor
Across 110th Street
Directed by Barry Shear and based on the novel Across 110th by Wally Ferris, the Blaxploitation film Across 110th Street (1972) explores the vicious cycle of crime, corruption, drugs and violence in 1970s Harlem. The title is a reference to the dividing line, 110th Street, on the northern border of Central Park, which separates Harlem from the more prosperous and predominantly white neighborhoods of New York City. In the film, an illegal Harlem bank, run by black mobsters but ultimately controlled by Italian ones, is the target of a robbery gone wrong which results in the killing of mobsters and a trio of criminals on the run. Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto star as Captain Mattelli and Lieutenant Pope, who reluctantly team together to solve the crime. The dichotomy of a racist white cop and the intelligent black cop was a winning formula for In The Heat Of The Night (1967) and Hollywood saw potential in more stories with this dynamic. Pictures bid on the film rights for Wally Ferris's novel and it ultimately went to United Artists and Film Guarantors, Inc., a production company that, according to the AFI, had been primarily involved in providing completion bonds to filmmakers.
Quinn hadn't intended to star in Across 110th Street. He was satisfied working on the project as executive producer along with director Barry Shear. The role of Captain Mattelli was offered to Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and John Wayne who all ultimately turned down the role. Quinn cast himself in the lead to keep the production moving along. For the role of Lieutenant Pope actors Lou Gossett Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte were all considered before Kotto was cast. Shear and Quinn along with casting director Marion Dougherty reached out to various New York City based African American groups, including the Negro Ensemble Company, the Afro-American Day, Inc. and the Congress of Racial Equality, to help them cast black actors and to listen to concerns regarding the script and the depiction of the various black characters. According to Dougherty, many of the black actors approached for auditions were reluctant to participate because the film had a white director. Others were moved by the subject matter and eager to try out.
Paul Benjamin was cast in the role of Jim Harris, the mastermind behind the Harlem bank heist and the victim of a cycle of oppression. His character is a 42-year-old ex-con with little education, no career training and health problems which preclude him from living a life on the straight and narrow. Benjamin suffered a seizure early on in the production which may have resulted in the filmmakers adding a history of epilepsy to his character's backstory. Other cast members, who became regulars in Blaxploitation films, include Antonio Fargas as Henry J. Jackson, the driver of the getaway car; Ed Bernard as Joe, Harris' main accomplice; former song-and-dance man Richard Ward as black mob leader Doc Johnson; and Gloria Hendry as Laurelene. Singer Norma Donaldson has a plum role as Jim Harris' long suffering girlfriend. Also cast was Eddie Smith, who was the first African-American to receive on screen credit for his work as a stunt coordinator. Among the Italians cast in the film was Anthony Franciosa, who plays the sadistic Nick D'Salvio, the errand boy for his Italian mob boss father-in-law. Burt Young, who would later play Paulie in the Rocky movies, has a bit role as an Italian mobster in the bank heist scene. While Quinn and Kotto received top billing, the cast is credited in alphabetical order.
In her memoir, casting director Marion Dougherty wrote, "there was some very tough material in Across 110th Street. They went for the blood and violence but had the screenplay been edited for integrity it would've really been an eye-opening film..." Across 110th Street received negative reviews with critics pointing out the use of graphic violence and racial stereotypes. The film was praised for the excellent storytelling and Shear's direction. Star Yaphet Kotto's work on Across 110th Street helped him get a part as the villain Dr. Kananga in the James Bond film Live And Let Die (1973).
The film would have completely faded into obscurity had it not been for its theme song with music by jazz trombonist and composer J.J. Johnson and gospel singer-songwriter Bobby Womack. According to Johnson biographer Joshua Berrett, this was "arguably the most violent film of gang warfare with which Johnson was ever associated, afforded him the opportunity to write sharply drawn cues and bridges." The song's lyrics spoke to the struggles of surviving in a Harlem that was rife with crime, drugs and violence. The song was a hit and spent several weeks on the Billboard charts for best selling soul music. It features prominently in the opening sequences of Quentin Tarantino's Blaxploitation film Jackie Brown (1997) starring Pam Grier.
By Raquel Stecher
Across 110th Street
Although the cast is listed in alphabetical order in the end credits, in the opening credits Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto are listed before the title. Anthony Franciosa is listed last in the opening cast credits, with a separate title card that reads "And Anthony Franciosa as Nick D'Salvio." John E. Quill's credit reads "Production Manager/1st Assistant Director." The film's title card is presented as an exit sign off the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City. The title, and many lines of the picture's dialogue, allude to 110th Street, on the edge of New York's Central Park, as a dividing line between Harlem and the rest of Manhattan.
According to an August 1970 Hollywood Reporter news item, both United Artists and Columbia Pictures were bidding for the film rights to Wally Ferris' novel Across 110th. Various contemporary news items reported that Ferris, a former cameraman at television station WNEW in Manhattan, was signed to adapt his novel into a screenplay but that his adaptation was not used. Luther Davis is the sole credited screenwriter in the film's credits and in other contemporary sources. A Variety news item on September 16, 1970 stated that, although actor-producer Anthony Quinn would supervise the production, which was not yet cast, he was unlikely to star. Some news items in 1970 stated that it was to be a Four Star International, Inc. production, but all sources during and after production cite it as a Film Guarantors, Inc. production. Across 110th Street marked the first production of Film Guarantors, a company that previously had provided completion bonds within the film industry.
A April 20, 1972 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that John Scott had been selected by the American Film Institute to work on the film with director Barry Shear as part of AFI's internship program. A July 9, 1972 Los Angeles Times feature article on Across 110th Street stated that the twenty-six-year-old Scott was one of several African-American filmmakers who were involved in the production. That Los Angeles Times article and other contemporary articles noted that the film's stunt coordinator, Eddie Smith (1913-2005), was the first African-American to be credited onscreen as a stunt coordinator. According to a Daily Variety news item on May 18, 1972, during production, Smith was hospitalized "in serious condition" after sustaining various lacerations and fractures while performing a car crash stunt. Smith continued as a prominent movie and television stunt coordinator for many years and was one of the founders of the Black Stuntmen's Association.
According to a New York Times news item, actor Lou Gossett was to portray a black gang leader in the picture, but he was not in the released film. It is possible that Gossett was wanted for "Doc Johnson," a role played by Richard Ward in the film. The Los Angeles Times feature quoted Quinn as stating that the role of "Capt. Frank Mattelli" had been offered to John Wayne, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, all of whom turned it down, thus leading to Quinn's decision to star in the part himself. Modern sources add Angelo Vignari to the final cast.
The Los Angeles Times feature and other articles also reported that Shear, Quinn and other producers worked with various African-American groups, including Afro-American Day, Inc. and the Congress of Racial Equality, which voiced concerns at various times and presented their concerns to the filmmakers. A Variety article on February 28, 1973 reported that distributor United Artists, which previously had booked only white-owned theaters for first run screenings in the city of Cleveland, OH, had reversed its decision after pressure from various groups, and had booked the picture in the Scrumpy-Dump, a black-owned Cleveland theater. The article stated that conflicting information about the kinds of pressure exerted upon United Artists had made the real reason for the decision difficult to determine.
Across 110th Street was shot on location in New York City, primarily in Harlem and Little Italy. According to news items, some additional scenes were shot on the Warner Bros.-Burbank Studios lot, with retakes in New York City following a laboratory accident that spoiled some of the earlier New York footage. Most reviewers were highly critical of the picture's abundance of graphic violence, with New York Daily News's critic Ann Guarino labeling it one of "the most violent pictures ever made" and New York Times reviewer Roger Greenspun writing that "It manages at once to be unfair to blacks, vicious towards whites and insulting to anyone who feels that race relations might consist of something better than improvised genocide." Several reviewers, typified by Los Angeles Times critic Kevin Thomas, wrote that the film was "little more than a violence freak's special," but praised other aspects of Barry Shear's direction, calling it "otherwise finely crafted."
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1998
Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival September 26 - October 12, 1998.
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival September 26 - October 12, 1998.)