Uptown Saturday Night
On vacation for two weeks, Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier) decides to go with his best friend Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby) to Madame Zenobia's, an illegal nightclub of high regard and ill repute. The two have a great time until masked thieves storm the place and take everyone's money, jewelry, and wallets. Returning home, Steve is tired, but revived by his wife when it turns out they've won the lottery. There's just one catch: The ticket's in his stolen wallet, and his wife didn't know he went out the night before. It's up to Steve and Wardell to chase it down, which puts them in contact with their neighborhood's biggest scumbags and criminals, finally pairing them with Geechie Dan Beauford (Harry Bellafonte doing a cartoonish Godfather impersonation). Coming out after the main thrust of the blaxploitation movement, 1974's Uptown Saturday Night can be seen either as an attempt to portray a more celebratory view of Black America, or as a cash-in on those earlier films' success. Whatever the case, Saturday Night plays most like a Cannonball Run style "Everybody we know who's famous is in this movie" movie. Which explains why Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, Roscoe Lee Browne, Calvin Lockhart, Harold Nicholas, and Rosalind Cash all show up for extended cameos. Directed by Poitier, the movie seems to give the actors a relaxed room to work, and everyone appears to be having fun; this helps, since the plot couldn't be more threadbare, while much of the humor is hit-or-miss and sometimes painfully obvious (erudite Roscoe Lee Browne has a wife who's revealed to be a Madame Zenobia's regular). The most fun in the picture is watching people like Poitier and Bellafonte play light and funny. Poitier's voice has long held the tonality of moral righteousness, so it's amusing to hear him wax nostalgic about how his wife had the biggest posterior he'd ever seen, while Cosby all but steals the film with his patented slow burns and rambling monologues. Warner presents Uptown Saturday Night in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and monaural DD 2.0 audio. Extras include a commentary by cinema professor Dr. Todd Boyd and a recently produced eight-minute featurette that features Boyd, critic Armond White, screenwriter Richard Wesley, and actors James Earl Jones and John Amos, among others (though none of the primary cast). The theatrical trailer is also included. Snap-case.