Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA, 1974. First Artists, Verdon Productions Limited. Screenplay by Richard Wesley. Cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Produced by Melville Tucker. Music by Tom Scott. Production Design by Alfred Sweeney. Film Editing by Pembroke J. Herring.
Director and star Sidney Poitier plays a metal worker who allows his best friend, cab driver Bill Cosby, to convince him to go out on a night out at a high-end, after hours nightclub. They arrive in style, pool what money they have to qualify for the roulette table and feast their eyes on the beautiful women in gorgeous gowns, but the evening takes a turn when a group of masked men break into the place, brandish guns and steal everyone’s wallets and jewelry.
The next day, Poitier reads the winning lottery numbers in the newspaper and realizes that he has a winning ticket, but when he remembers that it was in the wallet that got stolen, he and Cosby go on an outrageous adventure to get it back. Their first appeal is to a black congressman (Roscoe Lee Browne) who throws a dashiki on when his constituents arrive and speaks disparagingly of the kind of speakeasy that these boys found their trouble in, his hypocrisy quickly unveiled when it turns out that his wife (a fabulous Paula Kelly) was actually partying at the same place with them.
Growing more desperate, they find a local fat cat gangster (Harry Belafonte doing a hilarious riff on Brando’s Godfather performance) and engage him in a turf war with his arch rival (Calvin Lockhart), their plots and plans climaxing in a very dramatic day at a family picnic.
Silly but good natured, this film’s studio backing means it looks plusher than a number of successful underground blaxploitation movies of the era, directed with vigor by Poitier and working from a script that has no unnecessary indulgences. The film was so popular upon release that it inspired two more comedies teaming up Cosby and Poitier in the leads.