Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Cotton's zest gone in "Charleston Blue"

Cleveland Press July 20 1972

"Come Back Charleston Blue" is playing at local theaters. Mystery-Comedy; adults, older teens. In the cast are Raymond St. Jacques, Godfrey Cambridge, Minnie Gentry, Jonelle Allen, Peter De Anda. Running time: 100 minutes.

Gravedigger Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) and Coffin Ed Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques), the super sleuths from "Cotton Comes to Harlem" are back in a movie entitled "Come Back Charleston Blue."

The actors are a s good as the first time around in their roles, the picture has some interesting twists and the mayhem continues to be laced with humor.

BUT SOMETHING is missing-- the zest, the feeling of the Harlem milieu (in spite of some fine photography), the notion "Cotton" gave that it was a black film and just a film with blacks.

"Cotton' was directed (and co-written) by Ossie Davis. "Charleston" was directed by Mark Warren, responsible for having directed 72 hours of "Laugh In." Both are black so that has nothing to do with the difference. Davis, however, was far more inventive. "Cotton" bubbled while "Charleston" only fizzes.

This is not to say that "Charleston" is a bad movie. It's pretty good, actually. It's just that "Cotton" was such a milestone that by comparison "Charleston" comes out a pebble.

IN THIS ONE Gravedigger and Coffin Ed find a series of murders in which the principle clue is a blue steel razor alongside every slit throat.

This was the trademark of Charleston Blue, black gangster slain in 1932 when he failed to get Dutch Schultz. Has legend come to life? Is Charleston Blue back to wrest control of crime in Harlem from the hands of white gangsters?

Digger and Ed, a pair of walking arsenals, make their usual unorthodox way through Harlem leaving behind a pile of corpses and a few chuckles. There are several well-staged action scenes and one fair chase. The climax, as fake heroin explodes into multi-colored smoke bombs all over Harlem, is both inventive and hilarious.