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Episode #47: A Rage in Harlem

Listen to Episode 47 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.

SUMMARY - A Rage in Harlem starts its story in Mississippi where a recent gold mine robbery turns into a bloody shootout. Imabelle (played by Robin Givens) escapes with the trunk, leaving her boyfriend and his gang behind. Hiding in Harlem she finds a patsy in the form of the God-fearing undertaker Jackson (played by Forest Whitaker) who she can use while looking for a buyer. As more people become aware of the gold, the more danger they both face, especially when her gangster boyfriend reaches New York.

Based on the novel by Chester Himes; Screenplay by John Toles-Bey and Bobby Crawford; Directed by Bill Duke, and released on May 3, 1991.


Prior to the opening credits, we start in Mississippi where this core gang, along with a few others that don't make it out, stole the gold and are confronting their business partner about getting their cut.

In turns into a shootout and its an indication that this movie is not afraid to get bloody and gory at times, which adds proper shock value.

Something we didn't touch on in the episode was the art that accompanied the title sequences. There are several of these that set the scene of what this version of Harlem is all about.

This movie is actually part of a series and would be first in the chronological timeline. The other two movies that star policemen Coffin Ed and Gravedigger were made in the 1970s with other actors.

At times, the tone of the film feels a bit inconsistent. Our understanding is that the source material was meant to be funny, but Bill Duke wanted to remove a lot of the comedy. Still there are some good moments.

Our favorite jokes centered around these two pictures above the bed.

The movie leans into Robin Givens' sexuality, but still finds a way to bring humor to it.

This is the first interaction between Forest and Robin's characters.

Which we should mention was at a concert with Screamin' Jay Hawkins. The lip syncing may not be great, but he's still putting on a hell of a show.

It's a pretty large cast, and it takes a while for Gregory Hines' character to fit into everything.

This movie tries to do it all. There's grifting,

There's action and fast cars at times

Fights and roof jumping and shootouts. But it also feels like there are three different endings

But the biggest misstep is that the movie doesn't fully lean into one tone or genre. It feels like a hodgepodge with more potential.

Awards Talk: The only one we could find was a big one. It was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or. This makes it the third out of 19 nominees that we've covered so far.


This week we don't have any true crime segment to talk about so we jump right into music.

Every once in a while, we like to showcase the bottom 5 songs from the Billboard Top 100 for the week.

100 - All True Man - Alexander O’Neal

99 - Nightgown - Candyman

98 - One In A Million - Trixter

97 - Gonna Make You Sweat - C+C Music Factory

96 - Can I Call You My Girl - PC Quest

We also talked about a couple TV shows thanks to our small stack of TV Guides

First, we noticed there was an ad for a show we've mentioned before, Guns of Paradise. Would this convince you to watch?

The big event was the finale of Dallas. The last two episodes were put together into a one-night event that was likely very important for many, but not for either of us.

If you weren't watching either of those, then here's the rest of the TV listings that day.


Nikki 1-5 star scale - 3 out of 5

Jon 0-4 star scale - 2 1/2 out of 4

Would you watch it again? - While we enjoyed it, watching it again wouldn't be our first choice, and we wouldn't go out of our way to do so. We'd rather watch the other Coffin Ed/Gravedigger movies that came out in the 70s to start. If we want a more effective gangster movie from 1991, we have New Jack City as well.

If you want to watch A Rage in Harlem, as of this recording in January 2022, it’s available on Prime, Tubi, Pluto TV, Roku Channel, Digital Rental, VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.


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Join us next time for Daughters of the Dust available on Tubi, Criterion Channel, TCM, Kanopy, Digital Rental, VHS, DVD


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