Color, 1975, 94 mins. 18 secs..
Directed by Arthur Marks
Starring Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala, Tony King, Bernie Hamilton, Art Lund, Tierre Turner, Carl Weathers
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Everyone Bucktowninvolved was riding high when BucktownBucktown hit theaters in 1975, with director Arthur Marks helming his second of five enjoyable films centered around black stars (following Detroit 9000) with the only golden age pairing of superstars Fred Williamson and Pam Grier. As with many of its peers, the film is as much a statement about black life in America at the time as a slice of pure entertainment, here from the perspective of a small town where crime and racial oppression are part of everyday life.

After the death of his nightclub owner brother, Dean Johnson (Williamson) heads home for the funeral only to find out he has to wait 60 days for the estate to be fully settled. It's essentially up to him to play along with the local police force and decide whether to sell off or maintain the club, and he's soon dismayed to see a town where little kids have to jive their way to survival and all of his old compatriots are at the mercy of the white cops. Demands for protection money have Dean recruiting help including new local girlfriend Aretha (Grier), a waitress who's tired of trying to hold it all together on her own, and old friend Roy (Blacula's Rasulala) from out of town, but it turns out that wiping out corruption will take a lot more work than just taking on the white man.

BucktownThough it features all the necessary elements for the time including fight scenes, a Williamson-Grier love scene, and an infectious funk score by Johnny Pate, Bucktown throws enough curve balls to keep things interesting including fascinating turns by Rasulala and BucktownTony King (The Last Hunter, Cannibal Apocalypse) that are best left unspoiled here. The whole cast is solid including a very early turn by a young Carl Weathers, and Marks keeps the action hopping while building a strong film noir mood by shooting primarily at night. The use of real Kansas City locations also helps ground the film as a solid crime picture, with the violence also staying within the bounds of believable behavior and actually getting doled out more sparingly than you might expect. Of course, this is really Williamson's show when you get down to it (he's in almost every scene), and it's not surprise that his experience on films like Black Caesar and Hammer had inspired him to take up directing the same year with Mean Johnny Barrows.

MGM released Bucktown on DVD in 2001 featuring only a theatrical trailer, but it finally earned the special edition treatment in 2019 on Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing. Solid via Ronin Flix and (internationally only for its first month) Diabolik, the transfer is on par with other MGM-supplied titles of Bucktownthe era staying true to the source with a gritty, shadowy look that may not be the prettiest you'll ever see but definitely several notches ahead of its earlier SD incarnations. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono audio is also perfectly fine. Also included are in-depth new interviews with BucktownWilliamson (10m34s), Marks (14m6s), actor Tony King (7m27s), and editor George Folsey Jr. (17m36s), covering the consultant with Williamson on "black life," the true story that happened a few months before the script was written, Rasulala's proficiency with action scenes, Williamson's secret to looking great (involving jelly beans!), the film's positive audience response, the potentially volatile subject matter made palatable by the heroic character at the center, and the other movers and shakers in the game at the time. The theatrical trailer is included along with bonus ones for Angel Unchained, Gas Pump Girls, The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, and Killer Force.

Reviewed on March 6, 2019.