Three the Hard Way (1974)

Whenever you see parodies of blaxploitation films like Undercover Brother, once they dispense with some references to Shaft and Superfly they usually go to this one for the plot. 

It is quite understandable why they would.  Gordon Parks, Jr.'s follow-up to the gritty and controversial Superfly was this more mainstream comic-book style film starring three of the biggest African-American stars of the time.  A decent budget, stunt work by legend Hal Needham and an overarching sense of fun (and cool) makes this one of the more memorable entries in this genre despite the ridiculous plot.

When Jimmy Lait's (Jim Brown) old friend House (Junero Jennings) shows up with a gunshot wound and a wild story about a plot to kill the African-American population, it is understandable that he questions it at first.  However, the white supremacists behind the plot track down House and murder him in his hospital bed, kidnapping Jimmy's girlfriend Wendy (Sheila Frazier) in the process and gunning for him. 

Traveling to New York, he hooks up with public relations specialist Jagger Daniels (Fred Williamson) and martial arts expert Mister Keyes (Jim Kelly) and, after capturing and torturing one of the men involved with the plot (with the help of a trio of topless  women), they find out that the goal is to release a poison into the water supplies of Washington, D.C., Detroit and Los Angeles that only kills those who are black.  The plot was hatched by Monroe Feather (Jay Robinson) and brought to to fruition by Dr. Fortrero (Richard Angarola).

The three split up to save the three cities from their fates, and then once again must join forces to rescue Wendy and bring down Feather's organization once and for all.

Yes, it is absolutely ridiculous, as is much that happens.  With the frequency of car explosions over at the strangest time, one would get the feeling that every car in the 1970s used the Pinto as a blueprint for safety.  Shootouts occur in public places without repercussion, and the same with Mister Keyes beating the crap out of a group of corrupt cops on a busy street in New York. 

This can all be forgiven as it is obvious the movie is attempting to be a violent comic book rather than a serious political statement or gritty crime drama.  As much of a statement it was trying to make was featuring the leads as heroes in contrast to many of the blaxploitation films which concentrated on criminals or underworld figures.  Gordon Parks, Jr. also proves that the talent for directing he showed in Superfly was not a mistake.  It's a pity he didn't get a chance to make more films prior to his death, as his skill behind the camera often outdid his father's.  He conceivably could have carried on past the genre's end.

Three the Hard Way (1974)
Time: 89 minutes
Starring: Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Sheila Frazier, Jay Robinson
Director: Gordon Parks, Jr.


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