Up Tight (1968)
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Waterville Opera House
1 Common St., Waterville, Maine
By all cultural accounts, 1968 was a hellish year for America. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy helped spark the “burn baby burn” sensibility ignited in the streets. It was also during this turbulent period that Paramount Pictures reluctantly agreed to finance Jules Dassin’s remake of the classic film The Informer into militant action film Up Tight. Moving the action from the streets of Ireland to the ghettos of Ohio, Dassin’s bleak exploration into the world of sharp-dressed Black revolutionaries introduced the Blaxploitation aesthetics that later influenced a crop of Black action films including Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), Shaft (197), Super Fly (1972) and others. Working with cinematographer Boris Kaufman, Dassin created a claustrophobic cinematic landscape that New York magazine critic Judith Crist described as, “teeming and pulsing one minute, stark in its solitudes and isolations the next.” “But, it was about the music too,” says Darius James, author of That’s Blaxploitation!: Roots of the Baadasssss ‘Tude. “‘Time is Tight’ by Booker T. & the MG’s is heard in fragments throughout, and the complete song serves as the film’s coda. While Up Tight remains one of the best gritty political crime features from that period, it was soon, according to Ruby Dee, withdrawn by the studio” - Michael A. Gonzales, Ebony.