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DVD Review

Which Way is Up? (1977)


Starring: Richard Pryor
Fabulous Films
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 February 2008

When Leroy Jones stands up against the unfair treatment meted out to his fellow black workers he gets his picture in the paper and run out of town by the white farmers. In the city Leroy discovers that he is a very small fish in a big pond, but a chance meeting with a beautiful girl is just about to change Leroy’s life forever...

Which Way is Up? (1977, 91 min) was directed by Michael Schultz, who is better known as a producer and director of television programs. And this, unfortunately, shows in the film - even the titles have the feel of a seventies show.

The greatest problem with the film is that, for a comedy, it just isn’t that funny. It barely breaks into the realms of amusing for most of the picture. The star of the feature, Richard Pryor, used to do some of the funniest live shows ever and was instrumental in changing the face of black American comedy. It is unlikely that without Pryor the likes of Eddie Murphy would have been so accepted, or successful, and that he found it difficult to translate this talent to movies is an ongoing mystery.

The script is also a ramshackled affair. Having been fired as a orange picker he meets a new woman, who insists that he sleep with no other, including his wife. This, however, leads his wife to think that he is either impotent or a ‘faggot’ and she sleeps with the local priest, Father Rufus. Leroy’s revenge is to sleep with the priest’s wife. Of course, the whole thing goes horribly wrong. Even the parts which should be funny, somehow are very flat. In an effort to entice her husband, and thinking that the city ways have given him a taste for something a little more exotic, Annie Mae (Margaret Avery) chains him to the bed and whips him. We may watch bemused but unfortunately not amused.

To say this film was a waste of Pryor's talents would be stating the obvious. The fact that Pryor plays three of the roles Leroy, his father and Father Rufus, is incidental as they either did not have the money of the technical skills to have him in shot with himself.

The disc has scant extras, though for a film of this age I guess it’s not bad if you are a fan. You get production notes, a photo gallery and some biog text on Pryor, Lonette Mckee and Michael Schultz.

Ultimately, this is only a film for Pryor completists everyone else should steer well clear.


Charles Packer

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