This is a kind of film that people like to keep around. It's not Shakespeare but it's fun and light and it features some pretty wonderful performances. In here we have Steve Jackson (Sidney Poitier) and Wardell Franklin (Bill Cosby) are two working stiffs looking to have a good time uptown. They tip out on wives Sarah Jackson (Rosalind Cash) and Irma Franklin (Ketty Lester) and go to Zenobia's, a joint - named after Madame Zenobia (Lee Chamberlin) - where the high fallutin' high rollers hang out for a little casino action.
Unfortunately, they lose their shirts (literally) when robbers force them and everyone else to strip and give up their valuables. Thugs Zenobia's not only take all the patron's money and jewels, but also Steve's wallet, which he later discovers held something more valuable than he ever imagined. Steve and Wardell seek the help of numerous neighborhood characters - including "Don" Geechie Dan Beauford (Harry Belafonte), The Don's rival Silky Slim (Calvin Lockhart), local hood Little Seymour (Harold Nicholas), inept private investigator Sharp Eye Washington (Richard Pryor), and a corrupt Congress-critter (Roscoe Lee Browne) - in retrieving the wallet.
Uptown Saturday Night is a special movie, capable of striking that delicate balance between not funny and not interesting. It is, however, not to be dismissed out-of-hand. The film is a visual treat, to be sure. Cosby parting his hair and his moustache for a big night out on the town is truly a sight to behold, as is the red piping on his dinner jacket. He's also pretty tough in this movie. Cosby's Wardell is a little less refined than his I Spy guy, and a lot less refined than his ugly sweater Huxtable. Comedic co-star, Sidney Poitier looked to be out of his field, especially compared to Bill "Shave And A Haircut?" Cosby and the rest of the crew. Much of the time, Poitier seemed to be barely hanging in there, trying to keep up with Cosby's antics, with a look of terror in his eyes whenever Cosby tore loose (though admittedly, that may have been Director Poitier, panicking over losing control of Cosby). But even Cosby himself took a back seat to Paula Kelly, Richard Pryor, and Roscoe Lee Browne. Kelly, who I loved in "Sweet Charity", was Large as Leggy Peggy without being unnecessarily Loud; Pryor was understated (for him), and had one of the best, spot-on, lines in the movie; and Browne wore his two-faced Afro [when it suited him]-American [when it didn't] politician role like a shining coat of armor. The real surprise for me was discovering that Harry Belafonte was one of the bad guys ("Geechie Dan"). One hopes he was wearing alot of makeup, because otherwise, he looks close to death. Overall it's a goo/decent film that I recommended to all Bill Cosby/Sidney Poitier fans, or anyone looking for a decent classic movie to watch, may want to pick "Uptown Saturday Night."