Actor-director Ossie Davis makes his feature film debut with this slam-bang, all stops out, comedy-action film about expatriate writer Chester Himes’ two Harlem detectives, Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St Jacques are Himes’ tough, rough, foul-mouthed but incorruptible policemen. Cambridge is the buffoon of the pair while St Jacques (whose performance is easily the best in the film) is the spokesman for the Negro community.
There’s occasional evidence of abrupt shortening of explanatory scenes to crowd as much action as possible into the running time. Action there is, from the opening seduction of gullible Harlem ‘good folks’ by con artist-cum-preacher Calvin Lockhart, to the final denouement as to what really happened to that $87,000 stashed away in a bale of cotton.
Strong support is provided by nitery comedian Redd Foxx, John Anderson as the police chief, Emily Yancy as the widow of Lockhart’s partner, J. D. Cannon as the white ex-con accomplice of Lockhart, and Equity president Frederick O’Neal as a numbers racket hoodlum.