DirectorFrancis Ford Coppola
Release Date(s)1984 (September 5, 2018)
Studio(s)Zoetrope Studios (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: F
Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most talented American directors in our cinematic history. He is responsible for the greatness that is The Godfather films, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and plenty of others. In his film The Cotton Club, Coppola revisits familiar territory with another well-made crime drama.
Taking place in the late 1920s through to the early 1930s, the Cotton Club is a famous jazz club located in Harlem. The main crux of the film revolves around a day in the life of the club, its owners, its employees, and its entertainers. Run by crime boss Owney Madden (Bob Hoskins) and his strong-arm, right hand man Frenchy Demange (Fred Gwynne), the race card is in full effect as the primarily African American performers are often mistreated and verbally abused. Meanwhile, musician Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) gets a job at the club with the help of Madden’s mob, while his brother Vincent (Nicolas Cage) becomes a bodyguard for crime lord Dutch Schultz (James Remar). Dixie soon falls for Schultz’s girl, Vera (Diane Lane), and Vincent becomes a big-time thug and potential adversary. Then there’s dancer Delbert “Sandman” Williams (Gregory Hines) who also works at the club. Like Dixie, he too falls in love, but with singer Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette Mckee). Members of Madden’s mob constantly interfere with their love affair, making Williams’ life difficult, but he isn’t one to take things lying down.
Taking five years to make, The Cotton Club went through many changes during its production. Screenwriter Mario Puzo (Superman, The Godfather) was replaced by William Kennedy, while producer Robert Evans, who was going to direct the film himself, had a change of heart after the film was already in production, bringing in Coppola to finish it. The film features several great musical numbers and superb acting from some of the Hollywood’s biggest names. Even Fred Gwynne, who became famous for portraying Herman on the TV series The Munsters, has a good meaty role to work with. As is usually the case, Coppola’s direction is brilliant, capturing the atmosphere of the period, which is necessary in order for the story to work. In the end, The Cotton Club wound up being a fantastic, stylish crime film.
A Blu-ray of The Cotton Club here in the U.S. is still in the offing, but Umbrella Entertainment has stepped up to release the film in a satisfactory, Region Free package. The image quality is above average. It’s solid, but I wouldn’t call it spectacular. Colors are bold with browns appearing the strongest, with accurate flesh tones as well. Interiors have a great deal of detail and texturing while black levels seem balanced. It lacks polish, but it certainly bests its DVD release. In the audio department, English 2.0 DTS-HD is the lone option, with the dialogue, score, and sound effects all sounding crisp and clear. Subtitle options include English, German, Italian, and Spanish. Unfortunately, the only extra available is the original theatrical trailer.
For those looking for a good gangster film, The Cotton Club is one of your safest bets. With a great director at the helm and a brilliant cast, it’s grand entertainment. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release is worth the investment and will definitely suffice until something better comes along.
– David Steigman