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'Silver Streak' Coming To Blu-Ray 8/3 (But Would It Play Today?)

by Sergio
June 27, 2013 12:13 PM
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Silver Streak 2

In 1976, one of the biggest comedy hits of the year was Silver Streak, with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, but whether the film would be as big a hit today is another question altogether.

Pryor stole Streak right from under Wilder, and it was the film that propelled Pryor from being a popular movie co-star to a bona fide A-list movie star.

In the film, which was a spoof of Hitchcock films, Wilder plays a mild mannered ordinary guy on a train trip who witnesses a murder and finds himself being chased by bad guys who want him dead, and the police, who want him for murder, on and off the train.

Of course, no one believes him, except for a woman and romantic interest whom he meets (Jill Clayburgh), and a thief played by Pryor, who helps him reveal the big conspiracy behind it all - the bad guys and the police.

As films go, it’s pretty routine with other comedy thrillers of the period, such as Foul Play, but one of the scenes in the movie that set it apart, aside from the scene where Pryor turns the tables on the bad guys, and the big spectacular action climax, was the moment where Pryor helps Wilder avoid the police by disguising him in blackface to sneak past the cops.

It was the scene that people talked about at the time as the comedy highlight of the film. And maybe it was funny then, but looking at it now, it’s rather grisly and painfully awkward to watch. I suspect the scene wouldn’t play so well if it was in a movie today.

Times have changed, and so have attitudes. People are now too critical (definitely a good thing) and aware. Look at Paula Deen still scrambling to save her empire while losing business and endorsement deals every day.

Now you could make the argument that the entire sequence in Streak was conceived to actually mock and invert the whole concert of blackface, turning it on its head, and white people’s perception of black people and our behavior. But you could also say that it does so in a rather clumsy way.

And of course, having Pryor in the scene playing the character who comes up with the idea, and who tries to teach Wilder how to “be black,” makes it O.K. to laugh. If Pryor has no problem with the scene, why should we?

Or are we being too sensitive? A joke is joke, so why are we being so sensitive. “Why do we have to be so serious all the time?” I can already hear people saying. Why not I say?

All this leads to the fact that the film is coming out on Blu-ray on Aug 6 through Anchor Bay/Starz Home Video. 

But are you dying to see it again?

Here’s the trailer:

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More: Richard Pryor, Flashback

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  • Bill | August 9, 2013 6:47 AMReply

    I think this is being overthought; Pryor is knowingly making FUN of blackface and all that it implies. To be offended by this is to be far too PC, which unfortunately is much too common today.

    Rather this is more like the humor of the Rat Pack in which stereotypes are broken wide open by making fun of them and revealing them as purely silly.

    Given all that, it wouldn't play today for that same reason; today's audiences are far too easily offended at the hint of a stereotype regardless of whether it is being destroyed by being proven stupid.

  • Walter Harris Gavin | June 27, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    Minstrelsy was all about white folks trying to be black and making a joke ot of the whole thing cause they really couldn't so they denigrated "the black experience" turning it into stereotypes for white audience to laugh at. Black folks turned around and became "minstrels" being much better at the task, but still the whole thing was designed for white audiences. Same thing goes for Amos 'n Andy. It wasn't for black audiences, but for the entertainment of white folks. And in those days if you wanted to ply your craft in Hollywood that meant conforming to "white" notions of want it should mean to be black. One can look at a stereotype on one level and laugh cause there may be a ring off truth to the actions of the character. I laugh at the fact that Uncle Clarence Thomas never speaks from the Supreme Court bench. The perfect stereotype of the dumb ni**er. In Hollywood black folks on some level are still doing "The Hollywood Shuffle." Even though many are in a position to call their own shots should they chose to. Maybe today turning the scene with Pryor and Wilder on its head would be the way to go with Pryor being the lead and Wilder the sidekick, who instructs Pryor on how "to pass." Now that would be funny, on a number of levels.

  • CareyCarey | June 27, 2013 9:26 PM

    " Same thing goes for Amos 'n Andy. It wasn't for black audiences, but for the entertainment of white folks... turning it into stereotypes for white folks to laugh at"

    Walter, that's not a true statement. And I have to ask you, have you seen the series? Well, lets go back. The program originated on radio (1928-1943) over WMAQ (Chicago), where it had a loyal following. Two white men (Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll) created and performed the title characters, pretending to be black, and the series kept generations of blacks and white laughing with delight. The jump to television was made when the show premiered on CBS on June 28, 1951.

    Story-lines centered around the friendships between the Brothers of the Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge Hall and the home life of George "Kingfish" Stevens and his wife Sapphire. Kingfish and Andy's antics were usually off-centered by the fairness, judgement and charm of cabdriver Amos Jones.

    Well, through a chain of events, a writer from Ebony magazine, Sergio, an "acquaintance" of mine, asked me if I was related to Tim Moore, aka, Kingfish. I posted a reply which I'll share with you:

    "Yep Sergio, uncle Tim. He's my grandfather's brother. I have stories and lots of pictures. He did acquire that part until late in his career (he was in show business for 50 years). Some of those fat heads in the NAACP were instrumental in getting the series banned from television, and now we have Mr Brown and Madea… go figure. And who wins all the image awards, Tyler Who? Yeah, go figure. I wonder if Tyler's money has any influence on black folk's state of affairs? Well, back then, at a time of emerging Civil Rights, the characters were seen as gullible, conniving and lazy. Looking at the show today, none of the plots were ever based on race; and in fact, blacks were seen for the first time as doctors, lawyers, business men and leaders in the community. The problem was in the balance. There were simply no other shows during that time period to compare against the characters on Amos n Andy. Civil Rights leaders saw Amos n Andy as "inappropriate", saying that it had to be taken off the air."

    But listen, I have a collection of the entire series which I've shared with my children. The last time I checked, I didn't see any of the following themes.

    I didn't see homosexuality, drug use or gun play. In an episode called "Kingfish finds his fortune", Amos and Kingfish had a argument. They squared off in their best pugilists positions. They waltzed around a table for about 30 second until both got so tired - they wobbled to the nearest chairs and sat down. Oh the horror of it all. I shake with fear when I even think about that kind of violence. And, I never saw wife swapping or domestic violence in that series. I am yet to see one black person call another black person N**ga. And, I didn't see grown men salivating over the buttock of underage girls. Lastly, I have yet to see grown men dressed in drag.

    So Walter, I question your reference source. I do not believe ( I know) Amos n Andy was not solely for the entertainment of white folks. Personally, I have never met a person who saw the series before its ban in 1966, who did not say they enjoyed the the series. And btw, S&A's own Sergio said Amos n Andy was the truest depiction of the black folks that he has ever seen on TV. So again, one mo' time Walter, what are YOU basing your opinion on?

  • CareyCarey | June 27, 2013 2:09 PMReply

    "Or are we being too sensitive? A joke is joke, so why are we being so sensitive. "Why-do-we-have-to-be-so-serious all the time?"

    Well Sergio, thanks for calling my number. Not only are people too sensitive, I question this bit of insight--> "People are now too critical (definitely a good thing) and aware"

    Really? Being too critical is a good thing? And please, more aware of what? Listen, now bare with me 'cause I'm going to address this issue from a white man's perspective, first.

    Okay, here's the set up. The following is an e-mail I received a few days ago. I let the e-mail do the rest of the talking.

    Hi Carey,

    "I was quite pleasantly surprised when I went on You Tube last night and found a few clips from your tribute play to your uncle, Tim Moore. I then found your blog page and got your e-mail address.

    My name is Jeff Archer and I'm a 65-year-old author/journalist. I have had books published ranging in subjects from a sociological look at professional wrestling, to my autobiographical journey of eight years in playing, coaching and promoting baseball in Europe to a 400-page definitive look at US-Iraq relations from 1990 until recently. The Iraqi book is also being published in German.

    Having said that, I will get to the point. My favorite TV show of all time is Amos n Andy. I have the DVD set and have watched each segment at least five times. Three years ago, I decided to begin to gather information for a book titled, Amos n Andy: Pardon and Rehabilitation. The title speaks for itself. I find it despicable that such a pioneering TV show, and one of the funniest comedies of all time, has been denigrated to the point that it is not nice to mention it in polite company. I can't tell you the amount of contempt I have for Bill Cosby for his depriving two generations of people of the US the right to watch this great show.

    I have an introduction that I'd like you to read. I wrote it a couple of years ago and will update it if necessary. In it, I mention some of the same things you do in describing the show. I also tear Cosby a new asshole and go into detail about the real Bill Cosby and how it was he, not the cast of the Amos n Andy Show, who was the real sellout.

    I don't know if you remember Jeni LeGon. She was once considered the world's greatest dancer and played Minnie the Moocher in Cab Calloway's 1947 movie, "Hi-De-Ho." She played in about six Amos n Andy segments, most notably "Kingfish's Secretary." Jeni died last November at age 96 in Vancouver . By the time I reached her to try to interview her, I was a few months too late. Her husband, Frank Glavine, a jazz drummer, told me she was hospitalized with Alzheimer's. But, Frank and I talk frequently. He said she always told him that the most enjoyable time of her entertainment career was during the Amos n Andy Show and she said that Tim Moore was the most incredibly funny person she ever met and he always kept the cast in stitches during breaks in the shooting.

    I've done quite a bit of research so far, but I've not been able to find any cast members because Jeni was the last one left, or any of their relatives. That is why I was quite happy to see you and your endeavor online. By the way, I saw an interview conducted by Redd Foxx in which he stated he began to learn comedy by sitting backstage during your uncle's shows and just observing. He said, "If there was never a Tim Moore, there never would have been a Redd Foxx." I really want this injustice to be corrected and let the US public be aware of the groundbreaking show from the early 1950s and I would like to see Bill Cosby have to answer for his degradation of it. I really think one of the reasons he lambasted the show is that the comedy was funnier than his. There was some incredible talent on the Amos n' Andy Show.

    To end, I would like to hear from you after you've read my introduction. Maybe we could brainstorm and come up with ideas for a campaign. I have an independent film-maker friend and possibly there could be a filmed stage version in the future. But, that's only speculation and open for creative discussion."

    Okay S&A, there it is, therein lies the reason Silver Streak would not play well in today's society--black folks. That's right, black folks who have thoroughly confused art with reality will continue to send the wrong message to the easily swayed crowd. Wait a minute, maybe I should rephrases that. The loudest voices and the agenda movers and the politically connected will have the last word. Hell, who brought down Oscar Michaux? One guess, black folks. Who brought down Amos n Andy? One guess... black folks. Who chopped down the artistic expressions of the blaxploitation period? One guess -- black folks. Who is now trying to mute Tyler Perry? One guess... silly willie, snobby bobby, unknowing black folks.

    But you know what's mad crazy, those opinions (which are like assholes, everybody has one) of discontent are the minority voices in the black community but they stink the loudest, so people run for cover when they open their rotten mouths.

  • kirk | June 27, 2013 1:58 PMReply

    Hell yeh silverstreak rocked! No special effects or ridiculous violence. It was all about the STORY! I hope gene is enjoying retirement, I miss him. And don't forget Robert Downey in tropic thunder. I found it funny. Probably Downey is the only one who could pull it off.

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 27, 2013 4:26 PM

    Tropic Thunder was the last TRUE laugh out loud comedy I've seen since There's Something About Mary.

  • cinexa | June 27, 2013 1:18 PMReply

    I liked all of their buddy films. I dont think it would be as funny as it was then. Some other races now think they can do us better than we can at times.

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