Slowly but surely more and more older black films are being released on blu-ray which means more and more black people, and people who genuinely like good movies, are getting blu-ray players.
I’m still waiting for that blu-ray DVD release of Malcolm X which has been held back since January because of a music clearance problem. (And while we’re at it how about blu-ray versions of Mo’ Better Blues and Jungle Fever as well?)
But fortunately there’s one excellent black film which will soon come out on blu-ray DVD to add to the list, and that’s Norman Jewison’s 1985 A Soldier’s Story through Image Entertainment, on Dec 6th.
Based on the 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Charles Fuller, who also wrote the screenplay adaptation, it deals with a black officer, played by Howard Rollins Jr, who comes to a segregated Army base in the deep South during World War II to investigate the murder of a tough and hated drill sergeant played by Adolph Caesar.
The film does not exactly manage to entirely remove it’s obvious stage origins, but nevertheless it’s a pretty intense and compelling film that is perhaps more relevant today since it deals with the conflict between those who want to move black people forward and those who seem to be holding us back. (You know, sort of like the debate between people who like Tyler Perry and those who like Spike Lee)
The film briefly made stars of Rollins, who was, at the time, on a roll, after his film debut in Ragtime. But he was a horribly self destructive, tortured man in private, whose career failed to catch fire. He battled for years with drug problems as well as dealing with his true sexuality, and died in 1996 at the age of 46 from AIDS.
Caesar, a veteran stage and film actor with a tremendous deep resonant voice that made him a popular voice-over actor as well, and who recreated the role he performed in the stage production of Story, wasn’t able either to capitalize on his success, dying suddenly the very next year, after the film’s release in 1986.
But actually it was a young intense actor named Denzel Washington, playing the breakout, sort of angry, militant, embryonic Malcolm X type in the film, who caught everyone’s attention. Check the film out when it comes out. It’s definitely worth watching