With the eager anticipation for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, based on the autobiographical novel by Solomon Northup, and even the upcoming reissue his book, 12 Years a Slave, which Courtney reported about HERE, I thought it would be a good idea to bring back a piece I wrote in the summer of 2011 for S & A, about the first film version of Northup’s book.
I’m referring to the 1984 TV movie, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, starring Avery Brooks (Spencer for Hire, A Man Called Hawk, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) in the role of Northrup, the last film to be directed by the legendary film director/ photographer/composer and all around renaissance man, Gordon Parks, who passed away in 2006.
It was made for PBS for their 1980’s film series American Playhouse, which were feature length film versions of important literary works. Another terrific film in the sries that has been forgotten, was their 1985 film version of James Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, with Paul Winfield, Giancarlo Esposito, Rudy Dee, Alfre Woodward and Ving Rhames in his first film role.
As I said before about Odyssey, it’s an excellent film, though it is somewhat hampered by its obvious budget limitations and rushed production schedule. The film was released on VHS, but to my knowledge, was never released on DVD and begs rediscovery. Though I wouldn’t exactly be surprised if someone digs up an old print somewhere, and releases it on DVD, sometime this year, to capitalize on McQueen’s film.
Odyssey is also somewhat rather special to me, because I saw the film many years ago at a public screening with Parks in person, and I had him autograph one of his books for me; and shortly afterward, I received a personal letter from him, expressing his appreciation to me. Both of which I still treasure highly today.
But I also happen to have a signed autograph copy of the blu-ray DVD of Shame that McQueen signed for me so I’m covered.