As conversations about Slavery/Civil War/Post-Civil War/Western films and TV shows continue through 2013… remembering one that is maybe most memorable because it was Bill Cosby’s first big screen role. But also because it gave us a Bill Cosby that we rarely get to see on screen, far from the comedic sire that most of us have come to know and love him as, but instead in a true dramatic tough guy role – 1971’s Man And Boy.
Prior to this, he was primarily a TV celeb.
What we’d call a Western, occurring just after the Civil War, Cosby plays Caleb Revers, a man with a family (wife and son, played well by Gloria Foster and George Spell), whom he must protect from racist whites determined to scare them off their newly acquired homestead. But Caleb refuses to be bullied; he’s fearless, carrying a loaded rifle, and shoots with intent to kill, more than a few times; and he won’t be belittled or condescended to.
It’s part road movie, part father/son bonding drama, with the search for a stolen horse, and a man’s pride at the center of it all, as well as a colorful cast of friends and foes along the way.
There’s even quite a fight scene between Cosby and Yapphet Kotto, an apparent long-time nemesis in the film. It’s not like the well-choreographed sequence between Bourne and Desh in The Bourne Ultimatum; but, for its time, it’s a good one.
It’s the 19th century American west (the Arizona desert, specifically), where the most feared and most wanted man is black (how often does that happen?), and he goes by the name of Lee Christmas, played by Douglas Turner Ward, who’s also pretty crafty and surgical with a gun.
Overall, certainly not a top-notch work, but a solid drama about family, that I thought was heartfelt, and mostly engaging, with good performances all around.
It was initially difficult to get past the Bill Cosby we’ve all come to know and love (or hate, depending on your POV) over the last 25 years; but once I was sold, I believed him as this man-on-a-mission to protect what’s his, even if it means giving his own life in the process.
He was definitely convincing.
There is some humor in the film as well, but it’s limited. This is a serious affair.
You’ll find it on DVD; it’s not streaming on Netflix unfortunately.
Here’s the trailer, which doesn’t really do the film justice: