Friday, 30 October 2015
No.255 : Which Way Is Up?
Which Way is Up? at the IMDb
Richard Pryor takes on three roles in this 1977 comedy which is about as un-PC as you can imagine. Not only would it never be made today, being caught with a copy would probably see you get time in jail!
Still we are a broad church here at the ‘W’ Movie Quest so let’s see we if we can be offended.
The film opens in the run down shack that Pryor shares with his wife and extended family. He wakes up all horny but his wife isn’t in the mood. No problem as he tries to pry her legs apart in a scene that could be used in a ‘rape within marriage is still rape’ information film. The wife is saved when a young boy wanders in looking for his breakfast. Meanwhile elsewhere in the house Pryor’s father is getting some noisy sex in - luckily for Pryor he plays both roles!
Pryor plays Leroy Jones, a hapless everyman who works in the fields of California picking oranges. Their work is interrupted when a union march passes and when they ask for someone to volunteer to lead the orange pickers - Pryor lands the role when he falls off his ladder into the union leader’s arms. This doesn’t go well with the white farmers who run Pryor off for trying to unionise the workers - some of the language they use is just plain racist!
Our hero heads to the city and his brief foray into workers’ rights holds him in good stead with the local co-operative who give him a job as a painter. Pryor dispels any racial stereotypes by immediately slacking off the job and chasing a leggy lady who is impressed with his union credentials. After some downright stalking she gives in and lets Pryor into her bed - on one condition; he never sleeps with another woman, even his wife. This lady has class!
He sets up home with the lady and gets a couple of promotions when he interrupts an assassination attempt. Is ‘The Man’ seeing something in Pryor and will the man with the shiny ring be as menacing as is being implied?
Despite a couple of laughs this film fell flat after an hour and totally lost it’s way. It follows the same path as ‘The Jerk’ which followed it two years later, with an idiot rising up the ranks due to happenstance. I thought it was going to have Pryor make a difference and have some say in workers’ rights but the last section was nothing but him trying to have sex with the wife of the man who had sex with his long abandoned wife. Again the rival lover was played by Pryor in a thinner moustache - the man has range! - so the message seemed to be that all the woman, even the pastor’s wife, can't get enough of our man!
The language and slurs - both racial and sexual - certainly dated the film and while no one took offense it would cause ‘Points of View’ to explode if it were shown today - and rightly so. The good people at Blogger would shut me down if I repeated even half what was yelled throughout the film and although I did laugh, it was only in an ironic and uncomfortable way.
The film ends with a sort of lesson with Richard’s rise up the career ranks costing him on a personal and emotional level so much so he didn’t know which way up was any more. That said if he kept his dick in his shorts he’d be a lot happier regardless of what ‘The Man’ had planned.
I did laugh without reservation or justification at the thin coffin laid on for the man who was run over by a steamroller. Everything else is condemned outright!
Best Bit : Piano lessons at church
‘W’ Rating 14/23