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Uptight (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A black revolutionary spirals into despair after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and ends up on the run on the streets after he turns in one of his own to the police in this controversial return to the United States from Jules Dassin who collaborated with Ruby Dee on the screenplay.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Uptight is a remake of John Ford’s The Informer (1935). The Jules Dassin directed production was co-written by Dassin with actress and activist Ruby Dee and lead actor Julian Mayfield moves the setting for Liam O’Flaherty’s 1925 novel from Dublin, Ireland, to urban Cleveland, swaps the Irish Republican Army for a group of Black Panther-esque black revolutionaries, and the unrest is now the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Mayfield plays one-time steelworker Tank who slides into alcoholism and increasing despair after losing his job. The one-time radical goes on a slow-burning journey from hopeful to full-on anger and, eventually, a stool pigeon who rats out his own friend to “the Man.”

The film was Dassin’s first in the United States after years of exile after being blacklisted during the HUAC hearings of the 1950s. The director who innovated the film noir genre with such immediate films as The Naked City and Rififi turned his lens back on an America in turmoil and exposed the social ills such as deindustrialization and racial conflicts that are still with us today.

Visually, Dassin infused so much energy into the film by merging a documentary style with a more stylized “neo noir” vision that preceded the boom of the subgenre that would follow in the 1970s and 1980s. Add to this energetic visual style the authentic and topical dialogue with the help of Dee and fearlessness to go where the story takes the plot, like the infamous funhouse mirror scene (later edited out of US TV versions), and we have here a powerful statement.

The film arrived to dismal box office, cinema bans, and poor reviews, making Dassin’s return to the U.S. yet another disappointment from his native country, but it has gained in stature over the years.

  • Julian Mayfield in Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968)
  • Julian Mayfield and Ruby Dee in Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968)
  • Julian Mayfield in Uptight (1968)
  • Uptight (1968) – Imprint Collection #221
  • Uptight (1968) – Imprint Collection #221

The Video

This Imprint Films Blu-ray release of Uptight is taken from 2019 4K scan of the original negative by Paramount Pictures. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 AVC 1080p encodement. Apart from the expected subtle warts from age, this transfer looks quite stunning. Most scenes are crisp with incredible dynamic range and color reproduction. Many of the scenes in the Cleveland streets at night ‘pop’ with vibrant neon signage, inky blacks, and nuanced shadow detail. The granularity is sharp and leans toward the thick side, but it is natural looking and free from noise. A few shadows look a little washed out and perhaps could use a little photo burn-in, and a few scenes are just a tinge soft, but the overall presentation is top-notch and near reference.

The Audio

The original monaural audio mix for Uptight is presented in LPCM 2.0. It offers full and clear dialogue and punchy-sounding music by Booker T.

The Supplements

The audio commentary, interview, and video essay included with this release are very enlightening on the social, political, and production issues surrounding this film. Watch the interview with Christina Newland and the video essay by Daniel Kramer.

  • Audio Commentary by film historians Alain Silver and Jim Ursini (NEW)
  • Film critic/writer Christina Newland on ‘Uptight’ (1080p; 00:17:27)(NEW)
  • Elective Vicissitudes: The Radical Exiles of Jules Dassin – video essay by film historian Daniel Kremer (1080p; 00:16:03) (NEW)
  • Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork

The Final Assessment

Uptight was undoubtedly a controversial film in its time for the ruling establishment, but through the lens of time some of its edge has worn off even as we continue to grapple with some of the very same issues it addressed. The film gets yet another opportunity for discovery and reassessment with this magnificent transfer of the film on Blu-ray courtesy of Australia’s Imprint Films.


Uptight is out on Blu-ray May 31, 2023, from Imprint Films.


  • Rating Certificate: Australia: M
  • Studios & Distributors: Marlukin | Paramount Pictures | Imprint Films
  • Director: Jules Dassin
  • Written By: Jules Dassin | Ruby Dee | Julian Mayfield
  • Run Time: 104 Mins.
  • Street Date: 31 May 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English HOH
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A black revolutionary spirals into despair after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and ends up on the run on the streets after he turns in one of his own to the police in this controversial return to the United States from Jules Dassin who collaborated with Ruby Dee on the screenplay. Uptight (Blu-ray Review)