Which Way Is Up? (1977) How Do Three Richard Pryor’s Fit In With Today’s Changing Climate

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor poster three pryor's for the price of one

There’s not many Richard Pryor films I hadn’t rented on VHS or managed to record from a TV broadcast. Such a brilliant comic and mighty fine actor. My whole pre-teens to my twenties the double act of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder never left my screens. I can drop into Stir Crazy at anytime and still be in fits of laughter. I’d even seen all the others like Brewster’s Millions with John Candy and that bizarre one called The Toy! There was great fun to be had with Critical Condition and Moving plus he could also turn in a superb dramatic performance alongside the best of them like with Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto in Blue Collar. One that had gone right under my radar was Which Way Is Up? Reading that he plays three different characters I just couldn’t wait to watch it.

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor joking about funny face wavying hands

Tagline –Loose, vulgar, funky and very funny. Pryor gobbles up his triple part like a happy hog let loose in a garden.” (Newsweek Magazine)

Now being a child of Generation X, happily steamrolling my way through the controversial films of the 70s and 80s without the blink of an eye. Our generation were tough as nails. Brought up on video nasties and extreme macho action packed carnage. It was just the way it was. If you didn’t like it you just didn’t watch it again and moved on to the next barrage of barbaric form of entertainment. So as you can see I’m no stranger to head turning controversial subject matter but right from the get go Which Way Is Up? is a hard one to recommend in today’s times.

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor and the beautiful Vanetta (Lonette McKee) jogging

So if you’re ready for the ensuing dubious content coming at you, right out the gate, then here goes. You get attempted rape, stalking and another attempted rape. Followed by racism and homophobia. Violence and insults towards women including cheating on all levels. Uncountable amounts of the two double GG words of the N & F variety. Revenge cheating, bit of bondage and tool insertion hehe. Yep it’s a comedy and the list goes on and on but I’ll get chastised if I carry on!

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor dad rufus jones

Of course I soldiered on through with a wow, a giggle and a cheeky smile. I’m sensible enough to know it’s from an era when it just wasn’t that much of a big deal. And you guessed it I’ve seen a hell lot worse. It’s just there’s no way you could recommend a film like that in today’s climate. Saying that, it wasn’t one of his best if I’m honest. Richard Pryor’s character just wasn’t that likable in the confused story.  But he does get to play three parts. So what was it all about?

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor reluctant union strike activist

Pryor plays Leroy Jones, a poor fruit picker who’s desperate to umm, empty his, umm fruit bag? He also plays his own randy old dad, who doesn’t suffer his dilemma. His Dad, Rufus, is forever getting his way with his younger wife. Then last of all the oversexed, forever cheating, Reverend Lennox Thomas. Leroy is stupid, a simpleton and a chancer. He ploughs on through life mainly falling into situations purely by accident or by his own idiotic ways. Somehow, without knowing, he reluctantly becomes the figure head and spokesmen for the union of striking workers. And in doing so he  shines in some lucky way when he manages to win the love of the beautiful activist Vanetta (Lonette McKee). From then on I’m not really sure what was going on as it flipped between Leroy working for the man and getting caught up with a trio of ladies.

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor and the beautiful Vanetta (Lonette McKee)

I’m glad to have ticked it off the Richard Pryor film list. He always makes me smile. Yeah it’s content maybe super controversy now and maybe raised a few eyebrows even back then but watching RP playing three different roles was a bonus. He’s always funny to watch and seeing him go through his routine was very enjoyable. I never had the chance to see The Richard Pryor Show from 1977 but I can imagine the skits would of featured many characters like he portrayed here. Which Way Is Up? feels more like a short sketch that got out of hand. Coming from the opening credits it is in fact a remake of a 1972 Italian film called The Seduction of Mimi.

Which Way Is Up (1977) Margaret Avery as Annie May playgirlWhich Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor Marilyn Coleman as Sister Sarah piano

Two supporting actresses Margaret Avery as Annie May, Leroy’s wife and Marilyn Coleman as Sister Sarah are both hilarious and both get to steal the show as women scorned. The Reverend’s platinum healing glove brings some giggles. Overall I enjoyed the event of watching a new Richard Pryor film and looking through his filmology there maybe one or two more I may of missed or can’t remember. Looking forward to seeing if that is true.

Which Way Is Up (1977) Richard Pryor platinum healing glove

Do you have a favorite Richard Pryor film?

Now let’s dance our way out of here Soul Train stylee with the Stargard Which Way Is Up theme tune.


24 thoughts on “Which Way Is Up? (1977) How Do Three Richard Pryor’s Fit In With Today’s Changing Climate

  1. I’ve seen his stand-up films, and his appearances on SNL, and I watched a few episodes of his TV comedy show, but as far as I can remember, the only RP movie I’ve seen is ‘Silver Streak’, and I thought he and Wilder were quite fun in that one. Based on the movies of his you’ve seen, which is your favorite, and which should be the first that I check out?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stir Crazy is by far my favourite Todd. So many times I’ve watched and rewatch that film. It’s just so stupid and hilarious. Directed by Sidney Poitier if you didn’t know. It’s the interactions between the two friends that gets me everytime. Tears. The looking tough scene in jail kills me everytime. “We Bad”. I love when they hold each other in fear. “Oooo Sheeeet”. “My brother was so short we couldn’t even see him!” lol.

      Silver Streak is brilliant fun but Stir Crazy is non-stop brilliant, in my eyes.


  2. This film (like most of Pryor’s 70’s work) is hysterical, and your review is spot on, Mikey! Don’t know how well his stuff goes over with the PC Crowd, and frankly I don’t give a f… well,you know!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I did see this years ago on VHS but recalled very little about the plot other than the fact that I remember thinking it wasn’t up to the level of his other films during that era of discovery for this teenage kid. There are so many films that don’t toe today’s morality clauses and that has to be overlooked for my money. I’m tired of hearing it. Maybe we should never enjoy a blaxploitation flick again and burn the prints of Foxy Brown. What the hell did I just say?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely agree, Mikey. Not one of his best and–as a burgeoning ambiguous feminist (Ha!) I didn’t like it back in the day. But, hey, I didn’t like John Wayne giving Maureen O’Hara spanking either. (Not to mention all the spankings Ricky gave Lucy in I Love Lucy.) In fact, I like Which Way is Up? a lot better than McLintock, but not nearly as much as I Love Lucy.
    My favorite Richard Pryor film? Stir Crazy. Hands down. Then Silver Streak. Then Bustin’ Loose. He was very good in Lady Sang The Blues too, but that wasn’t comedy, of course. Loved the post, Mikey, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe I always thought the Wayne booty smacking was rather cheeky. Maureen O’Hara looked very sexy but yep I understand it doesn’t look too good hehe. Didn’t she deserve it though?……. I’m kidding I’m kidding. As your clenched fist explodes through my monitor connecting me square in the middle of my nose! BAM!
      But hey it’s better than Jackie Gleason uppercutting his mrs to Moon! Good gosh LOL.

      SNAP! I have the same three RPs. Stir Crazy has to be top. Tears drop every time. I guess you could argue Wilder steals the show as he gets more screen time. Oh gosh that bull riding machine bit lol… But it’s all about GW and RPs interactions. The tender embraces and holding each other. From 8 years old to 47 I still so love that film.
      Always a pleasure Pam, Thanks… Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, you NEED to see The Seduction of Mimi at some point just to see how much better it is. Granted, it’s still kind of unseemly, but it works beautifully thanks to writer/director Lina Wertmüller and her VERY able cast. Here’s a funny for you: WWIU was actually shown on network TV in the US in the 70’s but VERY heavily edited and VERY terribly dubbed to the point that it sounded as if at least three actors did Pryor’s characters and thanks to so much swearing, it seems like a lot of re-dubbing was done so that it sounded as if more than one person was speaking lines in a single sentence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Greg for the tip top message. I really want to see The Seduction of Mimi now. And thanks to Eric in the comments there’s a link!! I’d never heard of Lina Wertmüller before but she sounds like a cool lady. And Giancarlo Giannini looks hysterical. I hope to watch it soon.
      Amazing information on the highly edited TV version Greg. Wow! That must of really messed with the whole film. It it wasn’t that great to begin with what on earth was it like after all that cutting and dubbing! LOL… Cheers buddy.


  6. Agreed. Love Pryor, but this isn’t one of his best films/performances.

    Interestingly, I like Pryor’s dramatic performances best.
    Favorite performances:

    Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (IMHO, his best screen work)
    Blue Collar
    Lady Sings the Blues
    Greased Lightning
    Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

    Liked by 1 person

    • The only one I haven’t seen on that list is the one with the biggest title! Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. I will look into that. Funny as just two minutes ago I was commenting to Todd over at Cinema Monolith about baseball.
      I remember as a teen loving Greased Lightning. Gonna revisit that esp for the lovely Pam Grier.
      The power of the internet. I always wondered what that amazing film Jo Jo Dancer was called. Remember it being a very powerful film focusing on his own self destructive path. Deep and sad.
      Lady Sings The Blues is a magnificent film and another I’d love to watch again.
      Great selection EB. Much respect indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

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