By Steve Simels
Updated November 01, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

For those who saw it back in 1972, The Harder They Come was a revelation, evocative of a poor but vibrant Jamaican culture few Americans knew about, with a bombshell reggae soundtrack that for all intents introduced the musical genre here. Unfortunately, despite its artful neorealist presentation of a classic melodrama (poor country boy in the big city is drawn into crime) and an uncommonly believable cast composed mostly of nonactors playing themselves, the film’s producers overlooked a major obstacle: Mainstream American audiences might find the Jamaican patois dialogue as incomprehensible as Martian. Eventually, of course, the film was reissued with subtitles and became a staple on the midnight-movie circuit. This welcome new video version — discreetly letterboxed and digitally remastered, with the color, sound, and subtitles all much improved from an earlier HBO tape — does full justice to singer Jimmy Cliff’s charismatic performance and Perry Henzell’s vivid directorial work. A