Today is Ladies Day.
Can’t talk Blaxploitation and Ladies without talking about Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson.
Pam Grier…Pam Grier…Pam Grier..
Brought it! Was fierce, beautiful, proud, smart, sexy and Black in every movie she made.
She gave us the Coffy.
Coffy is a 1973 blaxploitation film written and directed by American filmmaker Jack Hill. The story is about a black female vigilante played by Pam Grier.
The film’s tagline in advertising was “They call her ‘Coffy’ and she’ll cream you!”
Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Pam Grier), seeks revenge for her younger sister’s getting hooked on drugs and having to live in a rehabilitation home, a product of the drug underworld, mob bosses and chain of violence that exists in her city. The film opens with Coffy showing her vigilante nature by killing a drug supplier and dealer. She does this without getting caught by using her sexuality as an attractive and athletic African American woman willing to do anything for a drug fix.
She lures the men to their residences, which gives her the privacy to kill them both. After the killings, Coffy returns to her regular job at a local hospital operating room, but is asked to leave when she is too jumpy when handing tools to the surgeon.
The film introduces Coffy’s African American police friend Carter (William Elliott), who used to date Coffy in their younger years. Carter is portrayed as a straight-shooting officer who is not willing to bend the law for the mob or thugs who have been bribing many officers at his precinct. Coffy doesn’t believe his strong moral resolve until two hooded men break into Carter’s house while she’s there and beat Carter severely, temporarily crippling him. This enrages Coffy, giving her further provocation to continue her work as a vigilante, killing those responsible for harming Carter and her sister.
Coffy’s boyfriend Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) is a city counselor who appears to be deeply in love with Coffy at the beginning of the film. Coffy admires Brunswick for his body as well as his use of law to solve societal problems. She is very happy when he announces his plan to run for Congress, and his purchase of a night club. The two share a passionate love scene in the first part of the film.
Coffy’s next targets are a pimp named King George (Robert DoQui), who is supposedly one of the largest providers of prostitutes and illegal substances in the city, and Mafia boss Arturo Vitroni (Allan Arbus).
Coffy questions and abuses a former patient of hers who was a known drug user to gain insight into the type of woman King George likes and where he keeps his stash of drugs. This is the first scene where Coffy brutalizes another woman and shows no remorse because the former patient is using drugs again and thus a societal deviant. Coffy quickly goes to a resort posing as a Jamaican woman looking to work for King George.
George is quickly interested in her exotic nature and asks her to come with him back to his house to experience Coffy himself first. One of the prostitutes returns from a far away job and gets disgruntled and jealous when seeing George taking such a liking to Coffy. At a party later that day Coffy and the other prostitutes get into a massive brawl, which entices mob boss Vitroni and he demands that he have her tonight.
Coffy prepares herself to murder Vitroni and just when she is about to shoot, is overtaken by his men. She lies and tells Vitroni that King George ordered her to kill him, which makes Vitroni order George to be murdered. Vitroni’s men kill George by dragging him through the streets by a noose.
Coffy then discovers her clean-cut boyfriend is actually corrupt when she’s shown to him at a meeting of the mob and several police officials. He denies knowing her other than as a prostitute and Coffy is sent to her death. Once again, Coffy uses her sexuality to seduce her would-be killers. They try injecting her with drugs to sedate her, but she had switched these out for sugar earlier. Faking a high, she kills her unsuspecting hitmen with a piece of glass.
Running to avoid capture, Coffy carjacks a vehicle to escape. Coffy drives to Vitroni’s house, murders him, and then goes to Brunswick’s to do the same. He pleads forgiveness and just as she is about to accept, a naked white woman comes out of the bedroom. At this, Coffy shoots Brunswick in the groin. The film then closes with Coffy being satisfied at having avenged her sister and Carter.
Coffy begat the following Pam Grier Blaxploitation flicks: Foxy Brown (1974), Friday Foster, and Sheba, Baby (both 1975).
Foxy Brown is a 1974 blaxploitation film written and directed by Jack Hill. It stars Pam Grier as the title character, described by one character as “a whole lot of woman” who showcases unrelenting sexiness while battling the villains.
When her government-agent boyfriend is shot down by members of a drug syndicate, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) seeks revenge. She links her boyfriend’s murderers to a “modeling agency” run by Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder). Foxy decides to pose as a prostitute to infiltrate the company, and helps save a fellow black woman from a life of drugs and sexual exploitation. This leads Foxy to a variety of revenge-themed setpieces — often violent and sexual — that range from cremating sex slave dealers to castrating a foe and presenting his severed genitals to his girlfriend.
According to director Jack Hill, this was originally intended to be a sequel to his Coffy (1973), also starring Pam Grier, and in fact the working title of the film was “Burn, Coffy, Burn!”. However, American-International Pictures decided at the last minute it did not want to do a sequel, even though Coffy was a huge hit. Therefore, it is never said exactly what kind of job Foxy Brown has — “Coffy” was a nurse and since this was no longer to be a sequel, they could not give Foxy Brown that job and did not have time to rewrite the script to establish just what kind of job she had.
On the audio commentary on the film’s DVD release, Hill also mentioned that he was initially against the outfits that the wardrobe department chose for Foxy Brown. Since Pam Grier had become a star in her prior film Coffy, there was an impetus to present the actress as even more stylish than she had appeared in the previous film. But Hill, by his own account, initially felt that the outfits were too trendy and specific to the time period, and within a few years would cause the film to look dated and obsolete. In the years since the film’s release, however, Hill has reversed his opinion on Foxy’s clothes, particularly in the wake of not only Foxy Brown’s ascent into pop culture icon, but also the ’70s nostalgia movement that started in the mid-1990s.
Hill also mentioned that the character of Foxy Brown became something of a female empowerment symbol that seemed to transcend the time period of the film. As such, Hill believes, Foxy’s 1970s clothes and hairstyles merely add to the charm of the character.
Friday Foster is a 1975 blaxploitation film, written and directed by Arthur Marks, and starring Pam Grier in the title role. Yaphet Kotto, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers and Carl Weathers co-starred. It was an adaptation of the 1970-74 eponymous syndicated newspaper comic strip, scripted by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by Jorge Longarón and Gray Morrow. This was Grier’s final film with American International Pictures. The tagline on the film’s poster is “Wham! Bam! Here comes Pam!”
Characters and story
Friday Foster (Grier) is a magazine photographer who refuses to heed her boss’s admonitions against becoming involved in the stories to which she is assigned. After witnessing an assassination attempt on the nation’s wealthiest African American and then seeing her best friend murdered, Friday finds herself targeted for death. She teams up with private detective Colt Hawkins (Kotto) to investigate, and soon the two are hot on the trail of a plot to eliminate the country’s African-American political leadership.
In addition to the standard blaxploitation plot elements, the film also dealt with the themes of the power and importance of African American political unity and the potential threat thereto posed not only by the perceived white power structure, but also by those African-Americans willing to betray that goal in search of reward from that establishment.
The action movie Sheba, Baby is a 1975 blaxploitation film starring Pam Grier as Sheba Shayne. In the film, Sheba returns to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to confront thugs who are trying to intimidate her father into dissolving or handing over his family business. Austin Stoker plays Sheba’s love interest, Brick Williams.
Cleopatra “Cleo” Jones (Dobson) is an undercover special agent for the United States Government. Overseas modeling, however, is only a cover for her real job. Cleo is a Bond-like heroine with power and influence, her silver and black `73 Corvette Stingray (equipped with automatic weapons), and her martial arts ability. While she evokes the glory of a funk goddess, she remains loyal to her drug-ravaged community and her lover, Reuben Masters, who runs B&S House (a halfway home for recovering drug addicts).
The film opens with Cleo overseeing the destruction of a poppy field in Turkey belonging to the evil drug lord, Mommy (Shelley Winters). Mommy employs an all-male crew and a bevy of beautiful young women catering to her many wants. When she hears about her poppies’ demise, she plots revenge, hiring a corrupt policeman to raid the B&S House.
When Cleo returns to LA to arrest the police responsible for the raid, she continues to take apart Mommy’s underworld drug business, thwarting her minions along the way. Cleo and Mommy face off in a showdown, in which she is trapped by Mommy in a car crusher but is saved by her friends from the B&S House. In the final showdown, Cleo chases Mommy to the top of a magnetic crane where the two women fight. Mommy, despite her weight advantage, proves to be no match for Cleo, who hurls Mommy over the side of the crane to her death, while Cleo’s friends defeat her henchmen. At the end of the film, as Reuben and the members of the community celebrate victory, Cleo departs the scene, off to take on a new mission.
Cleopatra Jones was made by Warner Brothers following the success of the Shaft series and AIP’s films. It opened while the Black Power movement, second-wave feminism, and an increasingly growing black feminism were all prevalent. This social environment created the desire for a black heroine who appealed to women through a combination of alluring femininity, macho strength and combat skill. The film depicts the harsh reality of the black ghetto but portrays a united community whose members help one another. The final scene where Jones, Reuben, and the other B&S members join together to defeat Mommy emphasizes a “coming together” of the black community against white supremacy.
Although Cleopatra Jones contains themes relating to the black and feminist movements, it appeals to the general public and is known to be the “first blaxploitation film to use martial arts as part of its promotion.” It appeals to audiences who enjoy action movies (such as the James Bond series) and has invited comparisons between Jones and Bond. One critic noted “On the surface, Cleopatra Jones is about a black distaff James Bond who drives a fancy car equipped with a submachine gun in the door, wears smart clothes, is a karate expert, and travels all over the world as a United States secret agent, destroying the poppy wherever it is found.” Another critic, Chris Norton, even suggested, “Like Bond, Cleo is not a stealthy character who tries to infiltrate the underworld by losing her identity… Bond seldom tried to hide his identity, often using his real name during introductions, and all Bond films rely on his being recognized as 007.” Likewise, Jones is rarely undercover, and is flashy and flamboyant on the job. Norton continues by saying “Cleo’s outrageous outfits are also analogous with Bond’s dinner jackets and playboy wardrobe. Her three-foot hat brims and flowing fur robes are treated with respect and awe within the film, just as Bond’s refinements are looked upon as the height of good taste… [However,] Cleo is not simply a black James Bond. While the Cleopatra Jones films have co-opted Bond, they avoid a total fusion of her character of Bond.”
Max Julien originally wrote the part of Jones for his then-girlfriend Vonetta McGee but the part was eventually given to Dobson, a fashion model whose height inspired the film’s tag line: “6 feet 2 inches of dynamite.” Although blaxploitation films generally used sex to attract an audience, Cleopatra Jones was comparatively modest, containing no nudity or explicit sex.
Just as her character Cleopatra Jones came from a poor, high-crime neighborhood, Dobson came from humble, working-class roots. She grew up in Baltimore’s inner city; her mother owned a beauty salon and her father worked at a railroad station. After earning a degree from the Baltimore Institute of Art, Dobson moved to New York City to become a model. Her race proved an obstacle until she caught the attention of movie producers searching for a black heroine.
Feminism and sexuality
Cleopatra Jones illustrates the film industry’s progress toward gender equality. While Jones is both feminine and fashionable, at the same time she is talented in combat and driving even more so than the men in the film. She is seen as a strong, assertive, and combative woman who is able to both appeal to men and defeat them physically. On one hand, Jones competitively combats with Mommy’s male henchmen but on the other, she maintains a loving relationship with Reuben. Cleopatra and Reuben’s relationship can be considered a more progressive look at black male and black female relations at the time. Reuben is a strong black man who also cares for recovering kids at the B&S House. However he is also willing to fight as he comes to Jones’s aid and they fight alongside one another. Their relationship emphasizes the equality and mutual respect in a relationship that has both strong female and male counterparts.
Although Jones’ character and relationships are in keeping with feminist principles, the portrayal of Mommy is less groundbreaking. She is presented as a hypersexual lesbian; her character displays many negative traits such as her constant lust and obsession with sex. Mommy exerts tyrannical control over her henchmen and physically and verbally abuses her young female attendants.
Thus, the film’s homophobic treatment of Mommy hints at the film’s anti-feminism in the white feminist sense. During this period, feminism was “often seen as a white woman’s movement; some have seen it as anti-black.”  Even Dobson stated that a message she would have liked the film to portray would have been a more centered approach towards racial equality rather than gender. She stated in an interview, “We’re trying to free our men. I believe in equal pay… I don’t want to talk about it, because I don’t think of Cleopatra Jones as being a women’s libber. I see her as a very positive, strong lady who knows what she has to do.” 
Therefore, this film indicates a clear distinction between what is seen as white feminism and black feminism. While white feminism is shunned by the community and is mocked through the character Mommy, black feminism is seen as more approachable and harmless, seen in the loving yet equal relationship between Jones and Reuben, as well as Jones’ heroine status. Contrasted together, Mommy’s whiteness, lesbianism, and phallic power highlight Cleopatra Jones’ heterosexual appeal, blackness, and phallic power. Jones’ sophistication emphasizes Mommy’s low-class corruption while Jones’ feminine masculinity highlights Mommy’s “butch” lesbianism.
Cleopatra Jones differs from other blaxploitation films which depict a “phallic heroine.” Dobson herself refused to do nude scenes, striving to separate herself from the hypersexuality of other black heroines of the time. Her opinion that “sex is more interesting when you don’t show everything at once” is clearly indicated by her modesty throughout the film. During a love scene between Jones and Reuben, the two share a long, intimate kiss rather than passionately making love. The scene illustrates love and intimacy rather than the lust often depicted in other popular blaxploitation films. Jones flaunts her sexuality through her appearance, managing to remain an autonomous and strong female protagonist.
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold is a 1975 action-adventure Blaxploitation movie starring Tamara Dobson as Cleopatra. It is the sequel to the 1973 film Cleopatra Jones.
The story begins with two government agents — Matthew Johnson and Melvin Johnson — being captured by the Dragon Lady Stella Stevens. Cleopatra Jones then travels to Hong Kong to rescue the agents. Jones pairs up with Tanny (Ni Tien) and ends up in the Dragon Lady’s casino, which in actuality, is the headquarters for her underground drug empire. Jones and Tanny use their combat skills to battle the Dragon Lady’s henchmen and rescues the agents.