Been writing on some pretty dark themes recently so thought I would have some fun with a little picture called FOXY BROWN that was released recently on blu-ray Hey man ..give me five…. don’t give me the jive because FOXY BROWN is alive? Yes.. dust off those white bell bottoms with the tight waist, toss on a pattern shirt and some jewelery that will tip the average persons head over on their chest and get ready because Jack Hill’s 1974 urban violent Blaxplotation hit film is on blu-ray. Oh yes and did I mention is all to a cool funky soundtrack by Willie Hutch well before the style was readily available
FOXY BROWN ( 1974) along with SHAFT (1971) and COFFEY (1973) were three essential pillars of what was known as Blaxplotation film. While not exactly a politically correct term’ Blaxplotation supposedly was coined by Mario Van Peebles for a series of pictures that allowed black actors and actresses to do the same thing that white actors at the time were doing in films such as DIRTY HARRY (1971), MAGNUM FORCE (1973) , and MACON COUNTY LINE, (1974) and the Charlie Bronson’s DEATH WISH series. These pictures would be targeted for the urban marginalized markets in inner cities which could identify with the people, setting and situations. I would suggest that the genesis goes farther back to Russ Meyer’s female empowerment with guns and fast cars masterpiece of cool FASTER PUSSY CAT KILL KILL (1965). Director Jack Hill has all the formula going here the car chase, the drug lords, the kidnapping and abuse of the lead character but it is how FOXY BROWN it and who the film does it with that is different and stylish.
FOXY BROWN starts with a street hustler named Link Brown, (Antonio Vargas) cringing in a bar full of police officers, he’s trying to wait out a bunch of thugs who want to beat him for holding out on a loan from losses incurred from street gambling schemes. In desperation he calls his tough sister Foxy (Pam Greer) to bail him out yet again. Foxy runs some of the thugs into the river in her car. Afterwards, Link pleads to her that he’ll live the straight life if he can hide out at her pad for a while. Foxy reluctantly agrees.
Later, Foxy goes to visit her boyfriend Dalton Ford (Terry Carter in a role before original Battlestar Galactica) in hospital , an undercover officer who has been investigating the same crime-ring that Link owed money to. The hoodlums thought they’d killed him, but he really ended up in hospital for plastic surgery to give him a new and safe identity. Emerging as handsome Michael Anderson, he and Foxy hope to start life anew. On the streets, they encounter a black gang who beat and run drug pushers out of town. Foxy introduces Michael to the free loading Link, and Link acts suspicious. Links leaves Michael and Foxy to themselves, but later looks at some newspaper cuttings and adds two and two together. There is an enormous debt to pay … and this kind of information could clear that debt. No sooner does Foxy think her life will be smooth, than Michael crashes through her door, breathing his last and shot to death. With some detective work, the grieving and raging Foxy soon tracks Link down at his white girlfriend’s, and as they snort coke she storms in on them. Livid with anger, Foxy won’t kill her own brother, but she does force the identity of Michael’s killers out of him, then force him to leave the city. And so Foxy is out for vengeance which does it so well as it seems with most action stars pulled to limits.
The evil sadistic villain in this case who run the dug empire at in the person of Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Katherine Wall (Kathyrn Loder) who looks a little like Carolyn Jones. Interesting relationship between these to is that they feign physical contact going through the motions only to find that there real love is drugs and power that they bring. Like most villains they have cast of repulsive henchman that their disposal for the dirty work.
Vengeance get derailed with a series if incidence such as a graphic kidnap and rape scene at a farm by some good old country boys who keep Foxy happy by shooting her up with drugs. Exacting her pound of flesh in flaming escape to being piloted in a plane to a meeting by a young Sid Haig leading to a fire fight and a special personal delivery to the Drug lord’s girlfriend Katherine Wall.
FOXY BROWN blu-ray is a feast for the eyes in all its seventies glory. Every fold, every color every pattern this is shown is bright and crisp. The interiors are all well done with all the bric a brac and odd colors. The night exteriors are all well shown as well as black levels contrast nicely with the colors. The exterior scenes have a slight haze in them particularly the country scenes perhaps having to do with the heat of the day or the smog situation at that time.
Soundtrack wonderfully different for the time of funky, guitars with “wah wah” pedals going in car chases all wonderfully mixed in. What makes it different is that these films set the pattern for what was heard in TV series of the seventies such as THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, CHARLIE’S ANGELS and action films to come. Second track mixed in is commentary Director Jack Hill today telling us little details of his thought on the film. You will be singing the title song FOXY BROWN along with the end credits.
FOXY BROWN Blu-ray comes with a good selection of extras for enhanced experience. The feature comes with Jack Hill commentary on the filming. Interestingly relating how he had wanted FOXY BROWN to be a sequel to COFFY (1973) which also starred Pam Grier. Asher thought he had created a franchise character for a series but the studio said no. Asher also mentions ho he was not in favour ripoff of the James Bond style of titles for FOXY BROWN that open the picture. A 25 minute look at Blaxplotation cinema is included called BACK TO BLACK THE BRILLIANCE OF BLAXSPLOITATON. A 19 minute interview with Stunt man Bob Minor called NOT A MINOR INFLUENCE explaining how the film launched his Hollywood career. Theatrical trailers for FOXY BROWN, COFFEY, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, SWITCH BLADE SISTERS and SORCERESS plus slightly longer black and white promo for Jack Hill/Sid Haig film PIT STOP. Quality varies in these selection due to print preservation but still add to experience.
FOXY BROWN blu-ray would make a pretty cool addition to any collection interested the evolution of the female character as a spirit of vengeance. or simply some kick ass action and guns. Good high octane fun, visceral story with an undercurrent of ‘ Power to the people”. It is a slice out of time with its colors, music, slang and seventies production values that set a pattern that is easily seen today with only the music style changing. FOXY BROWN really is as her brother says in the film “That’s my sister..she’s a whole lotta woman.”