‘Rising like an urban goddess from the tumult, confusion and bloodiness of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, government conspiracies, assassinations and cover-ups, Pam Grier’s most famous screen personas—Coffy, Foxy and Sheba—seem to have been called into action by a civilization in upheaval. These figures single-handedly detonated layers of oppressive cultural conventions that were desperate for radical revision. Revolutionary even within the low-budget flash of the “blaxploitation” arena that had already blindsided movie theaters across the country, Grier’s films broke away from the action movie pattern that featured passive, two-dimensional female characters on the sidelines. Instead, Grier’s characters were defiant, authoritative, resourceful vigilantes whose intellectual, physical and sexual adeptness American movie screens had never experienced the likes of before. The women she portrayed boldly and bodily, colorfully and brutally, empowered the disempowered. All of the boiling frustrations, all of the silenced voices were violently erupting onto ecstatic movie audiences from a single black woman reclaiming her power on her own terms.
‘Like her screen persona, the political was always deeply personal for Grier. Part Caucasian, African American, Asian and Native American, she has been aware of discrimination and alienation from all angles ever since her birth in 1949 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her father was a mechanic in the Air Force, entailing frequent moves about the US and back and forth across the Atlantic on and off military bases. She experienced all kinds of communities—those that were harmonious and colorblind or racially segregated and intolerant. A victim of various degrees of racial and gender discrimination throughout her life as well as sexual abuse, Grier notes that she “saw more violence in my neighborhood and in the war and on the newsreels than I did in my movies. Coming from the ‘50s, things were very violent. We were still being lynched. If I drove down through the South with my mother, I might not make it through one state without being bullied or harassed.”
‘Initially enrolled at Metropolitan State College in Colorado as a pre-med student, Grier felt less inspired by the enormous struggles that path required and was also unable to ignore another calling: her acute desire to be involved in film. Unable to afford film school, the multitalented Grier unintentionally caught the eye of Hollywood when she entered beauty pageants to win prize money for tuition. At first, this attention translated to operating the switchboard at a Hollywood agent’s office as one of multiple jobs she held down while receiving a free introduction to film courtesy of student “guerilla” filmmakers at UCLA. Shortly after switching over to the now legendary, independent B-moviemaking machine American International Pictures as an operator, she landed a small part in Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). Meanwhile, she started appearing in theatrical productions and singing backup for Bobby Womack, Lou Rawls and Sly Stone, among others. By her second film—Roger Corman’s The Big Doll House (1971)—Grier had already secured a leading role. She braved the extremely low budgets and rough conditions of the Philippines production, even handling some of her own stunts and singing the theme song. Her drive and moxie led to role after role in mostly women-in-prison films like The Big Bird Cage (1972) and Black Mama, White Mama (1973), in which she played aggressive survivors who are both tough and voluptuous. Never shy about showing some skin, Grier began her career deeply submerged in the funny paradox of a particular kind of exploitation cinema where women—as characters and as actresses—found both liberation and objectification.
‘After their major blaxploitation hits like Slaughter (1972) and Blacula (1972), AIP director Jack Hill relocated Grier from fantastic situations in exotic locales to reality-based dramas taking place in America’s own inner cities. Cutting in front of Cleopatra Jones by a few weeks and surpassing it at the box office, Coffy became the first blaxploitation film to feature a black woman as its star and gave birth to America’s first action heroine. In addition to Cleopatra Jones and a handful of others, Pam Grier’s films were the only American movies being made starring a powerful woman of any race in the lead. Able to function adeptly in a man’s world—driving the plot, resorting to violence, making wisecracks—Grier’s complicated characters are also free to make the most of their femininity as a lethal weapon in an arsenal that includes equal parts intelligence and resourcefulness. And still more phenomenal for the time, Grier always portrayed single women with active sex lives who were emotionally and physically protective of their families and the dispossessed. Unlike her tough male cinematic counterparts who toss their ladies aside when business calls, the Pam Grier persona is a fierce fighter, an irresistible aphrodisiac and a tender, loyal lover who is only vindictive when betrayed.
‘Not a decoration, token or sidekick, Grier’s superheroines shun and disrupt all of the stereotypical African American roles in films—whether male or female—and their inevitable exoticism or submissiveness. If any of her films refer to that history, it is to confront it, upend it and exorcise those demeaning demons. Upon receiving female fan mail, Grier realized that her characters were “doing and saying what [black women] wanted to say.” With a raw energy and the collective anger of generations, Grier forced both blackness and femaleness to center stage. Her characters were not simply on equal footing with their white, male equivalents—they were bent on turning the whole screen inside out.
‘With Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli, Grier quickly became one of only three female stars in the 70s who could open a film. The border now successfully breached, other women soon followed her lead in choosing more potent, commanding female roles over what was often their only other option: the passive, pretty love interest. For a period after Grier’s emergence, there was a greater demand for black actresses in general as well as a trend of female action stars—though mostly on television and primarily featuring white actresses; Get Christie Love! starring Teresa Graves was the single exception.
‘“My movies were the first they had done with a strong woman character, not to mention black,” stated Grier. “Once they saw the grosses, they wanted to do every one of them like that. I was angry. You can’t give people the same thing all the time… [T]he next time you go for something a little better than you had before.” After fulfilling her contract, Grier left AIP and established her own production company; yet creating and securing complex roles for women proved to be a challenge in an industry still focused on relatively restrictive cages for their female figures. Instead, she studied direction and production, and continued to bring her range and vitality to a variety of roles on television and in films like Greased Lighting with Richard Pryor, Jack Clayton’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) and the Paul Newman feature Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981), in which she chillingly inhabits the part of a psychotic prostitute. However, due to mostly “boring” offers, she turned more to the theater in the 80s, starring in productions like Fool for Love—for which she won a NAACP Image Award—and Frankie and Johnny, in which she played the first black Frankie.
‘Miraculously surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis in 1988, Grier returned to the screen during a resurgence of renewed appreciation for the blaxploitation hits of the 70s. Films like Escape from L.A. (1996) and Original Gangstas (1996) pay tribute to her trailblazing persona, but it was superfan Quentin Tarantino who most profoundly delivered the great cultural debt owed with Jackie Brown. Grier was able to reannounce herself to the world as not only a treasured icon, but an accomplished actress with a refined style that now seemed effortless.
‘Grier continues to accept the braver, more meaningful roles. Playing a straight woman in a multiracial lesbian world on the groundbreaking Showtime series The L Word, she once again took on controversial subject matter and helped give voice to another media minority. And in her offscreen life, Grier is actively involved—through various organizations and personally—in coming to the aid of both animals and humans suffering from difficult circumstances. Firmly embedded into the iconography of American culture, Pam Grier continues to make an enduring impact that ultimately transcends both race and gender.’ — Brittany Gravely
Pam Grier @ IMDb
Pam Grier takes raunch to the ranch
Pam Grier, Superstar!
The Enduring Appeal (and Unfortunate Novelty) of Pam Grier, Our Favorite Movie Badass
Pam Grier interviewed @ People Magazine
Pam Grier: Boundary Breaker and Blaxploitation Queen
The GQ&A: Pam Grier
Pam Grier @ Facebook
Pam Grier: Interesting Motherfuckers
PAM GRIER, WOMAN IN BLACK.
Pam Grier on ‘Foxy Brown’ and Black Feminism
Let us now praise Pam Grier
Rihanna Is No Pam Grier
In praise of Pam Grier in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown
Pam Grier Now a Star on the Russian Black Market
Pam Grier’s Afro: Let’s Bring It Back
Pam Grier on influencing feminism as the original bad-ass female action hero
Revisiting the Iconic ’70s Style of Pam Grier
The Education of Pam Grier
Pam Grier – Queen of soul
How Pam Grier revolutionized cinema
Pam Grier and the articulation of female subjectivity in Blaxploitation theme songs
Pam Grier documentary
Roseanne Interviews Pam Grier (1998)
Pam Grier on the meaning of badass
Berlinale Press Conference Jackie Brown
Pam Grier – Super Foxy
from The AV Club
You began your career doing beauty pageants. How did that begin?
Pam Grier: I did it to gain confidence and raise money for tuition. My mother said it was one of the best ways to overcome my shyness and other things I had grown up with. I never went in thinking, “You’re an African-American woman, so you’re never going to win.” I was just in it for the experience, and to show my brains and talent and help break stereotypes. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’ll become a star. I’m beautiful.” I never thought I was pretty. I couldn’t even put on eyelashes or makeup. When you come from an environment that’s military, and they don’t stress that topic of aesthetics or beauty pageants and makeup, there are a lot of things you just don’t have that city girls have. Not too many sisters at that time dreamed about becoming actresses. You’re still a member of the Black Panthers, you’re still trying to vote, you’re still trying not to get run off the road or stopped or frisked.
Growing up, you didn’t think of yourself as beautiful or striking?
PG: No. We weren’t taught anything like that in our family. We were taught that if our eyes worked and our legs worked, we were beautiful. We had so many kids in our family that if we all got in front of the mirror and were ashamed of browns and golds and yellows and whites, and we believed what society told us–that the darker people were less attractive and the lighter ones were prettier–we would have had sibling murders. My family, being half-rural and half-military, just came from a different place.
The first films you made were with Roger Corman.
PG: Roger Corman was looking for an in-your-face, radical kind of natural actress who hadn’t been pampered and frosted with wigs and blue eye-shadow. And one of my jobs happened to be at an agency where he was having trouble finding an actress. So people said, “You’re tough and you’re a military brat, you keep us in line. Why don’t you go up there?” And I’m in film school, so I really have to sock away my money, and I don’t have time. I don’t want to be an actress, because I think that they have to be really pretty, and I’m not. So they say, “We can offer, like, $500 a week,” and I’m saying, “I’m working three jobs and bringing home half that!” I guess they liked my attitude. The next thing you know, I’m doing a film in the Philippines, guerrilla filmmaking at its best, with a director named Jack Hill. He had a European sensibility to film, and so did I, and when it came to nudity, we’re thinking about Fellini and Kurosawa and Bertolucci. You’re not thinking about some sort of Victorian handicap called, “Don’t show your breasts, it’s considered indecent.” The next thing you know, they’re saying, “Ma’am, you’re really a good actress. You’re real. You’re a natural, you’re right there.” So I had to learn and catch up with everybody, and I took it seriously. Even though I was doing what was considered a B-movie, I thought it was Gone With The Wind. I thought it would win an Oscar. I think if you don’t approach your work on that level, you won’t achieve what you’re looking for, whether it’s great success or just acknowledgment, because you’re half-stepping. I went in doing the best work I could, which frightened them, because they didn’t expect me to.
Shooting in the Philippines and doing your own stunts, were you ever worried that you might be seriously injured?
PG: Oh, all the time, but since I was very athletic, and had run track in school, that helped. I was kind of a bouncy kid. I used to roller-skate into the sides of cars. [Laughs.] I had some flexibility, I loved speed, and for some reason, I did some of the stunts. But you’re always in danger of something exploding, or leeches or cobras or snakes. You can get hurt at any time. But you listen and watch. These people live there, they understand the jungle of the Philippines, and they know what to do. If you’re stupid and arrogant, you’re going to get hurt. It’s not the place to be arrogant.
When you were making Coffy and Foxy Brown, did you have any conception that you were creating a powerful new female archetype, this sort of iconic, larger-than-life figure?
PG: No, not at all. You never know how people are going to respond. I just wanted to try to do interesting work. I was surprised and humbled by the legacy of it.
You were the first woman to play that type of character.
PG: Yeah, well. I saw it in my real life, I saw it in the police force in Denver, and I saw it in the military. I saw women share the platform with men in my personal world, and Hollywood just hadn’t wakened to it yet. Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn changed the way they saw women during the 1940s, but I saw it daily in the women’s movement that was emerging, because I was a child of the women’s movement. Everything I had learned was from my mother and my grandmother, who both had a very pioneering spirit. They had to, because they had to change flat tires and paint the house–because, you know, the men didn’t come home from the war or whatever else, so women had to do these things. So, out of economic necessity and the freedoms won, by the ’50s and ’60s, there was suddenly this opportunity and this invitation that was like, “Come out here with these men. Get out here. Show us what you got.” And they had to, out of pure necessity. Out of necessity comes genius. Not to say that I was a genius, but I did the things I had to do.
Did you get a lot of feedback at the time about your film work?
PG: The masses enjoyed it. They enjoyed seeing a female hero. And then some of the more conservative people said, “Couldn’t you have done something else? Couldn’t you have played a nun? Couldn’t you play Mother Mary, or something more conservative?” And I said, “You guys are so fragmented that nobody’s going to come. Nobody’s going to see those movies.” The way things are right now, they want to see action, they want to see heroes and heroines. And if you’re not that, you’re an art film, and if you were black, then you weren’t going to be in that art film. If you were black, you may not get to do theater. So you’re marginalizing yourself even further, and you’re not going to get the experience or break down stereotypes. Although at the beginning, my ambition was never to break down doors. It was just to earn tuition for myself and work in an industry where women hadn’t been allowed or invited. That’s all I wanted to do, not thinking that I would make waves, change minds, excite people, incite people, turn people on, repulse people. We’ve got $20 million actresses today who are nude in Vanilla Sky, nude in Swordfish. So what did I do different? I got paid less, but that’s it. And if you see it as an art form, what’s the problem? You know what it’s rated, and you know what you’re going to see, because the critics tell you. If it offends you, don’t go.
Other than the nudity, it seems like what bothered some people about your films was the violence. Did you ever have a problem with the violence in your early films?
PG: No, not at all. I saw more violence in my neighborhood and in the war and on the newsreels than I did in my movies, so it didn’t bother me. Coming from the ’50s, things were very violent. We were still being lynched. If I drove down through the South with my mother, I might not make it through one state without being bullied or harassed. Unless you’ve been black for a week, you don’t know. A lot of people were really up in arms about nothing, and if you challenge them, they go, “Well, maybe you’re right.” In the meantime, you have a headline writer who’s made waves by asking questions and raising flags and saying, “Oh my God, Sam Jackson said the word ‘nigger’ 37 times in Jackie Brown!” And Sam said, “Well, there were 10 in the script, but I chose to say it more.” He doesn’t get attacked. Everyone else can maim, kill, and shoot, and they don’t get attacked. At the time, I just said, “You guys just have to get real.” I came from a very real place of no pretension, like, “Yeah, I’m sorry it’s ghetto. I’m sorry it’s lower-class.” I wish I was Ivy League and I lived in the suburbs and my folks made $100,000, but that’s not the real world. Either they accept my art and my sensibility, or they don’t.
A lot of your earlier films were attacked by the NAACP and other mainstream civil-rights groups.
PG: Well, they would attack, but very minimally, and not very loudly. I mean, I hosted their awards show the year before it went to television, and my date was Freddie Prinze. I hosted the show, so if I was that horrific, why was I hosting the show? I was given keys to the city from every major black city in the country. I was meeting with mayors and raising funds. Of course, I was opening doors, and as you open doors and become bigger box-office, you have an opportunity to do Lilies Of The Field. Maybe I can do non-violent films. I’m still trying to do films about black women. Angela Bassett finally did a film about Rosa Parks, but look how long it took for that to get done. Why didn’t somebody do Rosa Parks sooner? Why didn’t they do Tina Turner then? There comes a point where you’re “not valid.” But as time goes by, and with education and academics and plain old consciousness, you kind of realize what went on, who did what, who got the limelight. Spike Lee got a lot of limelight by accusing Quentin Tarantino of giving 37 lines of “nigger” to Sam Jackson. When, in fact, that wasn’t the case at all.
Do you think being known for action movies has hurt you in terms of getting other kinds of roles?
PG: Not at all. I’ve done the best theater in the world. It’s what you bring to the table. It’s whether you can fill seats, you know? You got rappers filling the seats. That’s all they care about. They don’t care about me. They don’t care if I’m gonna be naked and black. And whoever the critics are, whoever the naysayers are, they don’t get it. This is a private industry. If you’re invited to come to the party and drink from the fountain, it’s a privilege. You can’t tell them what to do. I don’t see the NAACP telling them, “Well, why don’t you make these films?” How come they don’t go up to the black directors and tell them, “How come they aren’t making these films?” You need to understand the dynamic. I tell young actresses today who are looking to get into films, “First of all, you are marginalized by the color of your skin.” I tell actresses, “If you’re too tall, if you’re too fat, you’re not going to work. I don’t care how talented you are.” It’s a business, and sex sells. Sex, action, special effects, and violence sell. Yes, you can have art films about the triumph of the human spirit and all of that, but you’ll have it done with a big-budget icon with a $20 million salary. You’ll have Julia Roberts, you’ll have Robert Redford, you’ll have Russell Crowe doing those films, because if they’re going to cost $90 million, they’re going to make that movie for a public that’s very large and mainstream. They’re not going to make it for three or four million black people.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
PG: I consider myself conscious of how we’re treated, and sometimes I can be a feminist. Sometimes I’m a little Republican, sometimes I’m a little Democrat. Sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m not angry. I’m not a total feminist, but I believe in rights for females. I believe that if we have to pay 100 percent for our college tuition, and then we get into the workplace and we’re only given 70 percent of our counterparts’ salaries, then we shouldn’t have to pay but 70 percent of our college tuition. Maybe that’ll stop the bullshit. Now, come on. I ask you, how would you like your mom, your wife, your daughter to spend $100,000 to go to Harvard or some state school, and go out into the workplace, and you know she’s great, and men are getting paid $200 per week more than her? Would that piss you off? What if you lost your job and you stay home crippled while she goes out, and she thinks she’s going to get a good job, but someone male with the same level of experience and the same level of education gets paid more than her? You’re going to get pissed. Until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, I don’t want to hear it. See, that’s the disparity that we have. That’s what makes people say, “Why should I work so hard? I’m not going to get paid.” When we have that so prevalent in the black community, that’s what saddens me, because that’s when we know we can’t get films made that uplift. We have to have films about action and violence and special effects. That’s the sad part, but you know what? It’s not me doing it.
Is it true that you auditioned for Pulp Fiction?
PG: Yes, I did. I went into Quentin’s office, and there were all these posters of me up on the wall. I asked him, “Did you put these posters up because you knew I was coming?” And he said, “No, I actually was thinking about taking them down because you were coming.” I was amazed that he was so interested in the style of that whole genre. Not only was it romantic, that type of genre, but we had his style of long scenes, because we didn’t have the budget to cut, cut, cut. That style of shooting worked very well [on Jackie Brown], but it takes like a day or two to set up the whole scene before you can shoot it. But that’s the brilliance of Quentin and his cameramen. They spent three days setting up the lighting for one scene so they could do it without cutting. It was incredible, because you had Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton with a sister at once. You have Batman and Raging Bull in the film with me, and Sam Jackson. And the fact that he would put a black woman in his film to make it interesting, you know, wasn’t just hype. He did a really good job telling the story. So he brought his legacy. I was just invited to the party.
It seems like a lot of black actors and filmmakers who made action movies in the early ’70s object to the term “blaxploitation” because they feel it’s demeaning. Do you feel that way at all?
PG: No, not at all. I’d be a hypocrite if I did. No, but everyone else can do violence. You know, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, they can all do shoot-’em-ups. Arnold Schwarzenegger can kill 10 people, and they don’t call it “white exploitation.” They win awards and get into all the magazines. But if black people do it, suddenly it’s different than if a white person does it. People respond differently because people come from different places.
Can you see a time when that isn’t the case?
PG: I will not be on this planet. I may come back in another form, and you know, I’ll come back as a white man. If I get the chance, I want to come back as a white man and go to Ivy League schools. [Laughs.]
23 of Pam Grier’s 97 roles
Jack Hill The Big Doll House (1971)
‘While any movie starring Pam Grier is worth watching, the Big Doll House is a particularly entertaining entry in the “Women in Prison” film genre. Produced by the great Roger Corman and filmed in the Philippines, this movie features all the violence, mayhem, and nudity one expects in a 70’s “Girls Behind Bars” flick. It also has the added bonus of a great scene where Pam Grier and another woman fight it out in the mud of the rice fields (where the women are forced to toil).’ — A Customer
the entire film
Jack Hill The Big Bird Cage (1972)
‘Fresh off the success of the biggest moneymaking independent film up to that time, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1972), Jack Hill returns with this quasi serious spoof of the genre. Reuniting with his two favorite actors, Pam Grier and Sid Haig, Hill began work on this rambunctious and offensive follow up to his prior hit. Shooting on locations that would later be blown to smithereens by Francis Ford Coppola on APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), director Jack Hill gets a lot of mileage out of some startlingly beautiful jungle scenery.’ — Cool Ass Cinema
the entire film
Eddie Romero Black Mama White Mama (1973)
‘I finally watched “Black Mama, White Mama” this past weekend starring Pam Grier. Ok so the story is about this Black Mama (Pam Grier) who gets arrested on some Island, and then is taken to an all girl nude prison. There she meets the skinny blonde headed girl called White Mama (Margaret Markov) and they hate each other and have cat fights. Then all the girls take a shower and it’s boob city, but their police guard is also a woman, and she watches them shower through a hole in the wall, and yes gets her rocks off. Next Black Mama and White Mama get into a fight, then get stuck in a hot box (a small metal box outside in the hot sun) together in the nude. Later Black Mama and White Mama get transported out of that all girl nude prison, but when they are put on the bus they are handcuffed together. Yep, they are stuck with each other the rest of the movie. They eventually escape the all girl nude prison bus and head for the hills still handcuffed and fighting off rapists (Everyone in this movie wants to rape them, I am serious. If I was girl and watched this movie in 1973 I would have been scared to leave the fucking house for fear of getting raped. Hey Ladies you need to carry a knife or gun to ward off these creeps.) and then they find 2 nun outfits to run around in and stay hidden. I loved seeing them fight assholes off dressed as nuns. Later they run into Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), who is also an asshole rapist. Black Mama and White Mama eventually start getting along and realize they are not so different after all, and start helping each other. It turns out White Mama is a revolutionist and is trying to help the people of this island that they are trapped on, so Black Mama helps her too. This movie is clearly an exploitation film, but I like these films. I also love the premise, and how women can fight their way out of crazy situations and end up being on top or in charge. If you love Pam Grier, all girl nude prisons, cursing, fight scenes, and nun outfits then this movie is for you. It was definitely for me.’ — Eddie Ray’s Movie Reviews
the entire film
Jack Hill Coffy (1973)
‘In the opening minutes of Coffy, Pam Grier’s star-making role, she blasts the skull of a sleazy drug pusher into pulp like a watermelon and shoots his junkie assistant with an overdose of heroin. Jack Hill knows how to open a movie, and he never lets up on the down-and-dirty action. Coffy is an emergency room nurse by day and vigilante by night, targeting the dealers who made her sister a comatose junkie. She works her way up to the Italian mobsters muscling into the ghetto drug trade while she’s romanced by glib, smooth-talking politician Booker Bradshaw and wooed by nice-guy cop William Elliot, whose refusal to sell out to the corrupt force earns him a crippling beating.There’s plenty of sex, a catty girl-fight that leaves the losers topless, and car chases and shootouts galore, but what makes Coffy a blaxploitation classic is Grier’s Amazonian presence and fiery charisma, and the gritty, low-budget action scenes marked by visceral, wincing violence. Mob strong-arm Sid Haig (Spider Baby) cackles while dragging his victim (a strutting peacock pimp played by Nashville’s Robert DoQui) behind a speeding car in a sadistic lynching, and Grier runs down one bad guy with a speeding car and takes care of another with a shotgun to the groin. Hill had previously directed Grier in The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. Their next and last picture together, Foxy Brown, was originally written as the sequel to Coffy.‘ — Sean Axmaker
Bob Kelljan Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
‘A thing about Blacula’s curious place in blaxploitation history: Neither it nor its sequel are even mildly exploitative. Both are PG-rated films that go light on the blood, and lighter on the sex. (Scream Blacula Scream has Pam Grier, perhaps the era’s most combustible sex symbol, as the second lead, and it’s all but a trip to Sunday school.) That affirms Blacula especially as a vampire film of a much older school, however much it’s disrupted by long funk dance sequences, or fight scenes at a warehouse rife with empty barrels and dust-filled cardboard boxes. This directorial debut from William Crain—the rare African-American from the film-school generation—either lacks the resources or the skills to add much atmosphere to Blacula, which is so cheap that it often seems like producers could only book the most echoey locations available. The placement of an old-fashioned, Bela Lugosi-type Dracula—albeit much, much sweatier—in a modern black neighborhood is a great idea, but the amateurish production leaves Marshall as stranded in the film as his Mamuwalde is stranded in the times.’ — The Dissolve
the entire film
Jack Hill Foxy Brown (1974)
‘Foxy Brown was heavily criticized, not only for it’s “disturbing” portrayal of black womanhood, but also for its controversial stereotypes about black violence and drug abuse as well. In a time period during the 1970s where blacks were making progress politically, socially, and culturally, Foxy Brown portrayal of blacks contradicted the image blacks were creating for themselves in society. Though Foxy is considered a heroine in this film, her role as vengeful black woman willing to pose as a prostitute, exposing herself multiple times throughout the film, goes against a lot of the characteristics one would describe in a hero or heroine. It also brings out the stereotype of the objectification of black women. In a time period where blacks were fighting for a cause, this movie shows that blacks only cause is for revenge and protection from consequences. This is highlighted by the fact that Foxy’s sole purpose in this film is to protect her brother who is involved in illegal drug activity, and to avenge her lover. In most people’s opinion, this goes against what Blacks were actually achieving during the time period which is why many are critical of this film. Because of the stereotypes that came along with the role Pam Grier played as Fox, her personal acting career has been affected negatively, as she struggled to find work in the years following this film. However, Nelson George states that she has been embraced by many feminists for her roles that not only display her beauty, but also her fearlessness and ability to take retribution on men who challenge her.’ — Yvonne D. Sims
William Girdler Sheba, Baby (1975)
‘Some of Pam Grier’s films have been much too violent for my taste (there’s a scene in Foxy Brown that’s probably too violent for ANY taste). But Sheba, Baby tones down the actual bloodletting and substitutes excitement in scenes like a chase through a carnival midway and the speedboat chase. There are holes in the plot big enough to drive that boat through (Why don’t the police ever question Sheba after she finishes off the, villains?), but they don’t much matter. Maybe Miss Grier or her managers realize that her persona is well suited to making her a heroine for younger audiences and are toning down the sex and violence to earn the PG rating. That’s an improvement. And now what she should start looking for are better scripts and directors. She has a charisma that begs to be used well.’ — Roger Ebert
Foxy Q&A: Pam Grier, “Sheba, Baby”
Arthur Marks Friday Foster (1975)
‘Producer-director Arthur Marks (who also co-wrote the movie with Orville H. Hampton, adapting a short-lived newspaper comic strip) frames Friday Foster as a rip-roaring adventure, so sunny that it could’ve easily been rated PG if not for the occasional Grier nude scene. The character’s not as iconic as Foxy Brown, and yet Friday is Grier’s best role from this era, because it gives her the most notes to play. No longer stuck with the usual motley assortment of criminals and victims, Grier as Friday is surrounded by a who’s-who of black actors, cast as some of America’s most powerful tastemakers and government officials. Plus, she anchors chase scenes that stretch from the manicured streets of Washington, D.C. to the rooftops of Los Angeles. Friday Foster isn’t a great film, but, like Coffy, it’s a lively one, and a fantastic showcase for its star. If the pop culture of the 1970s had been different—if it’d been more like the world depicted in Friday Foster, perhaps—then Grier might’ve made a half-dozen more Friday Fosters, and a few more Foxy Browns. Instead, she faded into the background once Hollywood decided that blaxploitation had run its course. In the years that followed, the movies proceeded awkwardly around a Grier-sized hole.’ — The Dissolve
the entire film
Michael Schultz Greased Lightning (1977)
‘Loosely based on the life story of Wendell Scott, the first African American stock car racing champ, this seldom seen comedy stars Richard Pryor as Scott, who hones his craft transporting moonshine in the backwoods of Virginia. Grier and Beau Bridges co-star.’ — fall
the entire film
Foxy Q&A: Pam Grier, “Greased Lightning”
Daniel Petrie Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
‘Fort Apache: The Bronx is an involving, slice-of-life, workaday peek into the existence of a lonely, aging cop in the Bronx — Murphy (Newman) — as he contends with with prostitutes, muggers, and corruption on the police force Accordingly, the film never pushes an overly-plotted Hollywood-style narrative, and the result is a cinematic work-of-art in which the characters feel more realistic; more true, and which life (like real life…) is full of unexpected eddies and tributaries that must be navigated. Director Petrie makes the most of his laid-back narrative approach, never force-feeding on the audience arguments about abstract ideologies. At its heart, the film does indeed present two approaches to law enforcement — liberal and conservative — but both prove equally ineffective, and the movie never comes down in favor of one over the other. Both are treated sympathetically, and both are shown to have unwanted repercussions.’ — John Kenneth Muir
Pam Grier on Auditioning for “Fort Apache, The Bronx”
Rob Nilsson On the Edge (1986)
‘Based on the actual Dipsea race, has Marty Liquori, Garry Bjorklund and a few other “real” runners in it. Bjorklund has, I think, three words, something like “hang in there” to Bruce Dern, the main actor. (Dern, I think was a decent 880y runner in college). There is an R-rated version with Pam Grier in some steamy scenes. Unfortunately, the VHS version I have is PG-13 and no romance for Wes Holman (Dern)! Great mid-80s running apparel and shoes, corny plot.’ — Steve Hoag
Pam Grier deleted scene from “On The Edge”
Mark L. Lester Class of 1999 (1989)
‘There is an unrelenting mood of violence throughout 1999, which reportedly went through 10 submissions (and nine cuts) before the MPAA ratings board endowed it with an R instead of an X. It’s not the most violent film of the month — Total Recall probably takes that dubious honor. But it has the most sustained mood of violence, much of it ridiculously exaggerated — what might be called satirical exploitation. Still, it’s nowhere near the future shock of A Clockwork Orange, which comes to mind mostly because Malcolm McDowell has graduated from “droog” to high school principal.’ — The Washington Post
Peter Hewitt Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
‘The movie opens in the future, and right away we think we know what we’re getting: Back to the Future Part II, right? Bill and Ted are living out their perfect future when something goes terribly wrong, and they must travel back in time with Rufus to set the timeline back on track and save the day with the help of some famed historical figures of note, right? Bogus Journey even nods to that expectation in its opening minutes, featuring George Carlin teaching a class of hilariously dressed future students of Bill & Ted University with the help of Thomas Edison, Bach, Jim Martin of Faith No More and some 23rd century rock star, all exiting from the phone booth we know so well. It’s the first and last time Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey meets expectations. After that, here’s what we get: evil robot Bill and Ted, good robot Bill and Ted, Martian scientists, an absolutely perfect performance by William Sadler as the Grim Reaper, a jaunt through heaven and hell, possession hijinks, Pam Grier unzipping herself to reveal a Pam Grier suit-wearing Rufus and some legitimately high stakes as the evil robots destroy all of the goodwill Bill and Ted have garnered and plot to murder the princesses to whom Bill and Ted were once engaged – before the evil robots screwed that up, too.’ — Birth Movies Death
Mario Van Peebles Posse (1993)
‘There’s a lot of talk about slavery, racism, untold stories of the West, and points about what the black man always had to go through, but none of it ever comes through fully. All of the walking and talking could have been placed in any other flick other than this, and totally worked, but since this is something of a silly Western, it doesn’t fit altogether. In a way, it feels uneven and it can get pretty annoying because once you think the film is about to pick-up it’s feet and start kicking some Western booty, it stops and starts to tell it’s story in some lame flashbacks that all make sense, but we still didn’t need to see.’ — Dan the Man
Larry Cohen Original Gangstas (1996)
‘In 1996 Larry Cohen directed Original Gangsters. A movie which featured major players from the blaxploitation genre, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree & Ron O’Neal. Having only a vague memory of its release in ’96, I finally sat down recently to watch Original Gangstas, naively expecting to fall in love. Long story short, it wasn’t good. Despite it’s flaws, comedic performances & writing, I found it charming on more than a few occasions. Set in economically disadvantaged Gary, Indiana where two gangs, The Rebels and The Diablos have taken control of the streets. Quite a feat considering their gang names are reminiscent of high school basketball teams. Each ridiculous gang has a hideout which rivals that of any Batman villain. The Rebels’ lair is an abandon train station, but no worries they have all the comforts of home. TVs, nice furniture, a sound system, it’s a pretty sweet hideout. Downside? No discernible windows in the place. I’m sure it made for long cold winters.’ — Paracinema
the entire film
John Carpenter Escape from L.A. (1996)
‘Pam Grier stars as Snake Plissken’s old friend Carjack Malone, but something is a little different about old Carjack. Since we last saw him in “Escape from New York,” he has become the transsexual gang leader Hershe Las Palmas played by the always awesome Pam Grier. The film was in development for over ten years with a script commissioned in 1987, written by screenwriter Coleman Luck. Carpenter would later describe the script as “too light, too campy”. The project remained dormant following that time until the 1994 earthquake and the L.A. riots revived it. Carpenter and Kurt Russell got together to write with their long-time collaborator Debra Hill. Carpenter insists that it was Russell’s persistence that allowed the film to be made, since “Snake Plissken was a character he loved and wanted to play again”.’ — collaged
Tim Burton Mars Attacks! (1996)
‘If you last saw Mars Attacks! when it came out in ’96, I doubt you remember that Pam Grier was in it. I’m guessing so because I re-watched Mars Attacks! yesterday and forgot Pam Grier was in it today. Yeah. She plays a mom. Of a couple kids. I guess. Fun fact: One of her kids is Ray J., that Kim Kardashian sexer who acts as a brother to Brandy during his more shameful moments.’ — Movieline
Quentin Tarantino Jackie Brown (1997)
‘The role of Jackie Brown called for Grier to be tough and cool as hell – but it also demanded a multi-layered presentation of characters within characters. Jackie Brown is an airline steward with a criminal record, flying for a crappy little airline and doing illegal money-running on the side. When she’s nabbed by the police, she has to perform a complicated balancing act in an attempt to both stay out of jail and prevent her gunrunner boss, Ordell (Samuel Jackson), from killing her. That means that over the course of the film, Jackie Brown is lying to everyone, all the time, and Grier sells it with dazzling bravado, style and intelligence. With the cops she’s desperate, confused and flirtatious – seducing them into believing she’s scared and ready to make a deal. With Ordell, she’s a tough-as-nails superbitch, showing no fear – shoving a pistol into his crotch one moment, chewing him out for failing to follow through on a scam the next, and then cheerfully chatting with him as a breathless co-conspirator. Heist films like the multiple-Oscar-winning American Hustle (2013) tend to falter because the protagonists don’t actually seem anywhere smart enough actually to fool anyone. But just looking at a single still from the film shows you that Grier, and Jackie Brown, have the personality and smarts to take all your money, and make you like it.’ — Noah Berlatsky
Foxy Q&A: Pam Grier, “Jackie Brown”
Jane Campion Holy Smoke (1999)
‘While I was mesmerized by the cinematography and some of the imagery I hated just about everything else about Holy Smoke. I feel that if Pam Grier would’ve gotten more than 5 minutes of screen time her character could’ve salvaged some of this shit show but I think I’m just angry over the 2 hours I wasted on this movie.’ — mjgildea
Rodney Gibbons Wilder (2000)
‘Wilder plays with genre conventions while creating a bizarre rhythm and atmosphere. Mixing Cinemax-seeminess, blaxploitation sass and cop movie cliché, the movie never really gels. That may be due to a number of issues: Firstly, the dialog is a chaotic jumble of posturing and bad puns which, aided by a weak sound mix, leads to a lot of “what the hell did she just say?” moments. The movie’s pacing and plotting are haphazard to say the least. Characters appear, disappear, and then reappear without the audience really having a clue who they are. Plot twists pop up randomly and story elements seem cobbled together from a half-dozen unrelated scripts. Noisy neighbors? Evil pharmaceutical company? Mysterious murderer? Throw it all in! While the spectacle of seeing Grier and Hauer falling in love may seem like a B-movie pipe dream, Wilder is mostly Z-grade.’ — DVD Talk
the entire film
John Carpenter Ghosts of Mars (2001)
‘Ghosts Of Mars came out in 2001, a point in Carpenter’s career where he admitted that he’d “burned out” creatively. A sci-fi horror mash-up about cops and criminals under siege from an army of Martian-possessed people, it sounded on paper like it should have everything going for it – which we’ll cover very soon – but somehow, none of it gelled into a satisfying whole. The movie made only half of its $14million budget back at the box office, and it marked Carpenter’s temporary retirement from feature filmmaking. As Ghosts Of Mars opens, and we learn that Red Planet has been terraformed by the 22nd century, the credits also reveal an admiral cast of cult favourites. There’s Pam Grier (Coffy, Jackie Brown) as a tough commander named Braddock, Clea DuVall (The Faculty, Argo) as a communications expert, Ice Cube as a convict named Desolation Williams, Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner) as a scientist called Whitlock, and one Jason Statham as a tough soldier named Jericho.’ — Den of Geek
the entire film
Ernest R. Dickerson Bones (2001)
‘Bones, the creepy-crawly new horror movie starring Snoop Dogg as a ’70s ghetto crime stud who comes back as a bad-mutha ghost, may be pure trash, but it’s trash made with the kind of oozy psychedelic zest that powered a movie like ”A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” A knife goes into a barroom pool table, and blood gushes up from the sliced felt. Characters get tossed into hell, a squirmy entablature of writhing bodies coated in dark slime that looks disgusting enough to be — well, hell. A condemned brownstone gets turned into a hip-hop dance club, which turns into a fun-house frightmare. The director, Ernest Dickerson, fuses blaxploitation iconography with expertly paced F/X rip-offs of ”The Mummy Returns,” the ”Elm Street” series, ”The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and Satan only knows what else.’ — Owen Gleiberman
RZA The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
‘Blaxpolitation icon Pam Grier of “Jackie Brown” fame has joined the cast of RZA and Eli Roth‘s currently-in-production kung-fu epic “The Man With The Iron Fists” marking something of a return to the limelight. The actress announced on her Twitter this week that she has just “returned from Shanghai film directed by RZA of Wu Tang,” joining a cast which currently consists of RZA himself, Lucy Liu, wrestler Dave Bautista, MMA fighter Cung Le as well as the recently confirmed Russell Crowe.’ — Indiewire
p.s. RIP George “The Animal” Steele. So, during the first half or so of next week, I’m going to be in a phase of heavy busyness in preparation for Zac’s and my new film, and the blog will be effected in the following ways. On Monday I have a long day of actor auditions. At the moment, it looks reasonably certain that the auditions will begin early enough that I won’t be able to do the p.s. that day. But I won’t know for sure until Sunday night, so it’s slightly possible I’ll be here Monday as usual. What is all but certain is that on Tuesday, Wednesday, and maybe Thursday, I will be away from Paris in Bas Normandie holding auditions and doing location scouting for our film, in which case I won’t be able to do the p.s on those days. In any case, you will see posts restored from my murdered blog throughout, even if I do get back in time to do a catch p.s. on Thursday. Assuming I don’t return in time to do that, everything will return to normal with new posts and full p.s.es starting on Friday. And please feel more than free to leave comments here for me or for each other until that time. Any comments for me will be responded to as soon as I’m back. Does that make sense? ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Stay confident about your work and keep trying, that’s the absolute key. Oh, the performer from our first film whom we hope will have a role in our new one is the fellow in the last scene with the drone, Tim Rameau. I’ve been pretty happy using WordPress for this blog, so I don’t know if it’s a platform that might be good for your project. I would avoid Blogger for the obvious reason that they/Google murdered my blog without a care or reason. Thanks about the apartment hunt. It is getting very, very stressful. I applied for the third apartment yesterday. I still haven’t heard anything back about any of my applications. Any progress on the platform quest or any pleasing writing developments? My day was a bunch of work and apartment searching/fretting, and I hung out with my pals Kiddiepunk and Oscar B. and their fast growing infant. Not much else really. Blog post making too. Not the most wildly exciting day ever. What have you got in mind for your weekend? I would love to hear. Even if I’m away from here starting on Monday as expected, I’ll be reading and keeping up with everything. Have as perfect a day as possible! ** David Ehrenstein, It’s your birthday! The big 7-0! Did you celebrate, or, rather, how? Does turning 70 freak you out? Knowing my 70th is in the not too distant future freaks me the fuck out. I hope your birthday is heavenly! Everyone, [trumpets] It’s Mr. David Ehrenstein’s 70th birthday today! I simply insist that you mark this amazing occasion in some festive fashion of your choosing within your heads, hearts, or lives. Done deal? ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. The new Basinski album is very beautiful. The other track, a ‘remembrance’ of David Bowie, is as well. I’m excited for the new Pharmakon. I love her work. I haven’t seen her live yet, but I will as soon as she hits these shores. Glad you’re improving with a doctor’s assistance. Doctors do have their place. I do know Beckett’s translation of ‘Drunken Boat’. It’s extraordinary. It’s very Beckett, and, according to French speakers, not the most attentive to Rimbaud’s original, but, since ‘Drunken Boat’ is, in my opinion at least, the major work of Rimbaud’s that most leaves room for improvement play on the level of its construction, no problem. Yeah, it’s great. Skyping should be good for today. I have a big meeting with Gisele, and I have yet to know when she wants to do it, but it should be fine, and let’s plan via email, I guess, or you can let me know when you’re awake and ready. Worst comes to worst, I can definitely talk tomorrow, but I think today’s good. ** Jamie, Ha ha, wow. I’ve never been hit with that anagram before, and, holy moly, that’s a hell of a good one. No, in fact, I hadn’t realized my salute’s resemblance to the Bowie thing until just now. I fear I would have thought twice had I realized maybe since, warning: blasphemy, I’m currently a little burnt out on the worshipful Bowie onslaught, no fault of his. No apartment news yet. Scary. Tried for a third one yesterday. Just waiting and hoping. Ha ha, yeah, being into the baby burlesks renders one scary. Count me in. Los Lichis are quite interesting. They’ve been doing really experimental stuff under the radar for ages, known only to certain cognescenti in Mexico, and they’re just now leaking out, and it’s exciting to find a wealth of truly searching, uncompromised work like theirs, I think. This weekend I have the usual work and apartment stuff and preparing for the big film half-week ahead. I’d like to see the new doc about David Lynch that just opened here. And I need to figure out what I’m going to read next Friday. Stuff like that. What books and movies and unexpected turns filled your weekend? Love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Thanks, man. Yeah, The Mouth of the Wolf track was kind of pumping, no? Me too: The Naaahhh album has been my go-to source ever since I got it. Ideally, the work settling and driving lessons will parse you some welcome brain need to make stuff up. ** B.R.Y., I see your Happy Friday and raise you a Happy Saturday, no, wait, Weekend. Why not go for broke. Oh, man, gratitude galore for all those music shares! I don’t know a single one of those tracks. Fantastic! I’ll get all over them as soon as I depart the p.s.’s mortal coil. Yeah, big thanks, and take good care of yourself, sir. ** Steevee, Hi. I somehow read that as your having accidentally previewed films that weren’t actually in the festival. I get it. Duh. You are a masochist to read any comments area other than, of course, our lovely and uniquely good natured comments arena here. I’ve sworn off all other comments areas. Well, I do still like the youtube comments. They can be mean as hell, but not racist that much, or not on the videos I tend to watch. I think there are far right, motormouthing, miserable, hateful trolls who treat comments like their headquarters everywhere. Even here in France. ** Cal Graves, Hi, Cal. Cool, I’ll go look for your email. Thank you about the apartment scare. Yeah, it’s super, super stressful. But, yeah, faith. Understood about the issue that gets in your novels’ ways. That makes sense. I guess it’s important to try to stick to them and not get too waylaid by other equally good ideas. I’m having a hell of time with my currently about half-finished novel, which has been sitting there untouched for more than two years now because I’m so distracted, not unhappily, by the films and theater stuff and my interest in GIF fiction and so on. Novel writing is so demanding, which is its greatness, but the commitment is heavy. I hope your current one gets a solid grip on your time and imagination. We have kind of … how to describe it … kind of dusky sunlight today. Strange smokey color. Could be okay. Have a swell weekend! ** Okay. I decided to ask you to explore and enjoy the glory that is Pam Grier this weekend. Enjoy yourselves, I hope. So, if I don’t see you in p.s. form on Monday, I will on Thursday or Friday, and the blog will be launching itself at you daily until then. See you soon.