6.20.2017

The Scenic Route

The Scenic Route celebrates the fashions, landscapes, cars, and vibes of a bygone age via the cinematic record.

Presented in order of year released.

~
(1966)

~
(1969)

~
 (1971)

~
(1974)

~
(1975)

~
 (1977) 

~
(1981)

~
(1984)

~
More titles to be added as I think of them - feel free to leave a recommendation.
Last Edited: 6/20/2017

Friday Foster (1975)


The Scenic Route celebrates the cinematic record of a bygone age: cars, fashions, landscapes, and vibes. Tonight's selection:




Jim Lawrence of James Bond comic fame and Catalan illustrator Jorge LongarĂ³n (with help from Gray Morrow and Frank Springer) created the syndicated comic strip which ran from 1970 to 1974. I'd never heard of it until one of the blogs I read did a post on it. When I learned - or re-learned, I guess, since I had an unopened copy of it in the closet, acquired during a blaxploitation DVD blitz a few years back - that it was made into a film with Pam Grier directed by much-heralded maestro of the genre Arthur Marks, I bumped it up in queue. It ended up lending itself well to the whole Scenic Route approach, and here we are.


I found this interview/ overview of Marks' early work for the studios (some fun anecdotes about old bastards like Harry Cohn) and television. You'd never guess this was the background he was bringing to his 70s work


I try and keep my big mouth shut with Scenic Route selections and just let the pics do the talking. Here's the wiki for the plot:



"Friday Foster is an ex-model turned 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 America'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 to investigate, and soon the two are hot on the trail of a plot to eliminate the country's African-American political leadership."




"The film also deals with the themes of the importance of African American political unity and the potential threat 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."



Pam Grier's character is as one character notes "one liberated chick." In addition to being a professional photographer:



- she's a devoted big sister,
- she's kind even to the pimp who is always trying to recruit her -
while we're here, this bit of the film (the pimp and the younger brother who secretly hoards all of the many gifts men give his big sister) is one of the few things from the comic strip to make it to the big screen.
I digress.
- she has casual affairs with America's most eligible African-American bachelors:
Paul Benjamin as David Lee Hart,
and Thalmus Rasalala as Blake Tarr. Who recovers quickly from his near-fatal gunshot wound and personally leads the counter-commando raid at the end. 

And the film ends with her probably ditching them to go off with Cole Hawkins. All of this is done in a James Bond manner, not calling undue attention to itself * , just in an "Oh James Friday" spirit. It works.

* This is not to say the script does not take whatever opportunities it can to get its leading lady (and anyone else it can) into various states of undress. Although Pam G was a bigger star at this point than she was for earlier films like Coffy or Black Mama White Mama and was in a position to shape her character more. Result: less blatantly exploitative T-and-A and shut-yo-mouth!, more double-oh-Friday.


CARS, PHONES AND HELICOPTERS


And airports.
"Yellow Cab Company." But... oh well.
This helipad arrival of Blake Tarr starts way off in the skyline and steadily zeroes in on Friday.
Friday commandeers two vehicles in the film: an ice cream truck and a hearse.


THE CAST



Lots of familiar faces here.

Some of whom need no introduction.
Others who may not, as well, but here they are anyway:
Julius Harris as Monk Riley.
Jason Bernard as Charles Foley.
Eartha Kitt as Madame Rena.
And Isaac Washington (had to go there, sorry Mr. Lange) as Fancy Dexter.

Plenty more, too - you saw Jim Backus up there, I'm sure, as well as the awesomely named Thalmus Rasalala. Additionally, the kid who plays Friday's younger brother Cleve has had quite the subsequent career as a stuntman. 

The white guy from the comic is more or less relegated to "token white" cameos.
Not that much of the comic ends up on screen, just an interesting historical sidenote. Making room for Yaphet Kotto's character and his chemistry with Pam Grier was undoubtedly the right move.

Better than its reputation would suggest. Kind of an anti-blaxploitation film in some ways, not quite a send-up or deconstruction of the genre but one that doesn't feel quite so exploitative. Certainly missing the seediness of something like Foxy Brown or Superfly or so many others. (Nothing against those films or their wonderful seediness.) Were it not for some of the pointed nods in the genre's direction (like the theme) and the presence of Pam Grier it likely wouldn't even be grouped among them.

~