Monday, May 25, 2015

FOXY BROWN (1974) (Olive Films Blu-ray Review)

Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Cast: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Sid Haig, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Kathryn Loder
Director: Jack Hill

I must confess that pre-Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) I knew very little about the 70's Blaxploitation era of cinema, having only the most vague knowledge of Richard Roundtree's Shaft (1971) film and very little else. I had not even heard of the director Jack Hill at that point. However, after taking in Pam Grier's return to prominence starring role in Jackie Brown and the many Tarantino interviews that accompanied the film I went straight to Foxy Brown (1974) to see what this '70's exploitation classic was all about, and it was a pretty fantastic watch from the get-go, definitely a slice of some bad ass soul cinema.

In reality director Jack Hill initially set out to film a sequel to the successful Pam Grier vehicle Coffy (1973), also on Blu-ray from Olive Films on June 9th, but when distributor American International Pictures opted not to go the sequel route he re-purposed the ebony revenger and gave us Grier as the smoking-hot, street-smart Foxy Brown who kicks major amounts of corrupt white ass when her DEA boyfriend is gunned down by an heroin dealing escort service run by the villainous Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and the deliciously evil Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder, The Big Doll House).

Foxy's fuck-up brother Link (TVs Antonio 'Huggy Bear' Fargas) is a coke dealing delinquent and when his debt with Miss Katherine comes due he wins her favor by revealing the whereabouts of Foxy's DEA boyfriend resulting in his murder. Double-crossed Link ends up dead at the business end of a shotgun while his coked-up girlfriend gets her throat slit. The murder of both her lover and fuck-up brother sends Foxy off the deep end and into full-on revenge mode. Foxy sets out to infiltrate the whorehouse as would-be whore decked out in a few sweet seventies styles that are tight in all the right places, Grier is a stunning woman and those skintight outfits are very complimentary to her ass arsenal of kicking curves. Link at one point says Foxy is a "whole lotta woman" and he ain't lying, she's definitely an eyeful!

Foxy enlists the help of a vigilante group to reap her revenge but when they shake things up for the whore mongering heroin dealers get wise to Foxy's true identity and she winds up tied to a bed with heroin needle jabbed in her arm. Miss Katherine's diabolical scheme is to get Foxy hooked on smack and then pimp her out before sending her off to a slave-farm in Haiti - but you just know Foxy Brown ain't going out like that.

Jack Hill regular Sid Haig (The Big Bird Cage) arrives on scene as a pervy pilot in the service of the drug cartel, it's great to see him with Grier onscreen, there's an undeniable chemistry and they're quite a duo, even if the couplings short lived. Foxy Brown has a fun cast of seedy characters, including Antonio Fargas as Foxy's wise-cracking brother who cannot stay out of trouble, every one of his scenes is a winner, he cracked me up. Kathryn Loder's is fantastic as the villainous baddie plays well and Brown's portrayal of Elias is perfect, love it when he gets his comeuppance, a dong-slicing shocker that is long overdue.

Foxy Brown is an entertaining actioner chock full of 70's kitsch, black on white revenge, memorable bad ass dialogue and a sweet villainous duo, definitely one of my favorite of the 70's Blaxploitation movies, though admittedly there's a lot I have yet to see. If you dig the seventies exploitation films and you're not familiar with director Jack Hill's Coffy (1973) or his string of Filipino exploitation women-in-prison films you need to check 'em out right away.

Audio/Video: Foxy Brown (1974) makes it's American HD debut on Blu-ray from Olive Films, the 1080p widescreen (1.85;1) transfer is quite nice, sourced from a print in fantastic condition, the colors are vivid, contrast is sharp and there's a nice layer of film grain. The English surround sound audio is good, the dialogue, effects and the sweet 70's score are crisp, clean and free of any distortion. Willie Hutch's funk-soul score benefits the most from the HD audio upgrade, though I do which they offered the original mono audio as an option for the purists.

Unfortunately there are zero extras on the disc, if you crave commentaries and interviews you should check out the Region B Blu-ray from Arrow Video in the UK which is stuffed with goodies including a commentary from director Jack Hill and interviews with Sid Haid, Fred Williamson, Austin Stoker and Rosanne Katon. If you just want the film straight-up with no frills this Olive Films disc has a solid AV presentation that should suit your needs.

Foxy Brown (1974) is an essential slice of 70's soul cinema starring Pam Grier as the stunning and lethal Foxy Brown. It make for an entertaining Afro-centric actioner that's loaded with vintage fashions and gritty urban action, fun stuff and a definite recommend.