CLEOPATRA JONES (1973)
Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: English DTS HD-MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Jack Starrett
Cast: Tamara Dobson, Bernie Casey, Shelley Winters, Antonio Fargas, Brenda Sykes
Blaxpoloitation meets 007 in Cleopatra Jones (1973) starring 6'2" model Tamara Dobson (Chained Heat) as the titular bad-ass federal drug agent, who at the start off the film is napalming a large swath of heroin producing poppy fields in Turkey. Jump cut to a scene of the film's baddie, a drug kingpin named Mommy (Shelley Winters, Poor Pretty Eddie), screaming about how that "black bitch" just destroyed thirty-million dollars worth of her dope. In retaliation Mommy has the corrupt LAPD cops that work for her bust the drug-rehab house Cleo's boyfriend operates, which brings the agent back to L.A.. Now Mommy's goons are out for her blood, but this bad-ass karate-kitten might be more than Mommy dearest bargained for!
I don't remember loving this film all that much the first time I watched it years ago, but I think at the time I was too entrenched in my love of blaxploitation goddess Pam Grier (Coffy) to give it an honest appraisal, but watching it again ten-years or more later the action-packed has proven to more fruitful and rewarding. This viewing I was able to more appreciate Tamara Dobson, a goddess in her own right, her character's a bad-ass, kung-fu fighting mama with a sweet-looking '73 Corvette Stingray, and an ever changing array of stylish outfits throughout the film, all of which serve to separate her from the rest of the 70's black-action pack.
The film co-stars Bernie Casey (Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde) as her lover, plus we have the rubber-faced antics of Antonio Fargas (Foxy Brown) as a drug dealer named Doodlebug Simpkins, with his girlfriend played by looker Brenda Sykes (Black Gunn). Shelley Winters is a ton of fun as the over-the-top baddie, regularly mistreating her crew of henchmen who repeatedly fail in their assignments to kill Cleopatra. Mommy is also attended to by a pair of attractive women who seem to there only to serve Mommy alcohol when she gets angry, also possibly hinting at the lesbian leanings of the kingpin.
Directed by Jack Starrett (Race With The Devil) the film has some fun fight sequences and a killer car chase through the streets of L.A. and in the L.A. River, capping the film off with a finale that takes place in a junkyard, making this slice of blaxploitation cinema quite a bit of fun. While not on par with Coffy and Foxy Brown, the presence of the 6' 2'' Tamara Dobbs packs a solid punch, as does a great supporting cast, including the scenery-chewing Shelley Winters as Mommy!
Audio/Video: Cleopatra Jones (1973) arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a brand new 2019 HD scan, presenting the film in 1080p HD widescreen 2.40:1. The presentation looks fantastic with a clean looking image free of dirt, debris and imperfection, aside from what looks to be one single moment of digital artifacting that shows up in the airport action sequence, a squarish grey patch that shows up on her pant leg mid kick, you check it out in the seventh screenshot in this review. That very small niggle aside, the grain levels are pleasing, the blacks are deep with colors looking quite nice when called upon, especially the yellows, reds and greens. The film is not visually stylish or particularly stunning but the presentation is quite filmic and natural looking. The vintage 70's decor, textures and wardrobe all have some great detail throughout, bringing this slice of 70's blaxploitation to life like never before on home video, I doubt it even looked this good on the first night it screened at the cinema on opening night.
Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 mix with optional (ALL CAPS) English subtitles, the source is not the most dynamic but it's clean and well-balanced throughout, the excellent score from J. J. Johnson (Willie Dynamite) also sounds great.
The only extras on this one is an HD trailer for the film, to bad we couldn't at least get a new commentary for this one, there's probably a lot that could have been gleaned from a film historian about this action-packed film, it is too bad they couldn't get someone like Dr. Todd Boyd who did the commentary track for WAC's Super Fly, or Sergio Mim's who did one for Arrow's Willie Dynamite.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
Warner Archive come through with a stellar presentation of Cleopatra Jones (1973) on Blu-ray, here's hoping they follow-up soon with the sorely undervalued sequel Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975). This excellent looking Blu-ray can be picked up for under $20 right now, if you're fan of blaxploitation and 70's crime film this is a very easy recommend.
MORE SCREENSHOTS FROM THE BLU-RAY