The inimitable Pam Grier. Photo courtesy of THE KOBAL COLLECTION.
In many ways, cinema in the 1970s was a reaction to the tumultuous events of the decade before, creating strong, colorful, and outspoken films that were as socially relevant as they were stylistically refreshing. One of the most prolific leading ladies to represent that decade is Pam Grier, whose beauty, strength, and sass in films like the ones showing in our retrospective Foxy: The Complete Pam Grier display the versatility that has made her one of cult cinema’s most memorable actors. With so many great movies on display, we thought we'd put together a few suggestions of what to check out. And don't forget, see three films or more and save with our kick-ass Discount Package!
The Big Bird Cage
In The Big Bird Cage (1972), Pam Grier plays Blossom, an ally to a group of Filipino revolutionaries who decide to liberate the women at a nearby prison camp. Co-starring Sid Haig and cult-film vixen Anitra Ford, this movie is an entertaining addition to the subgenre of women-in-prison. The Big Bird Cage is directed by frequent Grier collaborator Jack Hill, who also brought us Foxy Brown and Coffy. See it Friday at 6:00pm in 35mm with Grier in person! (Tiffany Vazquez)
Scream, Blacula, Scream
In a very different role, Scream, Blacula, Scream features Grier as Lisa, who has been chosen as a successor by her dying voodoo queen. When the queen’s son becomes envious, he summons African Prince Mamuwalde (Dracula) from the dead to carry out his evil plans for revenge, which starts a rampage of deaths that only Lisa has the power to stop. This campy horror classic screens, appropriately, Friday at midnight in 35mm with an introduction by Grier! (Tiffany Vazquez)
When Pam Grier winks in the opening credits of Foxy Brown (1974), it's like she's only winking at you. That's the kind of connection Grier has with her audience and fans (and Twitter followers—often responding personally to tweets), but also the kind of connection her character Foxy has with everyone she deceives… and then shames and slays for killing her undercover cop boyfriend. Foxy seeks revenge on nearly everyone in the film by going under cover as a prostitute and taking the ring down from the inside out. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. When her cover's blown, Foxy gets shipped out to “the ranch,” but not before instigating a lesbian bar fight, rescuing a fellow prostitute and teasing a judge for his “meat shortage.” Foxy Brown has laughs and explosions, but it also insight into the systemic issues facing marginalized Americans, as evidenced by a scene where Foxy’s brother Link (a young and clever Antonio Fargas) shrugs off the possibility of going to jail. After all, “jail is where some of the finest people I know are these days.” Foxy Brown is a necessary part to the American Hollywood cinema canon. Don’t miss it in 35mm, Friday at 4:00pm and Sunday at 6:00pm! (Anna Husted)
Though it's certainly guilty of perpetuating stereotypes about Black America, the genre of Blaxploitation inarguably did some good along the way. For example, it gave a brilliant actress a kickstart to her career. One of Grier's later Blaxploitation roles, Aretha in Arthur Mark's Bucktown (1975), received less notoriety than her earlier, more empowered roles in films like Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). However, Grier does manage to succeed at what writer James Baldwin called “smuggling in a reality” that is her own and clashing against the studio ideology of the time: separate films for black actors and black audiences. Aretha calls out her black and white male aggressors as living in their “damn egos,” something Freud, no doubt, would also say. Aretha's passivity allows her to smuggle in the truth that, even though the film's villain is the town's thoroughly corrupt white sheriff, it is still the dominant culture that controls the film industry and the stereotypes perpetuated in Blaxploitation films. Bucktown screens Sunday at 2:00pm in 35mm. (Anna Husted)
What can be said about the movie that says it all, and about which everyone has had something to say? Jackie Brown (1997) is possibly Quentin Tarantino’s best film because, according to The Atlantic, he got Blaxploitation right. Bringing back a controversial genre—hardly a suprise move from an always-controversial filmmaker—Tarantino made waves with the film in 1997. Whatever your reaction to the film, no one can argue that one of the things he got right was casting Pam Grier as Jackie Brown. Jackie is a flight attendant and part-time money mule for Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), an arms dealer who’s being closely watched by an ATF agent (Michael Keaton). The film's stellar cast also includes Robert De Niro as a friend who betrays Ordell by stealing from him and shooting his dope dame, played by the brilliant Bridget Fonda. Tarantino's regard for all his characters renders the audience incapable of confidently knowing if Jackie will survive to the end credits, which makes for a thrilling ride. Jackie Brown is a brilliant film that needs to be seen, and should really be in 35mm with Grier in person on Friday at 8:15pm! (Anna Husted)
Whether she is a gun-slinging, grenade-throwing revolutionary breaking women out of a prison camp in the Philippines, or a voodoo priestess summoning her powers to destroy a thousand-year old vampire, Pam Grier is never just a pretty face, and always the epitome of Cool. See the many faces of Pam Grier, including her in-person one at six screenings this weekend!