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Cleopatra Jones is a United States Special Agent assigned to crack down on drug-trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. After she burns a Turkish poppy field, the notorious drug-lord Mommy is furious at the loss of her supply and vows to destroy Cleopatra Jones. Mommy uses her connections with bad cops on the force to cause trouble for Cleopatra's friends and set her up for an attack. Meanwhile, Mommy is having trouble with some of her pushers, like the renegade Doodlebug. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
I saw this film the weekend it came out in 1973 in downtown Baltimore, Tamara Dobson's hometown. Although that was 36 years ago, I remember it very well.
1973 was about 5 years past the golden age of the beautiful but unbeatable-in-a-fight female heroine. A total fantasy, but as a middle-aged woman now, I still sometimes ask myself "What would Emma Peele do?" I found the early '70's heroines to be complete wimps compared to the late 60's heroines.
So when the ad campaign hit in 1973 for "Tamara Dobson IS Cleopatra Jones," with the poster of the tall gun-toting Ms. Dobson, I begged and begged to go.
I went downtown with an older woman friend of the family, and the two of us were literally the only white people in the entire packed theater of black people.
In the film. the villains are all white and the good guys are all black. Also, there are many many scenes in which white people are killed by black people. During these scenes, the theater cheered wildly. This is probably not something you would notice watching the film on T.V., but believe me, if you are one of two white people in the theater, it makes a big impression.
There was also a well-written and clever scene in the film in which one of Cleopatra's male assistants is lying in wait for the white villains. When they arrive, he pulls a gun on them and says "Guess what just jumped out of the woodpile?" The older woman who took me to the movie was southern. She thought this joke was hysterical and kept trying to explain it to me several times, with her extremely clear explanations catching the attention of everyone sitting around us. For those of you not blessed by an older southern friend, the phrase "Guess what just jumped out of the woodpile?" refers to the expression "N-word in the woodpile," a southern term for an unpleasant surprise.
So what did I learn in my trip to the movies?
1) The term "blaxploitation" is totally false. This "blaxploitation" movie seemed to be about blacks who were superior in every way to whites, both morally and physically.
2) It is really scary and uncomfortable being in the minority.
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