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He's got a plan to stick it to The Man!
on March 18, 2004
Superfly (1972) is a tough, unpolished gem rising above the numerous films to come from the blaxploitation period of the early 70's. While some are critical of the message they believe posed within the film, one of glamorizing the image of the drug dealer, I didn't really see it that way at all. I think this image presented was a superficial one, and one that the main character within the film saw and understood, prompting his actions and decisions to try and escape the life.
Ron O'Neal, who recently passed away on January 14, 2004, plays Priest, a streetwise pusher in a dilemma. Seems he is tired of the hustle, and is looking for a way to get out of the game, but, as his partner Eddie (Carl Lee) puts it, "Look, I know it's a rotten game, but it's the only one The Man left us to play." Apparently Priest has thought long about this, and he has come up with a plan to score a lot of cash in a short amount of time, and then plans to retire. Sounds like a plan, but Priest soon encounters powerful forces that feel he is worth more to them on the streets, pushing junk, doing what he does best. While the film does appear to glamorize the lifestyle of the drug peddler, I truly believe the underlying message was than despite all Priests' success, he was languishing in a form of slavery, always working for someone else and taking all the risks involved in such a trade. In a way he realized this, but found it difficult to leave the life, as that was all he knew, and working for 'chump change' was not in his future.
Gordon Parks, Jr. direction may seem amateurish with jerky camera shots and such, but it fit in nicely with the nature of the material within the film, giving a raw, harsh look into the seedy side of life, much like Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973). One of the things that really sets this film apart from the other movies of the time was the soundtrack by the legendary Curtis Mayfield. With such funkified songs as Pusherman, Freddie's Dead, and Superfly, Mayfield's contributions to the film served to elevate it above many films within the genre, and solidify his career as a musical genius. O'Neal is great as Priest (love those outta sight mutton chops), and is supported by some really decent performances by the lovely Sheila Frazier, Julius Harris, who many may recognize from the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), and Charles McGregor, who also appearing in Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles (1974).
There are a good amount of special features on this disc including a brand new documentary called `One Last Deal: A Retrospective', a commentary track by Dr. Todd Boyd, a USC professor of television and cinema and author of "Am I Black Enough for You: Popular Culture from the 'Hood and Beyond", a early featurette with Ron O'Neal, a `making of ` documentary with O'Neal, `Behind the Threads' featurette with costumer designer Nate Adams where he shows off some of the original costumes from the film, and an audio only track with Mayfield's music. Also, I really liked some of the small touches within the interactive menu. For instance, instead of a listing for `Scene Selection', it's titled `Makin' the Scene', the `Special Features' selection is titled `Fly Features', and the subtitles section is labeled `Jive Talk'. A very nice and well-developed release by Warner Brothers, although I still am annoyed that they use the cheap plastic and cardboard packaging. When will they learn...