EIFF 2016: Friday Foster (1975)
Although based on a newspaper comic strip, there’s not much here to differentiate Friday Foster from so many other blaxploitation movies from the 1970s. Director Arthur Marks keeps everything ticking along, and all of the boxes are checked off in due course. You get some of the big names from the era, you get action sequences, you get gratuitous nudity, there’s a flash pimp, great fashion choices, and a healthy dose of commentary on race relations (albeit in a slightly different form this time around).
Pam Grier plays the titular character, a reporter who finds herself up to her graceful neck in trouble when she witnesses an assassination attempt that leads her on a trail of political manipulation, conspiracy, and murder. Thankfully, she has Yaphet Kotto, as Colt Hawkins, on her side. You’d certainly always want him working with you than against you. Using her smarts and courage, Friday starts to unravel a very tangled web, all while painting a big target on her own back (a target that Carl Weathers, as a baddie named Yarbro, keeps aiming for).
This probably all sounds very familiar to fans of blaxploitation fare, which is fair enough, but there are also some twists and turns here that make the movie more interesting than certain other popular titles I could mention. It doesn’t do enough to put it on a par with the classics of the era, but it certainly deserves bonus points for being more complex and thought-provoking than it has to be.
Grier is her usual sexy self, yet her character doesn’t just flow through this movie on the flows and eddies of her feminine charms. No, she really feels like a proper investigative reporter in this movie, at least compared to other onscreen characters that she’s played. Kotto is as tough as ever, Weathers feels like a serious threat, and it’s always a treat to see a cast that includes Godfrey Cambridge, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers, and Julius Harris. Then we also have the wonderfully-monikered Thalmus Rasulala as Blake Tarr, the powerful man who survives the assassinamtion attempt that kickstarts the whole plot.
It’s a shame that I’ve already forgotten the soundtrack to this one, meaning that it can’t be that memorable (as I only watched the film a couple of days ago), but everything else comes together to form a solid movie that mixes the usual fun with some serious undertones. And Pam Grier. Let’s never forget, or underestimate, her star power and presence at this time.
Friday Foster is showing at 2330 on 22nd June, at Filmhouse 1. It is one of a number of films making up the strand known as POW!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: The First Generation.
DIRECTOR: ARTHUR MARKS
WRITER: ORVILLE HAMPTON, FROM THE COMIC STRIP BY JIM LAWRENCE
STARS: PAM GRIER, YAPHET KOTTO, GODFREY CAMBRIDGE, THALMUS RASULALA, EARTHA KITT, SCATMAN CROTHERS, CARL WEATHERS
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX