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In The 70s There Was Barbra Streisand And Liza Minnelli And Then There Was…

Abhishek Srivastava - 69 weeks ago

In the 70s there was Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli and then there was Pam Grier who could command an opening at the box office. The Film Hashery goes back down memory lane and recall her Blaxploitation films which defined the genre apart from minting money.

Blaxploitation films originated in the 70s and were primarily action films that targeted black audiences. Such films mainly had African-Americans actors in lead, and apart from glorifying action also titillated audiences. Though they were derided by most, it gave the black audiences a chance to worship their screen heroes. The origin of such films lies after the civil rights movement reached a crescendo. It was also the phase when black filmmakers slowly started penetrating the glass ceiling of Hollywood. History of Blaxploitation films apart, one talent which Hollywood will always be indebted to is Pam Grier. Her success prompted Ebony magazine to refer her as ‘the Mocha Mogul of Hollywood’. Over the course of five years (1972 – 1977) she appeared in 18 such films. In the 70’s the pull of Pam Grier was such that after Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli, she became the third actor who could command an opening at the box office. The Film Hashery goes down memory lane to recall her films which defined the genre apart from minting money at the box office. 

(A still from Coffy (1973) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

Coffy was a revenge drama which had Pam Grier in the role of a nurse who goes on a vigilante justice after her sister is murdered. Shot in just 18 days, the film budgeted at $500,000, went on to make $2,000,000 at the box office. The success of Coffy made Grier a star. 

(A still from Foxy Brown (1974) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

The release of Foxy Brown was hastened by American International Pictures, the makers of Coffy, because of the unprecedented success of Coffy. Pam Grier this time stepped into the role of a high class prostitute who avenges the death of her boyfriend. This film was intended as a sequel to Coffy, but changes were made to meet the preponed release date. 

(A still from 'Sheba, Baby' (1974) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

'Sheba, Baby' was the final film as part of the contract that Grier had signed with American International Pictures. The spunk and energy of Coffy and Foxy Brown were missing in this film. Right from violence to sex to gore – everything was toned down in 'Sheba, Baby'. The performance of the film was below par at the box office.

(A still from Friday Foster (1975) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

The seed of Friday Foster lay in a comic strip of Chicago Tribune. This film was a complete departure of the earlier Grier films which glorified violence. A sophisticated makeover was given to Grier in this film and the language she spoke in the film was a far cry from the crassness of her earlier films. The production value and the supporting cast of this film were much superior compared to Grier’s other films. 

(A still from Bucktown (1974) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

Bucktown is a lesser known film of Pam Grier and Fred Williamson remains at the thick of things for most of the film. Nonetheless, a poster of the film sneaked into Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and thus eternity is assured for this film. Bucktown was promoted as a Pam Grier and Fred Williamson film but the film lacked any action sequence that featured Pam. 

(A still from The Big Doll House (1971) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

The Big Doll House was part of the prison genre film. It showed a group of young beautiful women prisoners abused in a Filipino prison and their subsequent escape from the prison. This was also Grier’s first big acting assignment and played a lesbian in the film. The MGM-distributed film earned more than $10 million at the box office. Add $3 million on rentals.

(A still from Women in Cages (1974) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

Women in Cages followed The Big Doll House and shared similar plot points – prison, escape, and young girls. 

(A still from Black Mama, White Mama (1974) (Image courtesy - MovieStillsDB)

This film dealt with two female prisoners who just can’t get along with each other. It is said that the film was inspired by the Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis starrer The Defiant Ones.


Pam Grier / Coffy / Foxy Brown / Friday Foster / Sheba Baby / The Big Doll House / Women in Cages / Bucktown / Black Mama White Mama / American International Pictures

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

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