5 December 2002 | Infofreak
Not just a great blaxploitation movie, a great movie period.
'Superfly' is the best movie of the short-lived 1970s blaxploitation boom which gave the world the better known, but less substantial 'Shaft'. The 'Shaft' series are incredibly entertaining movies, no argument there, but most of the films from this period starring Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly,et al are essentially action movies which feature "a black Dirty Harry", "a black Bruce Lee", "a black Philip Marlowe" or even "a black James Bond". In other words they are genre action thrillers with black protagonists. 'Superfly' is very different from most of those movies because Ron O'Neal plays Priest, who isn't a private eye or a "righteous dude" but a DRUG DEALER. And while Priest is tired of "the life" and wants to retire the movie doesn't feature any knee-jerk anti-drug stance or moralizing. This meant that many in the black community at the time detested it and what they perceived as being the glamorization of drugs and drug dealing. All these years later, in an era that is in many ways even more conservative (or at least more hypocritical!), this is what gives the movie a genuine edge, especially when what is on the screen is given a musical debate by Curtis Mayfield's superb score, one of the greatest of all time. O'Neal is charismatic and super cool and displays some genuine acting talent. Which makes it such a shame that his career quickly went down the toilet with little more than small supporting roles in 80s garbage like 'Red Dawn' and 'Hero and the Terror'. O'Neal is supported by an excellent cast of mainly obscure actors such as the late Carl Lee and Charles MacGregor ('Blazing Saddles') as Fat Freddy. The best known face is veteran Julius Harris ('Live And Let Die') who has a pivotal role as Priest's former mentor Scatter. Director Gordon Parks Jr. went on to make 'Three The Hard Way' starring Fred Williamson and Jims Brown and Kelly, but never fulfilled the his potential before being cut down in a plane crash in the late 70s. What a pity. At least he left us with 'Superfly', which is not just a great blaxploitation movie, but a great movie period. Highly recommended to all fans of gritty 70s crime movies.