The movie poster for Panther.
|Directed by||Mario Van Peebles|
|Produced by||Preston L. Holmes
Mario Van Peebles
Melvin Van Peebles
|Screenplay by||Melvin Van Peebles|
|Based on||Panther by Melvin Van Peebles|
Joe Don Baker
Courtney B. Vance
M. Emmet Walsh
|Music by||Stanley Clarke|
|Cinematography||Edward J. Pei|
|Editing by||Earl Watson|
|Studio||Working Title Films
|Distributed by||PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
|Release date(s)||May 3, 1995|
|Running time||123 min.|
Panther is a 1995 film directed by Mario Van Peebles, from a screenplay adapted by his father, Melvin Van Peebles which was based on his book of the same name. The film is a an unapologetically sympathetic portrayal of the story of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, tracing the organization from its founding through its demise in a compressed timeframe. Creative license is taken at some turns to amplify or dial down the significance of selected events, but the general trajectory of the Party and its experiences is still told factually, and the disclaimer placed at the beginning of the film lays claim only to its contents being "based on a true story".
The film is cinematically notable for Marcus Chong's near-mirror image resemblance to the actual Huey P. Newton in the film, as well as for what in the 2000s (decade) era might be considered an all-star black U.S. actors' roster, sporting names like Angela Bassett, Chris Tucker, Bobby Brown and even Chris Rock in a rarely-glimpsed 'before they were famous' capacity. Angela Bassett in particular had already played her Betty Shabazz role a few years earlier in the Spike Lee film Malcolm X.
Panther is also notable for being very difficult to locate and buy on DVD or even VHS tape, although both versions do exist and are available via sufficient searching on the web on Amazon.com or eBay. Most of the results of such searches, however, are of Australian or other non-U.S. formats, rather than United States ones.
For its antagonists, the film mostly focuses on COINTELPRO, but then it proceeds to take a rather abrupt turn at its end, specifically by alleging various mob networks cooperated directly with U.S. intelligence (FBI/CIA) agency representatives to "flood" the various inner-city ghetto containing majority black populations, with hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The ending's structure and concluding voice-over alleges that The Mob (possibly Italian) in the United States agreed to produce and distribute quantities and high potencies of these types of drugs on an unprecedentedly-large scale, and that only the agreed-upon "problem areas" of the Black Panthers' potential political bases of support would be targeted, so as to "pacify" those populations. However, the movie also says that despite this agreement to "flood" the various ghettos only within the ghettos' borders, the huge quantities of drugs quickly spilled out of the "problem areas" and became the drug epidemic in the U.S. that the 1980s and 1990s eras soon witnessed. It is also assumed via this allegation that the makers of Panther draw some connection between this alleged Mob-U.S. Intel collaboration supposedly birthed during the Nixon Administration, and the slightly later crack epidemic of the mid-and-late 1980s and the Reagan Administration. The final lines shown in the film draw a stark line under the hundreds of thousands of hard-drug addicts in the 1970s, versus the "3 million" of "yesterday". It also dedicates the film itself to the memories of the Black Panther Party's main figures and to the communities which supported them and those who might continue the 'struggle' today.
- Kadeem Hardison as Judge
- Wesley Jonathan as Bobby Hutton
- Bokeem Woodbine as Tyrone
- Joe Don Baker as Brimmer
- M. Emmet Walsh as Dorsett
- Courtney B. Vance as Bobby Seale
- Tyrin Turner as Cy
- Marcus Chong as Huey P. Newton
- Anthony Griffith as Eldridge Cleaver
- Chris Rock as Yuck Mouth
- Mario Van Peebles as Stokely Carmichael
- Chris Tucker as Bodyguard
- Bobby Brown as Rose
- Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz
- Jenifer Lewis as Rita
- Anthony Johnson[disambiguation needed] as Sabu
- Dick Gregory as Reverend Slocum
- Kool Moe Dee as Jamaal
- Lahmard Tate as Gene McKinney
- Roger Guenveur Smith as Pruitt
- Richard Dysart as J. Edgar Hoover
- James Russo as Rodgers
- Nefertiti as Alma
- Jeris Poindexter as Black Cop
- Melvin Van Peebles as Old Jail Bird
A soundtrack containing R&B and hip hop music was released on May 2, 1995 by Mercury Records. It peaked at 37 on the Billboard 200 and 5 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and was certified gold on July 25, 1995. Featured on the soundtrack was the single "Freedom (Theme from Panther)", a collaboration between over 60 female R&B singers and rappers that peaked at 45 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Locarno International Film Festival - Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention: Silver Leopard