Super Fly (film)

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Super Fly
Superfly poster.jpg
Theatrical release German film poster, design by Tom Jung
Directed by Gordon Parks, Jr.[1]
Produced by Sig Shore[2]
Written by Phillip Fenty
Starring Ron O'Neal
Sheila Frazier
Julius Harris
Charles McGregor
Music by Curtis Mayfield
Cinematography James Signorelli
Edited by Bob Brady
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • July 1, 1972 (1972-07-01)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Super Fly is a 1972 Blaxploitation, crime drama film directed by Gordon Parks, Jr., starring Ron O'Neal as Youngblood Priest, an African American cocaine dealer who is trying to quit the underworld drug business.

This film is known for its soundtrack, written and produced by soul singer Curtis Mayfield (see Super Fly (soundtrack)). Super Fly is one of the few films ever to have been outgrossed by its soundtrack.

Leading man O'Neal reprised his role as Youngblood Priest and directed a sequel to the film that was released a year later in 1973, Super Fly T.N.T. Super Fly producer Sig Shore directed a second sequel in 1990, The Return of Superfly.

Plot[edit]

Priest (Ron O'Neal) is an up-and-coming cocaine dealer in New York City. On his way to a meeting point in Harlem early one morning he is mugged by two junkies. Priest beats one up and gives chase to the other, beating him until he gets the money back. Afterwards, Fat Freddie and Nate Adams, Priest's main dealers, turn up at his apartment to make their payments. When Fat Freddie doesn't have his money, Priest warns him that either he is going to get his money by robbing someone or he will put his wife out on "whore's row". Priest gives them a gun and the pair go out to rob a gangster after they follow him to New Jersey. Priest then goes to meet his partner in crime, Eddie (Carl Lee), who is playing craps downtown, to discuss his future plans. The pair go back to Eddie's apartment where Priest tells Eddie he wants out of the business but wants to make one last big score: to make one million dollars in four months. Eddie at first tries to talk him out of retiring, but reluctantly goes along with Priest's idea.

Later that night, Priest and Eddie arrive at Scatter's restaurant. Scatter (Julius Harris) is a retired drug dealer who was a mentor to Priest. After watching the band (The Curtis Mayfield Experience) play, the two go into the kitchen to discuss business with Scatter. Priest tells Scatter his plans and that he needs him to provide him with 30 kilograms of coke.

Curtis Mayfield performing in the film.

Scatter gets frustrated at them and tells them he cannot help. After Eddie angers Scatter, Scatter puts a gun to his head. Scatter then agrees to supply Priest the drugs. The trio agree to a meeting time and Priest and Eddie leave to meet Fat Freddie and Nate. Freddie has Priest's money from the successful holdup and the three of them talk over a beer. Priest accidentally reveals to Freddie and Nate that he is picking up one key of coke from Scatter. Priest then goes home to a romantic evening with his girlfriend, Georgia (Sheila Frazier).

Freddie is arrested the following day, in Harlem for assault and is questioned by narcotics detectives who beat him into a confession. Freddie rats out Priest and Eddie and tells the police that there are around 50 other dealers and that Priest and Eddie are picking up a key of coke that night from Scatter. Freddie is released but tries to escape outside the police precinct, and is hit by a car and killed. Meanwhile Priest and Georgia are in Carl Schurz Park planning to leave New York together.

Later that night, Priest and Eddie go to pick up one key of coke from Scatter but the detectives are waiting. Alerted, Priest walks away but one of the detectives follows him down a dark street, where Priest is ambushed and held at gun point; Eddie has already been arrested. The detectives make a deal with the pair: They can operate, but must make payments to the police of $10,000 a month. Priest obviously is uncomfortable with this but Eddie happily agrees.

The pair then goes on to sell a kilo of cocaine. Priest and Eddie arrive in a bar in Harlem to meet a potential buyer. While they are waiting, three black activists approach them and try to shake Priest down. Priest demands they leave. Their buyer arrives, samples the cocaine and agrees to make a deal.

Priest gets into an argument with his other girlfriend, Cynthia, at her apartment. Scatter arrives at the apartment with information about 'The Man' and asks Priest for $20,000 in cash to leave town. After Scatter leaves, he is arrested by the narcotics detectives. The police no longer need Scatter and dispose of him in his Rolls Royce by giving a heroin overdose. Priest learns of this, and meets with two mafia hit men to get rid of the detectives.

Priest arrives at Eddie's apartment and discusses the murder of Scatter. Priest suggests the police were behind it in order to use him and Eddie to make larger buys and to stay in business. He demands his half of the money and wants to get out. Eddie gives Priest his share and then calls the detectives and tells them that Priest has left with a briefcase full of money. Priest then exchanges his briefcase in the elevator with Georgia, who is in disguise. By the time he arrives to his car, the police have arrived. They detain him until the narcotics detectives come and then they all leave. Priest watches Georgia leave with his money, knowing it's safe.

Priest is then escorted to the waterfront where Deputy Commissioner Reardon (Sig Shore) is waiting for him. Reardon, who is running the extortion racket, chastises Priest for wanting to leave the business. A fight breaks out and Priest uses his karate skills to overcome the detectives. Reardon then pulls his gun and the fighting stops. Priest then explains he has put a hit on Reardon and his family if any harm comes to him from the police. Reardon claims that Priest doesn't have any money for something like that as they open his briefcase — and dirty clothes fall out. Priest then hops into his customized Cadillac Eldorado and drives off, victorious.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was financed by two black directors and Gordon Parks, Sr., who had directed the 1971 film Shaft. Sig Shore, who produced Super Fly, plays Deputy Commissioner Riordan, or "The Man".[5]

Nate Adams coordinated the fashion and wardrobe for the film. He had done several fashion shows prior to Super Fly. He still owns many of the suits, shoes and fedora hats.

Charles McGregor, who plays Fat Freddie, was released from prison before the film's production. The film was shot by director of photography, James Signorelli, who would go on to become the film director at Saturday Night Live.

Of the people who did Super Fly, actor Carl Lee enjoyed great fame, until he abused drugs: in particular, heroin. He died in 1986 of an overdose. Curtis Mayfield did well with the film's soundtrack that he was sought for other soundtracks. The songs "Freddie's Dead" and the title song both shot up to the Pop Top Ten chart in late 1972.

Car[edit]

Priest's car is a 1971 customized Cadillac Eldorado. The car belonged to K.C., an actual hustler and pimp from Harlem who plays a pimp in the film. K.C. met Nate Adams in a hotel lobby and was asked if his car could be used in the film. K.C. agreed but later telephoned Nate Adams accusing him of lying, stating, "No niggers are making no movies."

The car was customized by Les Dunham Coachworks of New Jersey, who modified the headlight covers, goddess hood ornament (Rolls Royce/Bentley style), lake pipes and circular porthole windows.

The film helped start a trend for car customization in America known as the Pimpmobile. Many aspiring drug dealers, gangsters, and pimps modified their cars during the 1970s as a result of watching Super Fly

Reception[edit]

The movie was controversial.[6] At least one critic has suggested that the film's glorification of drug dealers serves to subtly critique the civil rights movement’s failure to provide better economic opportunities for black America and that the portrayal of a black community controlled by drug dealers serves to highlight that the initiatives of the civil rights movement were far from fully accomplished.[7]

However the filmmakers maintain that it was their desire to show the negative and empty aspects of the drug subculture. This is evident in the movie from the beginning as Priest communicates his desire to leave the business. Nearly every character in the film, with the notable exception of his "main squeeze," tries to dissuade Priest from quitting; their chief argument being that dealing and snorting are the best he ever could achieve in life.

The film was re-released in 1973 and earned $2 million in North American rentals.[8]

DVD Release (Standard Definition)[edit]

A standard definition DVD was released by Warner Brothers on January 14, 2004 -- the day its star, Ron O'Neal, passed away from cancer . The original red and black Warner logo is replaced by the updated AOL/Warner logo used at the time of DVD release. Additionally, the end credits on the original film release and video cassette, differs from the DVD. On the original release and videocassette the film ends credits roll with a shot of the top of the Empire State building and the title track ("Superfly") plays. After "The End" is displayed, the film fades to black but Mayfield's "Superfly" continues to play for a few minutes until the track ends. In the DVD release, Warner Brothers decided to fade out the track midway right as "The End" is shown, and again brings up the AOL/Warner logo.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (1979-04-04). "GORDON PARKS JR., FILM MAKER, DEAD; Director of 'Super Fly' and Other Black-Oriented Pictures in Plane Crash in Kenya". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  2. ^ Cavanaugh, Jack (2006-08-25). "Sig Shore, 87, Producer of 'Superfly'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  3. ^ McLellan, Dennis (2004-01-16). "Ron O'Neal, 66; Star of Blaxploitation Hit 'Superfly'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  4. ^ Greenspun, Roger (1972-08-05). "'Super Fly'; Ron O'Neal Has Lead as Narcotics Dealer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  5. ^ Cavanaugh, Jack (2006-08-25). "Sig Shore, 87, Producer of 'Superfly'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  6. ^ Greenspun, Roger (1972-08-05). "'Super Fly':Ron O'Neal Has Lead as Narcotics Dealer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  7. ^ Diawara, Manthia. “Homeboy Cosmopolitan.” In Search of Africa, 252. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  8. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19

External links[edit]