Foxy Brown (film)

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Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown movie poster.jpg
Movie Poster for Foxy Brown
Directed by Jack Hill
Produced by Buzz Feitshans
Written by Jack Hill
Starring Pam Grier
Antonio Fargas
Peter Brown
Terry Carter
Music by Willie Hutch
Cinematography Brick Marquard
Edited by Chuck McClelland
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release dates
  • April 5, 1974 (1974-04-05)
Running time
94 min
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000
Box office $2,460,000[1]

Foxy Brown is a 1974 American blaxploitation film written and directed by Jack Hill. It stars Pam Grier as the title character, described by one character as "a whole lot of woman" who showcases unrelenting sexiness while battling the villains.[2] The film was released by American International Pictures as a double feature with Truck Turner. The film uses Afro-centric references in clothing and hair and touches on issues relatable to the black women of the 1970s, and is even still relatable today. Pam Grier starred in six blaxploitation films for American International Pictures.

Plot[edit]

Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) seeks revenge when her government-agent boyfriend is shot down by members of a drug syndicate at her doorstep. She links her boyfriend's murderers to a "modeling agency" run by Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Miss Kathryn (Kathryn Loder) that services local judges, congressmen, and police in the area. Foxy decides to pose as a prostitute to infiltrate the company, and helps save a fellow black woman from a life of drugs and sexual exploitation and reunites her with her husband and child. Not long after she infiltrates the company, her relation to her late-boyfriend and Link Brown, her brother who ratted him out, is exposed and she is caught before she can escape. After an exchange of words and heated death threats, Miss Kathryn decides to keep her alive in hopes of her being worth some monetary value in the sex-slave trade. They send her to a farm, which is actually a drug manufacturing plant, with two of Miss Kathryn's henchmen. She is raped, drugged, and tied to a bed for a number of days, and attempts to escape a number of times all to no avail. Her final attempt succeeds as she lights her two captors on fire and escapes. With her brother killed and feeling outmatched, Foxy enlists the help of a Black panther-inspired neighborhood group loaded with guns and ammunition to help her ambush a drug deal and kill the operation. She uses her sexy appeal to track down the pilot she knows was supposed to be delivering the next package of drugs in Mexico to the drug syndicate and shoots most of the members. However, Foxy orders the boys to sever Steve's, Miss Kathryn's boyfriend, genitals and brings them to Miss Kathryn in a jar in an attempt to make her feel how she felt when she lost Michael. Miss Kathryn attempts to stab her, but Foxy shoots her in the shoulder. Before leaving Foxy told her she wanted her to suffer rather than killing her.

Stereotypes[edit]

According to Yvonne D. Sims in her book Women of Blaxploitation, Foxy Brown was heavily criticized, not only for it’s “disturbing” portrayal of black womanhood, but also for its controversial stereotypes about black violence and drug abuse as well. In a time period during the 1970s where blacks were making progress politically, socially, and culturally, Foxy Brown portrayal of blacks contradicted the image blacks were creating for themselves in society. Though Foxy is considered a heroine in this film, her role as vengeful black woman willing to pose as a prostitute, exposing herself multiple times throughout the film, goes against a lot of the characteristics one would describe in a hero or heroine. It also brings out the stereotype of the objectification of black women. In a time period where blacks were fighting for a cause, this movie shows that blacks only cause is for revenge and protection from consequences. This is highlighted by the fact that Foxy’s sole purpose in this film is to protect her brother who is involved in illegal drug activity, and to avenge her lover. In most people’s opinion, this goes against what Blacks were actually achieving during the time period which is why many are critical of this film.

Because of the stereotypes that came along with the role Pam Grier played as Fox, her personal acting career has been affected negatively, as she struggled to find work in the years following this film. However, Nelson George states that she has been embraced by many feminists for her roles that not only display her beauty, but also her fearlessness and ability to take retribution on men who challenge her.[3]

Blaxploitation[edit]

Blaxploitation is a genre of exploitation film that usually targets the black audience in urban communities. Blaxploitation were very popular at the time this film was made after parts of the film industry saw untapped box-office potential in the black audience. The reputation of Blaxploitation film has gone from being categorized as low-budget black films to American Classics that people read and teach discourse on. Although Blaxploitation is criticized for being another avenue of exploiting African-American culture, at the time, it was one of the few ways for African-Americans to get into the film industry. Grier talks about this in an interview with Essence in 1979:

"Why would people think I would ever demean the Black woman? I was tried and convicted without being asked to testify in my defense. Sure, a lot of those films were junk. But they were what was being offered. They provided work for me and jobs for hundreds of Blacks. We all needed to work. We all needed to eat."[3]

Maternalism[edit]

In Foxy Brown and Coffy (1973), there is a distinct characteristic that the women share; they are nurturers. In each film, the plot surrounds justice for a loved one that was a victim of drug abuse, violence, and gang activity. Foxy wants revenge for her late-boyfriend, Michael, and she also wants to shut down the drug and prostitute operation so they can no longer harm her community. The director Jack Hill made an obvious reference to Angela Davis, the American activist, when she was talking to Black Caesar and she demands they get justice for "all of the people."[4] In Coffy, Grier was seeking revenge against the drug underworld for her younger sister getting hooked on drugs and now has to live in a rehabilitation home. In both films, the women risk their lives carrying out vigilant missions in order to make the streets a better place, but also, and more importantly, to avenge their family.

Women's Power Movement[edit]

This movie spoke directly to the women's power movement and struggle in the 1970s. Despite criticism, Foxy was the poster child for a new type of heroine that was subsequently appropriated by the blaxploitation genre. She redefined African American beauty, sexuality, and womanhood which led to the diversification of African-American actresses onscreen. Grier said:

"The 1970s was a time of freedom and women saying that they needed empowerment. There was more empowerment and self-discovery than any other decade I remember. All across the country, a lot of women were Foxy Brown and Coffy. They were independent, fighting to save their families not accepting rape or being victimized... This was going on all across the country. I just happened to do it on film. I don't think it took any great genius or great imagination. I just exemplified it, reflecting it to society."[3]

Additionally, Foxy Brown and Coffy show that women can stand up for themselves and what they believe in. The image of Foxy in an evening gown, well equipped with a gun is a visual representation of that idea that you don't have to masculine to have power. "Female power," according to Grier, is "very different than male power and a woman should maintain it always.'"'[3]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

According to director Jack Hill, due to tension between himself and AIP (American International Pictures) they did not invite Hill to do the sequel for Coffy until last-minute. Tensions arose due to a screening AIP invited Hill to, of a movie they had been working on and were eager to show. Hill walked out, unimpressed, and AIP made a vow to never hire him again. However, with Coffy being such a huge success, Sam Arkoff, who had the final say, decided to invite him back into the fold.[5]

Foxy Brown was originally intended to be a sequel to his Coffy (1973), also starring Pam Grier, and in fact the working title of the film was "Burn, Coffy, Burn!". However, AIP decided at the last minute it did not want to do a sequel, even though Coffy was a huge hit. Therefore, it is never said exactly what kind of job Foxy Brown has -- "Coffy" was a nurse and since this was no longer to be a sequel, they could not give Foxy Brown that job and did not have time to rewrite the script to establish just what kind of job she had.

On the audio commentary on the film's DVD release, Hill also mentioned that he was initially against the outfits that the wardrobe department chose for Foxy Brown. Since Pam Grier had become a star in her prior film Coffy, there was an impetus to present the actress as even more stylish than she had appeared in the previous film. The 14 costumes were designed by a California couturier named Ruthie West, who was also the stylist for the Jackson 5, Thelma Houston, Bobbie Gentry, Cutis The Brothers, Sister Love, among others.[6]

But Hill, by his own account, initially felt that the outfits were too trendy and specific to the time period, and within a few years would cause the film to look dated and obsolete. In the years since the film's release, however, Hill has reversed his opinion on Foxy's clothes, particularly in the wake of not only Foxy Brown's ascent into pop culture icon, but also the '70s nostalgia movement that started in the mid-1990s.[5]

Hill also mentioned that the character of Foxy Brown became something of a female empowerment symbol that seemed to transcend the time period of the film. As such, Hill believes, Foxy's 1970s clothes and hairstyles merely add to the charm of the character.

Reception[edit]

Foxy Brown was a financial success. Produced on a budget of $500,000, it grossed $2,460,000.[1]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. The movie received a negative reception from Variety magazine.[7] In the Variety issue on Wednesday, April 17, 1974, they characterized the film as being "something of a mess". The gory samples of violence and explicit sexual scenes, according to Variety, made it harder to stomach, and is beneath even the "gutter-high standards of the genre." The article refers to the following Grier has gained in the recent plight of her career, and believe she can do more than just nitty-gritty blaxploitation.[8]

In more positive reviews, she is described as one of Hollywood's newest stars. She gained top billing in "Foxy Brown" and that she had the star caliber to "carry a film and to have the title role."[9] The film scores a 60% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[10]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Soundtrack[edit]

The film's songs were written and performed by Willie Hutch, and a soundtrack album was released on Motown Records in 1975.

Release on DVD & HD[edit]

  • In 2001 it was released on DVD with a commentary track by director Jack Hill.[12]
  • In 2010 it was digitized in High Definition (1080i) and broadcast on MGM HD.
  • In 2015, Olive Films released a region A/1 (US only) Blu-ray with no extras.
  • In 2015, Arrow Video released a region B/2 (UK only) Blu-ray with the following extras:
    • Restored High Definition Blu-ray presentation (1080p)
    • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
    • Audio commentary with director Jack Hill
    • "From Black and White to Blaxploitation" actor Sid Haig speaks about his long and influential friendship with Jack Hill
    • "A Not So Minor Influence An Interview with Bob Minor", the first African-American member of the Stuntman s Association, and co-star of Foxy Brown
    • "Back to Black" Legendary actors Fred The Hammer Williamson (Black Caesar) and Austin Stoker (Sheba Baby, Assault on Precinct 13 ), alongside Rosanne Katon (Ebony, Ivory, and Jade) and film scholar Howard S. Berger speak about the enduring popularity of the Blaxploitation film
    • Photo gallery of behind-the-scenes and publicity images
    • Original Theatrical Trailer
    • Trailer Reel Trailers for all the major works by Jack Hill including Foxy Brown, Coffy and Switchblade Sisters
    • Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Josiah Howard, author of Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide, a new interview with Pam Grier by Jack Hill biographer Calum Waddell, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Influence[edit]

Foxy Brown is one of the most influential blaxploitation films; Pam Grier's character is often considered to be the female archetype of the genre. The film has directly influenced or been mentioned in many other films, including, but not limited to:

It is often noted by film historians as one of the first blaxploitation films to provide a portrayal of a strong and independent woman; until Pam Grier, women often existed exclusively to support their men for a small part of the film.

Additionally, Foxy Brown and the preceding film Coffy are unique for their establishment of pushers and pimps as villains. Before these films, the blaxploitation genre often espoused empathy for the social positions of such individuals.

Pam Grier titled her memoir Foxy: My Life in Three Acts (2010), clearly influenced by this film.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Samuel Z Arkoff & Richard Turbo, Flying Through Hollywood By the Seat of My Pants, Birch Lane Press, 1992 p 202
  2. ^ "Pam Grier looks back on blaxploitation: 'At the time some people were horrified'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d Sims, Yvonne (2006). Women of Blaxploitation: How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American Popular Culture. North Carolina: McFarland. p. 76. 
  4. ^ Sims, Yvonne (2006). Women of Blaxploitation: How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American popular Culture. North Carolina: McFarland. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-7864-2744-4. 
  5. ^ a b Walker, David; Rausch, Andrew; Watson, Chris (2009). Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-8108-6706-2. 
  6. ^ Peters, Ida (October 6, 1973). "Designer for "Foxy Brown"". The Baltimore Afro-American. 
  7. ^ "Foxy Brown". Variety. 1973-12-31. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  8. ^ Beau (April 17, 1974). "Foxy Brown (Color)". Variety. 
  9. ^ "Pam Grier, New Star". Atlanta Daily World. April 7, 1974. 
  10. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/foxy_brown
  11. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05. 
  12. ^ "Foxy Brown". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  13. ^ "Austin Powers In Goldmember". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  14. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (2010-05-04). "Pam Grier's Collection of Lessons Learned". The New York Times. 

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