Super Fly (film)
International release film poster, design by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Gordon Parks, Jr.|
|Produced by||Sig Shore|
|Written by||Phillip Fenty|
|Music by||Curtis Mayfield|
|Edited by||Bob Brady|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$6.2 million (N American rentals)|
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.
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.
Youngblood 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. Later that night, Priest and Eddie arrive at Scatter's restaurant. 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 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. Priest switches the briefcase containing the money with one of his girlfriends, disguised as a bag lady, just before Reardon and his men pick him up. Priest tells Reardon that he has a contract out on his family, and if anything should ever happen to him, his entire family will be killed. 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.
- Ron O'Neal as Youngblood Priest
- Carl Lee as Eddie
- Sheila Frazier as Georgia (as Shiela Frazier)
- Julius Harris as Scatter
- Charles McGregor as Fat Freddie (as Charles MacGregor)
- Nate Adams as Dealer
- Polly Niles as Cynthia
- Yvonne Delaine as Mrs. Freddie
- Henry Shapiro as Robbery Victim
- James G. Richardson as Junkie (as Jim Richardson)
- Make Bray as Junkie
- Al Kiggins as Police
- Fred Rolaf as Police
- Bob Bonds as Police
- Alex Stevens as Police
- Harry Manson as Police
- Floyd Levine as Police
- Sig Shore (billed as Mike Richards) as Deputy Commissioner Reardon
- Curtis Mayfield as Himself (The Curtis Mayfield Experience)
- Master Henry Gibson as Himself (The Curtis Mayfield Experience)
- Lucky Scott as Himself (The Curtis Mayfield Experience)
- Craig McMullen as Himself (The Curtis Mayfield Experience)
- Tyrone McCullough as Himself (The Curtis Mayfield Experience)
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 acted in Super Fly, actor Carl Lee enjoyed great fame until he abused drugs: in particular, heroin. He died in 1986 of an overdose. The film's soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield was received well enough 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, each single selling over a million copies.
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.
Super Fly resonated with many of the post-civil rights movement generation of African Americans, who saw Youngblood as a new example of how to rise in the American class system. Several California organized crime veterans, including drug trafficker "Freeway" Rick Ross, have cited the film as an influence in their decision to take up drug dealing and gang violence. The Congress for Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other organizations attempted to block the film's distribution and pushed for more African-American involvement in Hollywood's creative process. The Student National Coordinating Committee also protested the film as a tool of white oppression.
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. 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.
A standard definition DVD was released by Warner Brothers on January 14, 2004—the day its star, Ron O'Neal, died after battling 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.
- 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.
- Cavanaugh, Jack (2006-08-25). "Sig Shore, 87, Producer of 'Superfly'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
- "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
- Lehman, Christopher P. (2014) Power, Politics, and the Decline of the Civil Rights Movement
- Johnson, Scott (2011-01-09). "The return of "Freeway" Ricky Ross, the man behind a crack empire". Contra Costa Times.
- Diawara, Manthia. “Homeboy Cosmopolitan.” In Search of Africa, 252. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19