Friday Foster 1975
As February nears its end, it’s time for me to wrap up my short lived celebration of Black History Month in superhero and comic book movies since this is absolutely the last one that I could find. It’s a mid-seventies Blacksploitation film starring the great Pam Grier along with a very impressive cast for the time and film company possibly most well known for their exploitation films like Blacula. The film itself was based on a serialized comic strip of the same name that ran for just four years and actually ended the year before the film was made. Considering I don’t have an extensive background at watching many exploitation films aside from the parody Black Dynamite I don’t have much to go off of, but this ended up being a rather fun watch. Even without the experience of those films to go off of, it was bogged down a bit by a rather nonsensical and drab plot as well as a lack of any notable action or nudity which I would have thought would be more present in one of these types of films.
Friday Foster is a fashion photographer who is very much like Lois Lane except that she isn’t supposed to be an investigative reporter, things just seem to happen whenever she’s around. When she goes to take a photo of the arrival of the richest Black man in the world, Blake Tarr and there happens to be an assassination attempt that she gets sucked in the middle of. It doesn’t help that one of her friends just so happens to be dating one of the men who tried to kill Tarr, dies when he gets home to her, and she gets killed a few days later at a fashion show while Foster is there. One of the more frustrating things about this mystery plot is that it’s not really built as a mystery at all. Yes, there is a mystery that you don’t know who is behind these killings or what their end goal is, but there aren’t any clues or leads. Instead, Foster just goes from one mishap to another and doesn’t really get an solid answers. And any of the answers that she does get end up being complete and total red herrings when the plot is finally revealed at the end.
What was rather underwhelming coming into this film was the sense of the exploitation genre that it seemed to very much be a part of. While there were a few moments of nudity, none of the scenes were presented as being very titillating, even though a couple were very unneeded. There were two moments that were part of the fashion shows where we get to see the models changing and undressing backstage and both of those moments are presented very clinically, as if it were just a model casually changing her clothes without any added presence or flair. The best use of nudity was likely the shower scene, but while it was presented with more sensuality, it was also shown a little more tastefully, and as Foster was being attacked it added a sense of extra vulnerability as she ran out of her apartment in nothing but a towel. The violence is another thing, there are plenty of people getting shot, stabbed, and otherwise killed in this film, and while there aren’t any spurting buckets of blood or gore, there is that sense of danger and mortality where pretty much any character besides Foster had a chance that they might get killed.
Really, the most impressive thing about this film is its cast. The main heavy that was stalking Foster for most of the first half of the film was played by Carl Weathers just before he would go on to play Apollo Creed even though here he doesn’t even manage to get a single line of dialogue. There’s also Scatman Crothers as a rather amourous old minister, the Love Boat’s Ted Lange in a small role as well as the Millionaire from Gilligan’s Island Jim Backus, and in probably the best role Eartha Kitt as the head fashion designer in charge of this big fashion show. She very much just plays up her typical broad Eartha Kitt persona but it is still a treat to see on screen. And Pam Grier herself in the lead role shows off her charisma and charm in the best way possible. It would be a lot harder to watch this film if there was anyone else playing Friday Foster.
While most of the film’s plot revolves around this convoluted murder conspiracy plot involving the wealthiest Black man in the world, some random Black senator, a minister, and some other random high profile Black leaders which are essentially just referred to as such. Blake Tarr believes the senator is behind it, the senator believes Tarr is, and we ultimately find out that it’s basically just some random guy who has been working with both of them. But he’s also the most unassuming background character where there was no hint whatsoever that he could have been behind everything. It would have made just as much sense if they would have caught Carl Weathers and pulled his mask off to reveal this guy and cue him saying “And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you meddling photographers!” Aside from this “mystery” plot, there is plenty revolving around Friday Foster’s love life, but that’s all played up for humor since pretty much every guy in this film besides her boss and the Apollo Creed who’s trying to kill her wants to date her. She hooks up with Blake Tarr in the middle of the film, she has a random pimp who has the hots for her, and she has a romantic/friendly relationship with the private detective she’s working with played by Yaphet Kotto.
Before I wrap things up here, I did want to make a mention of the soundtrack. For the most part, it is exactly what you would expect from a 70’s Blacksploitation film with the disco influenced rock that would almost fit just as well in a porn movie. But the problem is through the overuse of the guitar riffs through a talk box that often completely overpowers whatever else is going on in the scene. There’s also several instances of the main Friday Foster theme song, which again is good in its own right, but the repetitiveness doesn’t do the song or the movie any favors. Even with those downsides and the problems with the plot, the fun of the cast and especially Pam Grier in the lead made this an enjoyable watch for myself and worth a look if you’re curious about the Blacksploitation era even if there may be plenty of much more worthy examples out there. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.