Cleopatra Jones


“Blaxploitation goes bigtime.”

The success of independent blaxploitation films inevitably let to the major studios trying to cash in, and this applied to both sexes. Jones was their response, with 6’2″ Tamara Dobson over-filling Pam Grier’s shoes, as the special agent taking on dyke drug queen Mama (Winters, chewing scenery atrociously) and police corruption, at home and abroad (“Turkey”, supposedly – I wasn’t convinced).

Still, they’ve clearly thrown a lot of money at this, and Dobson has presence in a Grace Jones sort of way, if not perhaps much acting talent. She can’t do kung-fu for toffee either, but when Shelley Winters is your nemesis, how well do you need to fight? She can spray automatic weaponry with the best of them, however, and her car – a midnight blue Corvette Stingray with a customised hydraulic roof (to avoid messing up the ‘fro), and a secret arsenal in the door panel – is also fabulous, perhaps the best ever owned by a female action heroine.

Fargas, later to make his mark as Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch, pimps memorably as Doodlebug, a role he’d later parody in I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka, and despite its studio origins, didn’t sell out to The Man as much as I expected. Can’t help wishing they’d used Pam Grier though; she deserved the production values on show here, and they deserve a better actress than Dobson.

Dir: Jack Starrett
Star: Tamara Dobson, Shelley Winters, Antonio Fargas, Bernie Casey

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