Cleopatra Jones [1973]

Director: Jack Starrett
Stars: Tamara Dobson, Bernie Casey, Brenda Sykes, Antonio Fargas, Dan Frazer
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 89 minutes

Special agent Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson), six feet two inches of sinewy fighting fury clad in layers of runway chic fashions in bright rainbow colors, strolls up a sand dune and orders the destruction of a Turkish poppy field. Thousands of miles away, an L.A. drug lord named Mommy (Shelley Winters hamming it up with garish wigs and lecherous leers) screeches as her life blood burns away and lures Cleopatra stateside to plot her demise. A product of the "blaxploitation" explosion of low-budget thrillers featuring black heroes in the 1970s, Cleopatra Jones may not be the best of the batch but revels in the most outrageous fashion sense. Cleo looks great in furs, pantsuits, ponchos, turbans--a new outfit every scene--and drives a sleek black Corvette with a personalized license plate: "CLEO." It's a shame that the producers dropped the exotic potential of a globetrotting super-agent for an L.A.-bound gangster film, which is entertaining in a comic-book way but rarely reaches the energetic levels of the gritty Pam Grier action pictures Coffy and Foxy Brown. Bernie Casey is a role model of dignity and action as a neighborhood activist, and a garishly overdressed Antonio Fargas delivers a suitably flamboyant performance as Mommy's pusher Doodlebug. The glamorous super-agent flew off to Hong Kong for the 1975 sequel, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. --Sean Axmaker

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