Over the long Fourth of July weekend, I caught two films that have been on my list for a little while. I recorded Mr. Majestyk (1974) from one of the movie channels and I watched IFC's Grindhouse Friday's presentation of Foxy Brown (1974). Majestyk was on my list because it's Elmore Leonard. Ironically, Foxy Brown was on my list also because of Leonard via Tarrentino (and Jackie Brown).
I had never seen either film until this weekend. Majestyk is a typical revenge film. And, with its protagonist, pre-dates First Blood's Rambo by at least five years. Interestingly, Majestyk is never really threatened, almost always having the upper hand. The only real threat is from the police and that's just jail time. The bad guy who wants to kill Majestyk never lays a hand on him. Bronson is carrying on cowboy-loner-leave-the-past-behind-me theme of countless stories, be they westerns or crime or SF. In later incarnations of this kind of movie, the hero has to suffer. Majestyk doesn't, except for, perhaps, the bumps and bruises he gets while riding in the back of the pick-up.
Foxy Brown, on the other hand, suffers quite a bit. And it's all for the viewer's benefit. Pam Grier looked fantastic in the film, which is precisely the point. She uses her sexiness to her own advantage to get what she wants: revenge for the people who killed her boyfriend. But, unlike Majestyk, she gets plenty hurt along the way. As I am writing a novel with a female protagonist, I'll remember Foxy's acceptance of certain things that happen to her. You don't want it to happen, but it does. And that says more, to me, than Majestyk's scrape-free escape.
The vibe Foxy Brown exudes is tres cool. The characters really do come to life. Some quick research on the web told me that this is one of the more famous blaxploitation films but there are quite a few things to like and take away from this film. One of which is the score. For those of you who like 70s soul and funk, Willie Hutch's music is fantastic. I'm going to have to hunt it down.
But the stereotypes aside, Foxy Brown revels in the strong woman. And that's what makes this film important, to me and to film history. I'll certainly be channeling some of Foxy Brown as I flesh out my hero.
And this Friday's Grindhouse offering on IFC is "Coffy." Can't wait.
Watching these two movies from the vantage point of 2008 is interesting. In one scene, Majestyk makes a call from a pay phone. On the wall behind him is a poster instructing the gas station owners how to cope with the gas shortages. Are those days returning? Let's hope not. If they do, I'll probably have to open a Netflix account and I'll be sure to put these films and other 1970s gems on my list.
*This is my 100th post, 72 of which are from 2008. Thus, I have fulfilled one of my New Year's resolutions: blog at least 52 times.