Friday Foster

| June 8, 2015

In 1975’s filmic adaptation of the comic strip Friday Foster, Pam Grier stars as the titular Friday, a model-turned-photographer who witnesses an attempted assassination while on assignment for her magazine. The target of this assassination: multi-millionaire Blake Tarr (played by Blacula’s version of Van Helsing, Thalmus Rasulala), who Friday describes as “The Black Howard Hughes.” Friday soon learns that Tarr’s would-be assassin (Carl Weathers) works for someone or something called “Black Widow,” and despite the urging of her editor and the police, she sets about uncovering the secrets of the elusive Black Widow.

The setup is that of a classic mystery, only on a world stage involving officials in the highest ranks of the United States’ political system. With scantily-clad beautiful women galore, a massive climactic shootout, and silent assassin Yarbro (Weathers) dropping bodies at every turn, Friday’s adventure into mystery becomes something far more akin to a James Bond film than your average Agatha Christie affair. Indeed the comparison to Bond proves apt in many ways, not the least of which is the clear parallel between Bond’s love life and Friday’s. Like Bond, Friday too nurtures numerous love affairs, being a self-declared admirer of men in the general sense. A one-man woman she is not, which makes her a pleasantly progressive figure of female sexual empowerment.

Unlike Bond, however, Friday avoids combat herself where possible, being somewhat predictably untrained in that sort of thing while working as a model and photographer. But you know who can fight? Her #1 man, private detective Colt Hawkins (Yaphet Kotto, Alien). And as such, he ends up involved in one of the most exciting scenes in the whole film when he has to face off against the cold-blooded killing machine that is Yarbro!

This Bond-like tinge to the female-led narrative makes the film feel exciting while providing a fresh template for its message regarding the need for African American solidarity in the face of oppression. That same Bond-type template does unfortunately also result in that message having much less punch than it would have in a more serious narrative—you know, one without an Eartha Kitt-led fashion shoot, a quirky younger brother always looking for a new hustle, and a daring getaway in a milk truck. Still, it’s refreshing to see that this recurring message of Blaxploitation cinema found legs in stories that ran the gamut from deadly serious dramas to a mystery/adventure romp. The more venues we can find for such a message, the better, and that’s what makes Friday Foster a must-see in my book, even if Pam Grier isn’t relentlessly kicking ass as she had been under the direction of Jack Hill.

Friday Foster is seeing a Blu-ray and DVD release from Olive Films on June 9, 2015, concurrent with their release of three other terrific Blaxploitation titles including the Fred Williamson vehicle, Hammer (1972), as well as the Jack Hill/Pam Grier collaborations, Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). However, Friday Foster stands out from these other titles in no small part due to its more adventurous tone, which makes it perhaps the most interesting release of the four in my eyes.

The transfer on the Blu-ray is stunningly sharp and predominantly clean and clear at that, showing a great deal less speckling than the other three transfers do. The colors really pop too, as they rightly should in such a colorful film. This is most evident in the film’s reds, particularly in the fashion-based scenes where the brightest of reds appear. As all the aforementioned titles, though, the film appears on this disc free of special features, which may bother some, but not those who value the films themselves the most. Also, who else but Olive is putting out three Pan Grier Blu-rays on one day? Nobody! And for that, Olive, I thank you.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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