Directed By: Gordon Parks Jr.
Starring: Ron O'Neal, Carl Lee, Sheila Frazier
Tag line: "All He Needed Was One Last Deal..."
Trivia: The final script for this film was only 45 pages long
Known for their gritty realism, Blaxploitation movies often centered on strong individuals who fought, tooth and nail, for their slice of the American pie. Director Gordon Parks, Sr. helmed one of the earliest Blaxploitation flicks, Shaft, in 1971, and his son, Gordon Parks. Jr. would follow it up a year later with Super Fly. Only this time, instead of a tough-talking private detective, the “hero” of the piece was anything but heroic.
Youngblood Priest (Ron O’Neal) is a Harlem drug lord who’s struck it rich in the “business”, driving around town in a flashy car and snorting as much cocaine as his nose can stand. Yet, in spite of his success, Priest is ready to leave it all behind, hoping for one last deal that’ll score him tons of cash so he can walk away for good. With the help of his partner, Eddie (Carl Lee), Priest plans to buy 30 kilos of coke, which they can then turn around and sell for a million dollars. In need of a connection that can handle their large order, the two pay a visit to Scatter (Julius Harris), a former dealer and Priest’s old mentor, who, despite the fact he’s already gone straight, puts them in touch with the right people. Standing in Priest’s way, however, is a corrupt police department, which, under the guise of fighting drug trafficking, is actually controlling it, making a fortune in kickback money. And as Priest will soon discover, they aren’t about to let him retire.
Ron O’Neal delivers an unflinching performance as the film’s anti-hero, a lifetime criminal we can’t help but root for, mostly because the cops are ten times worse. Responding to a disturbance call, the police pick up one of Priest’s dealers, Fat Freddie (Charles McGregor), and beat a confession out of him. It’s through Freddie they learn about Priest and Eddie’s operation, and now they want a piece of the action. But the cops don’t stop at extortion, and cross a line that causes Priest to turn to yet another underworld organization, the mob, for satisfaction. Super Fly doesn’t go so far as to portray Priest as a valiant character (early in the film, he threatens to force Fat Freddie’s wife into prostitution if he doesn’t come up with the money he owes him). He’s simply the lesser of two evils.
Shot, guerrilla-style, on the streets of New York and featuring a vibrant musical score by Curtis Mayfield, Super Fly is a stylish, fierce motion picture, and one of the defining works of the Blaxploitation genre.