Super Fly (1972): Parks Jr.’s Popular Blaxploitation Crime Movie

Gordon Parks Jr. directed Super Fly, one of the most popular crime features of the blaxploitation cycle in the early 1970s.

Made on a budget of $ 0.5 million, the movie, which was released by Warner, enjoyed a long run in big cities. After an initial gross of $24.8 million, the film was rereleased in 1973 and earned additional $2 million, thus becoming the highest-grossing blaxploitation film.

 

Superfly poster.jpg

The movie stars Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, an African American pimp and cocaine dealer trying to quit the underworld drug business.

Character rather than plot driven, the tale centers on Priest, a smart, suave  New York City drug dealer, who is determined to get out of his dangerous trade.  His reluctant friend doesn’t believe him, and besides, he has no skills for another line of work–“what the f–k are you good at?”

Priest devises a scheme to make one big deal before his permanent retiring. However, when a desperate street dealer informs the police of Priest’s activities, Priest is forced to deal with some corrupt narcotics officers.

Midway, there’s a very hot sex scene, set in the tub, with close-ups of O’Neal’s hand caressing the body of his friend’s wife.

Technically, Super Fly is more accomplished than most Blaxploitation movies, largely due to the inventive photography by James Signorelli (who would become the film-segment director for TV’s Saturday Night Live, beginning 1976.

The melodic soundtrack, a major ingredient of the movie, was written and produced by soul musician Curtis Mayfield.  At times, an entire song is played out on the soundtrack, accompanying a montage of images on a split (and multi-split) screen.

Franchise

O’Neal reprised his role as Youngblood Priest in the 1973 “Super Fly T.N.T.,” which he also directed.

Producer Sig Shore directed a second sequel, “The Return of Superfly,” released in 1990, with Nathan Purdee as Priest.

Cast
Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest
Carl Lee as Eddie
Julius W. Harris as Scatter
Sheila Frazier as Georgia
Charles McGregor as Fat Freddie
Sig Shore (billed as Mike Richards) as Deputy Commissioner Reardon
Curtis Mayfield as Himself (Curtis Mayfield Experience)
Master Henry Gibson as Himself (Curtis Mayfield Experience)

Credits:

Directed by Gordon Parks Jr.
Produced by Sig Shore
Written by Phillip Fenty
Music by Curtis Mayfield
Cinematography: James Signorelli
Edited by Bob Brady
Production company Superfly Ltd.
Distributed by Warner
Release date: August 4, 1972
Running time: 91 minutes

Remake

Stay away from the 2018 remake.

TCM showed the movie on April 28, 2020.