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Super Fly (1972)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Super Fly is a 1972 movie about a cocaine dealer attempting to make a deal large enough to retire and get out of the business. (Click here to read about the 2018 remake.) Unsurprisingly, cocaine use is frequent. There's also marijuana and cigarette smoking and drinking. Frequent profanity, including the "N" word, "motherf----r," and "f--k." Lead character uses the word "f--got." Some violence, including one of the characters getting struck and killed by a car. Police rough up one of the lead characters, punching him repeatedly during an interrogation. The lead character contends with an attempted mugging; he chases one of his attackers all the way back to the attacker's apartment, catches him, and kicks him in the chest, after which the attacker vomits. There's brief female nudity (breasts and buttocks) and one extended sex scene in a bath tub; characters moan with pleasure as the camera moves in slow motion up and down their bodies. During a verbal altercation with militant African Americans in his community, the lead character talks of getting involved in their cause if it involves "killing whitey" and "organizing an army to do that."
What's the story?
In SUPER FLY, Youngblood Priest (Ron O'Neal) is at the top of his game as a Harlem cocaine dealer. He has a luxurious apartment, two girlfriends, and lots of money. But Priest wants out of dealing and comes up with a plan to make it happen. When he finds out from his partner Eddie (Carl Lee) that they have $300,000, Priest proposes that they take that money to buy 30 kilos of the best cocaine money can buy, sell it, and end up with a million dollars. Priest turns to Scatter (Julius Harris), an older and retired dealer who now runs a popular bar and grill, for help in getting Scatter's supplier. After the deal is made, Priest and Eddie are picked up by the police, where it's revealed that the supplier is a lieutenant in the department and that they can now have as much cocaine as they want to sell on credit and protected by the police. While this new development excites Eddie, Priest is still determined to get out of dealing and decides to commit to his girlfriend Georgia (Sheila Frazier). But getting out isn't as easy as Priest hopes when it's revealed that the actual supplier from the police is higher up the chain of command, and this supplier wants Priest dead if he quits. Priest must find a way to keep the money he has made while staying several steps ahead of the corrupt police department.
Is it any good?
While controversial among civil rights groups for its portrayal of African Americans as negative and antiheroes, this film has stood the test of time as a classic of the "blaxploitation" genre. Its initial success transcended the African American audience it was made for at a time when African American actors were hardly ever given lead roles in movies. Its comments on the lack of legitimate opportunity for African Americans in the inner city remains relevant -- relevant enough to bring on a remake of the movie 46 years after the original film's release. Furthermore, Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack remains one of the greatest movie soundtrack albums from the '70s or any other time.
As the lead character Youngblood Priest, the late Ron O'Neal brought a fresh take on the "man of few words" cinema archetype. There's a complexity to the character revealed through body language and facial expression in his reactions to everyone around him. He has a now-iconic charisma, "cool" in the classic sense of the word. The gaudy fashions might be as obsolete as the old crumbling '70s New York City that serves as the background to the scenes, but the substance of the movie has ensured that Super Fly remains something more than a relic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the "blaxploitation" genre. What does it mean, and how is Super Fly an example of the genre?
Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack is also considered to be a classic. Why do you think that is, and how does it heighten the action? What are some other movies with unforgettable soundtracks?
There is a 2018 remake of this movie. How are remakes similar to and different from the originals? Why do you think Hollywood often seems to prefer putting out remakes of old movies rather than releasing something new?