Friday, December 21, 2007

Pam Grier: Ten Defining Performances

Legend has it that Pam Grier was discovered by Russ Meyer while he was casting his masterful 1970 epic BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. It is regrettable that Meyer never cast Grier again as a collaboration between the two of them would have probably been fairly mind blowing. Still it is hard to argue with too many choices North Carolina born Pamela Suzette Grier has made in her almost forty year career. The talented actress and stunning beauty has appeared in nearly 100 roles in films and television and she never fails to add a special extra dimension to each work she chooses to sign on to. To celebrate this remarkable woman, here are my ten favorite performances by her in films from the seventies. Ten is a small number for such a prolific performer, which is why I just chose to go from her work in this one decade. That isn't to undervalue the fine work she has done since, but let these serve as just a introduction to anyone who isn't already a member of the Pam Grier appreciation society.

10. FRIDAY FOSTER (1975): This light Arthur Marks film is not often regarded as one of Pam's finest, but I really love her in this surprising role as a globetrotting photographer caught up in international intrigue and danger.

9. SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973): Released just a month after I was born, this sequel to BLACULA is oddly endearing. I've always preferred its alternate title though, BLACULA IS BEAUTIFUL.

8. BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA (1972): This crazed Eddie Romero film is something to see and Pam works brilliantly with her ARENA co-star Margaret Markov. Definitely the kind of film that could have only been made in the seventies.

7. BUCKTOWN (1975): Perhaps Arthur Marks film isn't really that special but watching Pam work with Fred Williamson in this at the height of both of their careers is a sight that could bring tears to even a jaded film lovers eye.

6. HIT MAN (1972): This intriguing and exciting George Armitage film is unfortunately hard to see. That is a shame as it contains one of Pam's best early performances. She stars here opposite the always great Bernie Casey.

5. THE ARENA (1973): Joe D'Amato co-directed this rather shocking Gladiator picture. Pam looks stunning in it and it is undeniably fun, brutal and beautifully photographed by D'Amato.

4. GREASED LIGHTNING (1977): This odd Michael Schultz film gave Pam the opportunity to work opposite Richard Pryor. That fact alone would be enough to make it go on this list. My memories of the film are quite nice although it has been years since I saw it.

3. THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971): Of the women in prison films Pam made I give this one the slight nod over THE BIG BIRD CAGE mostly due to the inclusion of the wonderful Roberta Collins. Jack Hill's film is also of extreme importance as it was the first major role Pam ever appeared in.

2. FOXY BROWN (1974): Jack Hill re teamed once again with Pam in this fast paced, kick ass film featuring Pam at...well her foxiest...and it has one of the great scores of the seventies by Willie Hutch.

1. COFFY (1973): No contest for me...this is Pam Grier's masterpiece. I used to have ferocious arguments with a friend who preferred FOXY BROWN to this one. Everything I love about Pam can be found in this endlessly inventive and hard hitting powerhouse Jack Hill film...

There are a few others...SHEBA BABY just missed it as did another one of her women in prison films. I have never seen COOL BREEZE, THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE or DRUM so I couldn't consider those. Of her work that came after the seventies, some of my favorite include FORT APACHE THE BRONX, ORIGINAL GANGSAS, GHOSTS FROM MARS, BONES, LOVE THE HARD WAY and of course JACKIE BROWN. Pam is currently shooting THE CONJURING which is due for release in 2008.

For more Pam Grier, please visit this great fan site, and check her official MySpace which is located here.

1 comment:

Rogue Spy 007 said...

I've seen most of the films on this list. Brought back some good memories. I agree with you on Coffy. That's my favorite of her films. It doesn't get much better than that.