Sunday, March 23, 2014

Female Comic Strip Character Movie No. 3: FRIDAY FOSTER

The only Friday Foster comic book ever
We have all experienced that feeling. We watch a movie that we thought was great when we first saw it, only to realize it is not that great. That was what I experienced with the 1975 Friday Foster movie. I probably should say the only Friday Foster movie, since the comic strip Friday Foster only lasted from 1970 until 1974. It is doubtful that there will ever be another Friday Foster movie.

This movie is a perfect example of what comic fans had to put up with in film adaptations prior to Superman the Movie and other more recent films. The producers licensed the characters but did not attempt to create the world of the comic strip/book. Granted, Friday Foster was a character of her times. Her story lines were similar to other soap opera strips as Mary Worth, Apartment 3-G or The Heart of Juliet Jones, with a dash of Brenda Starr thrown in, since Friday worked as a magazine photographer. Basically, the producers made a blaxploitation movie about Friday Foster.

Pam Grier as Friday Foster

First off, Friday is played by Pam Grier, who is absolutely beautiful and incredibly sexy in this movie. I also believe she is more attractive that the comic strip character. The character was created by Jorge Longarion and modeled after model Donyale Luna. As with Brooke Shields in Brenda Starr, Pam Grier plays Friday Foster as a cute and fashionable, but gutsy and resourceful photographer.

In looking at the few examples of the comic strip available on the web, I noticed most of the stories featured her boss, Shawn North, playing a major role. In the movie, Shawn has a small role. The actor playing the part is more Sean Cassidy than the Shawn North of the comic strip. Friday's version of Basil St. John is Blake Tarr (Thalmus Rasulala), who we are lead to believe is the villain for most of the movie. Colt Hawkins in the comic strip was an author of detective novels and good friend of Shawn North. In the movie, Colt (Yaphet Kotto) is Friday's boyfriend and a private eye. Friday's brother, Cleve (Tierre Turner), is not sweet, idolizing little brother of the comic strip, but a joking flimflam artist.
I'm Issac, I'll be your pimp in this movie.

Where the film has problems is when you incorporate the cliches of blaxiploitation films into a movie about a comic strip character. Cleve is making money selling the presents that are meant for his sister from a pimp named Fancy (played by The Love Boat's Ted Lange). He wants Friday to work for him. Fancy refers to his women with the B-word and his business using a word that beginning with S.

Friday's best friend from her modeling days is stabbed backstage at a fashion show hosted by Madame Rena (played by Eartha Kitt). When Colt and a potato chip munching police detective ask who would be behind the killing, she names a rival fashion designer, Ford Malotte (Godfrey Cambridge). She then calls him a "faggot who couldn't design a handkerchief." Friday and Colt goes to meet Mallote at a bar called the Butterfly. The bar is filled with drag queens. After speaking with a waitress with a manly voice, Colt says that "His muscles are bigger than mine." Friday replies "That isn't all that he has that is bigger than yours." Cambridge plays Malotte as an over-the-top gay stereotype.

The N-word is used quite a bit in the film. Friday is also naked in several scenes. Not that seeing Pam Grier naked is a bad thing, but unlike with Kiss Me, Kill Me, there was no nudity in the comic strip Friday Foster. One might say that Friday Foster had too much nudity in her movie and Valentina didn't have enough nudity in her movie.

The point to make about this film is that it does capture the feel of the comic strip. It also goes in another direction. Kiss Me, Kill Me and Brenda Starr work because they kept the story and situations true to their strips. Friday Foster tries to force the material to be something else. It seems like the attempt was made to turn tame soap opera comic into an oversexed, action packed drive-in movie.

With that said, I enjoyed this more than the other movies Pam Grier made at this time because it is lighthearted and fun. Instead of the usually grim, angry and vengeful woman she usually played at this time in her career, she plays Friday as a funny and flirtatious career woman. Friday Foster fails as a comic strip adaptation, but succeeds as an entertaining movie.  


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