Thursday, April 12, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... CLEOPATRA JONES

Only now does it occur to me.... that Shelley Winters' name––writ in the 'CLEOPATRA JONES font' and projected against a Tatooine-esque Turkish landscape––might have inspired the iconic STAR WARS main title.

This was 1973, a full two years before STAR WARS went into production, and while font designer Suzy Rice has explained her influences, isn't it possible that some subliminal memory of seeing Shelley Winters' name so stylishly depicted could have played a small role in one of the most recognizable movie fonts ever made? I'm gonna go ahead and say yes, because it makes me happy.

A few quick thoughts on CLEOPATRA JONES and why it's worth your time: Tamara Dobson (CHAINED HEAT, NORMAN... IS THAT YOU?) is Cleopatra Jones, a fabulous, kung fu-savvy, dirtbike enthusiast, stunt-driver, crack shot DEA Agent who is introduced to us while overseeing an air strike on poppy fields in Turkey.


 It's a special breed of film that begins with exploding flowers.

Later, we learn she has a ridiculous customized Corvette Stingray (see also: Mark Hamill's in CORVETTE SUMMER) with low-key U.S. Government vanity plates

and a specially-built hydraulic roof that automatically lifts up when she opens her door so that her afro remains unmussed.


Her boyfriend is the sensitive community organizer Bernie Casey (THE RUNNING MAN, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH),
pictured here, as he should be, in an amazing glamour headshot that happens to be decorating Cleo's wicked bachelorette pad/lounge.

Her nemesis is Shelley Winters as the drug kingpin, "Mommy" (to whom the aforementioned Turkish poppy fields belonged), a raging, racist, lesbian who wears a different wig in every scene and delivers a high-hag horror-worthy performance, chewing not merely the scenery, but entire tableaux, co-stars and all.

And yes, on the far right, that is perennial 1970s/Charles Bronson-baddie, Paul Koslo,
whose own, humble, scenery-chewing skills cannot compete with the mistress.

Elsewhere, we have Cleopatra Jones laying down some JCVD-style, high-kicking smack 

on Bruce Glover-lookalike and DELIVERANCE rapist Bill McKinney...

...we have one of the finest comebacks in film history from character actor legend Antonio Fargas (FOXY BROWN, SHAFT) who, when asked if he is willing to cross Shelley Winters' "Mommy" responds:




...and finally, I must tip my hat to a film that not only has the balls to make Shelley Winters its lead villain in a performance that might prompt even Divine to advise "maybe you should tone it down a notch," but also is bold enough to end with a show-stopping kung fu battle/fistfight between Shelley and Tamara Dobson.

Amen.