21 June 2013

Jack Hill's Foxy Brown / Spider Baby BluRay Review

The fantastic Arrow Video has released 2 films by Jack Hill films Spider-Baby and Foxy Brown on blu-ray. Jack Hill has been by called “The Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking” by Quentin Tarantino. Jack Hill like many directors of his generation worked for Roger Corman in the 1960s he made such films for Roger as Pit Stop, The Big Doll House and the notorious The Terror (which Francis Ford Coppola directed bits of as well as Monte Hellman and even Jack Nicholson). Spider-Baby however was Jack Hill’s first real film but wasn’t released for years and was never properly released till the 80s/90s.

Spider-Baby is a rare slice of “California Gothic”, very few films are with only Psycho and some of Tim Burton’s films. The film is about these 3 children in puberty who are regressing the evolutionary ladder if you will; a backwards Darwinism if you will. They have a chauffeur Bruno played by Lon Chaney Jr. (the one who played The Wolf Man). The title Spider-Baby refers to Virginia because she is obsessed with Spider and hunts and bills bugs and her spider like movements. The film starts with them killing off an innocent postman. Bruno has mean able to keep the dark family secrets hidden all these years but when some cousins Emily and her brother Peter with their lawyer come it is all revealed over a grotesque dinner.

The film is a predecessor to something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which it’s depicted of inbred cannibalistic family even though the cannibalism is all implied. It’s a very strange film with a dinner scene reminiscent of the one in Eraserhead. It’s shot in glorious black and white, which really adds to the gothic weirdness of the whole thing. The film starts a hilarious parody of the Monster Mash sung by Lon Chaney. The film also has an early role for Sid Haig as one of the inbred kids. It has in recent years even been adapted into a musical.

Foxy Brown is a very different film to Spider-Baby. It’s a quintessential piece of Blaxploitation and it stars the queen of Blaxploitation Pam Grier as its title character. Jack Hill is known for many things but probably most for discovering Pam Grier with his film The Big Doll House (which like Lon Chaney sang the title song in that film). Pam’s star making role was in the classic Coffy that Jack Hill also directed.

Foxy Brown was originally meant to be a sequel to Coffy due to its surprise success but American-International Pictures at the last minute decided they didn’t want a sequel. The film is some ways is rewrite the Coffy. Pam Grier plays a foxy mama who seeks revenge on some criminals on what they did to her loved one; in Coffy it was her sister. Foxy Brown it’s her boyfriend who is witness protection (he has had cosmetic surgery) who is shot down by a drug syndicate. She poses as a prostitute to infiltrate the organization. She helps one of the prostitute from a life drugs and sexual exploitation. The rest of the film is all revenge themed set pieces including one of castrating.

The film as expecting is a total hoot from start to finish with Pam Grier killing everyone; she literally hides a gun into her Afro in the climax. It’s normal case the soundtrack for Blaxploitation films to have a great soundtrack and it’s certainly the case this time with music by Willie Hutch who also did the score for the pimpin’ classic The Mack. The film is certainly on par with its predecessor Coffy, it may not quite reach the dizzy heights of that film but it’s a blast. The film like Spider-Baby and Coffy also features a supporting role by Sid Haig who Jack Hill knew since his student days. Tarantino famously adapted the title for his masterpiece Jackie Brown that of course stars Pam Grier.

Arrow Video has put lots of love and care into these releases which a wealth of bonus material with a doc on Blaxploitation, a doc on Spider Baby, interviews with Sid Haig, commentaries by Jack Hil on both films, one of Jack Hill’s short films. Arrow is rapidly becoming one of the best home video companies in the UK and look out for more by them in recent months and maybe some day they can release Coffy.


Ian Schultz

Spiderbaby (1968)
Rating: 18
BluRay Release Date: 24th June 2013(UK)
DirectorJack Hill
CastLon Chaney Jr.Carol Ohmart,Quinn K. Redeker,Sid Haig
Buy Spider BabyBlu-ray

Foxy Brown (1974)
Rating: 18
BluRay Release Date: 24th June 2013(UK)
DirectorJack Hill
Cast:  Pam Grier
Buy Foxy Brown: Blu-ray / SteelBook [Blu-ray]

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