Women solving mysteries: this week’s movies

 

FRIDAY FOSTER (1975), which I listed in Tuesday’s memorable films post, is a blacksploitation throwback to 1930s films about fast-talking, female reporters such as Glenda Farrell’s Torchy Blaine series, though it’s actually based on a newspaper comic strip (the first with a black female lead). Pam Grier is Friday, a camera jockey trying to figure out the connection between a friend’s murder, “black Howard Hughes” Thalmus Rasulala, fashion designer Eartha Kitt, gay drug dealer Godfrey Cambridge, lecherous clergyman Scatman Crothers and a mysterious conspiracy called “black widow.” The plot has some huge holes (I honestly can’t see what the bad guys would have gained from killing Friday) but it’s fun and Grier is charmingly sexy (she also hops into a number of beds without the movie doing any slut-shaming, which is cool). With Yaphet Kotto as Grier’s PI boyfriend, Jason Bernard as a schemer Ted Lange as a pimp and Jim Backus as the Evil White Mastermind. “Sex is on the male mind every other minute … and on the female mind every other second.”

Normally when a movie trailer promotes T&A as much as STACEY (1973) I assume that’s all the movie has to recommend it. As it turns out, this is pretty good as a low-budget PI thriller with Anne Randall (whose impressive T&A are displayed quite a bit) as the gumshoe (happily a very competent one) hired to check out a wealthy widow’s potential heirs. What she finds includes adultery, homosexuality, group sex and of course, murder. Fun, though the ending chase feels like padding at times. “Never trust anyone you haven’t been sleeping with for a while.”

INCENDIES (2010) is a French/Canadian film in which an Arab immigrant’s will denies her adult children the right to put up a gravestone until they find the brother they didn’t know they had and the father they thought was dead. Investigating, the daughter learns about their mother’s past as a pacifist idealist, an angry terrorist, a torture victim and a heroic prisoner (“They call her the woman who sings.”) and where the rest of their family is hiding. Very good. “Childhood is a knife stuck in your throat.”

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