Directed by Gordon Parks Jr – the son of the man who directed Shaft (1971) – this superb Blaxploitation film starred Ron O’Neal as antihero Youngblood Priest, a nattily attired Harlem coke dealer looking to make one last big score before getting out of the business and starting a new, crime-free life.
But things don’t go as he planned.
The hard-boiled action movie/crime drama was financed by a group of independent African American businessmen and utilised a crew that was nearly all black as well. The film also boasted a sizzling soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield.
In addition to further fanning the flames of the Blaxploitation fad (1972 also produced Barry Shear’s Across 110th Street and William Crain’s Blacula), the film presaged the infiltration of cocaine and flashy pimp clothes (platform shoes, flare-collared shirts, wide-lapelled suits) into the American mainstream.
The movie was a huge success in the US and abroad, although it may appear somewhat dated now – the black men are little more than robots, the white men are crooked and the women (black and white) are mere sex objects.
The dialogue is so crisp, though, and O’Neal’s character is so quietly charismatic that this movie is near impossible to fault.
O’Neal went on to direct sequel Superfly TNT the following year.
Gordon Parks Jr