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Cleopatra Jones (1973)


Tamara Dobson is Cleopatra Jones
Shelley Winters is Mommy
Antonio “Huggie Bear From Starsky & Hutch” Fargas is Doodlebug

What the box says:

A Turkish poppy field is torched – and a U.S. drug trafficker known as “Mommy” (Shelley Winters) is feeling pretty burned. She phones the local cops she owns and orders a retaliatory strike on an inner-city anti drug headquarters. Mommy’s next call should be to 911. For now she’ll have to mess with CleopatraJones (Tamara Dobson).

Mommy is relentless in her vendetta - but Cleo responds with catlike karate stealth. (Bong So Hon, technical coordinator on Billy Jack, supervised the karate sequences.) Doodlebug, Pickle, Snake, Snake, and many more of Mommy's offbeat stooges add glide to the story's slide. Their antics, Mommy's chortling sleaziness, and Cleo's class shape the power and pizzazz of Cleopatra Jones.


We see a Turkish poppy field.

Credits roll to a funky opening song.

A helicopter lands, and Cleopatra Jones gets out of it wearing a full length coat that seems to be lines with many small animals... You must forgive the fashions of the 1970s. They don't have the hindsight that we have on them...A large group of various military and police officials are waiting for her. From the box and what we've seen earlier, this is a poppy burning mission. Cleo orders it burned and can boss vaguely European sounding military officials, too. One plane begins a strafing run on the field, which is pretty effective. At least, we don't see the drug growers running around like chickens with their heads cut off... The poppies are burning...

Cut to Shelley Winters in a red wig as a drug queen-pin known as Mommy. Folks, I can't make anything like this up. Mommy is screaming about how Cleo is ruining her business. Apparently, some blonde chick is the only one that makes Mommy feels ok. This is definitely on the creepy side. But, thankfully, that's all that happens or is said. With Cleo in Turkey, the drug pipeline is closed. Cleo must be really effective aside from her ability to dress like a female pimp... But, Mommy wants Cleo back in the USA and has a plan. Blonde chick is massaging Mommy's feet while she strokes the Blonde's hair. Gah, that was really creepy...

The cops pull outside of the B&S House, which is the charity anti drug house Cleo established. While, Reuben explains to a group about anti drug awareness, the cops storm in the place to serve a search warrant. Is there any movie that has the police knock on the door and not bust it down? They frisk everybody in the house. One teenager who is clean is found with a package of heroin and he tries to make a break for it. One of the uniform cops, Purdy, pulls his shotgun to shoot him. Kert, the only good cop at the bust, manages to knock the shotgun up to keep Purdy from shooting the sacred teenager. But, Purdy reads him his rights then beats the fire out of him. Nice to know LA cops haven't changed in more than 25 years.

Police Captain Lou Crawford is angry about the raid. He didn't authorize it. It came from some really high up who knew when no one could get a hold of Crawford and contact him about the raid. He's mad about how the place was tore up...Kert and Purdy are in the office. Purdy seems to not be bothered about any of this because one teenager was arrested. We all know that Purdy is a jerk and everyone with any compassion would skin and flay him to make the world a better place...Captain Crawford threatened to knock him out at which Purdy shuts up. Crawford gets on the phone to tell Cleo about what happened.

A plane lands. Cleo is back from Turkey. Several of Mommy's gang are waiting for her. Somehow they lose her. Cleo manages to get through on the baggage chute and the mobile luggage rack behind them. She starts to unleash some Kung Fu on them. I may not be able to identify the type but unleash some Karate doesn't sound as cool as unleash some Kung Fu....Finally, one of Mommy's gang pulls a gun, Cleo manages to get to her gun faster. Great airport security. Gun battle in the main terminal. The rest of Mommy's gang manages to escape. By this time, the cops surround Cleo, who flashes her special agent badge. The badge doesn't say what she's a special agent of FBI, CIA, or DEA? Cleo retrieves her hat and sashays off into the crowd.

The captain (or chief) learns about the attempted hit on Cleo at the airport. Cleo goes to her apartment and calls the captain to meet him to learn about the raid. All he knows was whoever organized the raid is high up. There aren't manyofficers higher up the captains in the police force. So, it shouldn't be too hard to narrow the number of people down. But, no one seems to think about that fact...

Mommy starts beating one of the guys who escaped from the airport. And, you don't want Mommy to beat you...She starts talking about how her dealers are losing respect for her which means that they are paying like they should and lowered profits. Mommy pulls down the map of her territories. A dark-headed chick brings Mommy a pointer. And large fat, old Shelley Winters squeezes her butt...Gah, this is getting creepier...Well, the box warns of Mommy's sleaziness, like we need a warning about that...

Cleo is in the hood. Cleo has a sweet corvette with personalized government plates "CLEO". She meets the captain and Kert. Cleo picks up some background on the guys at the airport. The city wants to close down the B&S house. With the number of people being hurt if it closes, Cleo convinces the captain to stall for 72 hours.

At the B&S house, some girl is insulting Cleo as she enters. Cleo and Reuben share a brief romantic embrace. Reuben helps somebody going through the heroin withdrawals. Apparently, down the hall, a group is preparing to keep the B&S house open. Shotguns and Molotov cocktails. The threat of an extremely bad riot to break out in Watts if the house is closed is very high. Cleo convinces Reuben hold off on any anything for 72 hours.

Across the street on a building's rooftop, a sniper waits to shoot Cleo. He misses and wings Reuben. Cleo gets to her car which on has an arsenal in the door. Sniper continues shooting. Cleo lets loose with an Uzi and manages to get across the street to the front of the building the sniper is. Cleo is about to use the stairs to get to the roof and sees the elevator going down. A little old man is pushing his wife in a wheelchair past her. Cleo tries to hide the gun behind her back as they pass her in the hall. As soon as they get past her, the little old couple is are part of Mommy's gang in disguise. The little old lady who looks like your grandmother has a shotgun under the wheelchair blanket. Cleo isn't fooled and lets them both have it. Scratch off two more members of Mommy's gang.

Doodlebug (Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas) is fixing his afro. He's worried about Mommy getting Cleo back in town. Everyone laughs at the pasty English butler, Mattingly. Cleo stops by for a visit. Doodlebug's man, Plug, tries to frisk her andfails at it. Plug pulls out his switchblade. Doodle calms his man down. Cleo wants Doodle to tell Mommy about the little old couple. Cleo warns Doodle if she finds out he and Mommy are behind it to watch out for her.

Cleo goes to a restaurant to talk to Mrs. Johnson. Cleo is looking for information about the raid on the B&S house. And trying to determine if Doodle is in on it, Cleo is also looking for Mrs. Johnson's boys. In a karate school, 2 guys are sparring. Cleo walks in to the school. We think that some serious Kung Fuin’ will ensue. But, it doesn't, they give each other five. Cleo wants the Johnson brothers to tail the uniform cop, Purdy, to find out about him.

At a dirt bike race, Cleo wants to know about Tiffany who is Doodlebug's girlfriend from her brother Miller Anderson. He angrily drives off. Cleo manages to convince another driver to let her borrow his bike. She manages to catch up with Miller.

Night at the B&S house, Cleo comes to visit Reuben who has his arm in a sling after being shot. Well, Sweet Lovin' ensues....

Mommy learns that Doodle is leaving the organization. Doodle is far from happy with her leadership and the percentage he makes either. Mommy gets 85%. He gets 15% and expenses come out of his end. Mommy graciously offers to raise his percentage to 25% which he equally graciously declines. Actually, Doodle has enough sense to not want to get in Cleopatra's way. He may be a drug dealer but at least he has some sense.

Cleo is driving and notices she's being followed. The car chase follows with the funky music playing in the background. Cleo is going through the streets ands alleys. Mommy's gang continually tries to shoot her. Finally, Cleo manages to get into the LA culvert system. A game of chicken follows between Cleo and one of the cars. Of course, Cleo wins. Now she only has one car left to ditch.

Doodlebug and his crew at a club watching his girlfriend Tiffany sing. At least, it isn't "I think we're alone now." Actually, it is a kind of funky gospel. Kind of toe-tapping... Doodle's crew is really into it or just sucking up...

The Johnson brothers are following Purdy. Apparently, Purdy is into fine cinema: "Deep Throat" and "Doctor and his Women." A question comes to mind. Can you buy boxes of Goober candy at adult theaters? Cause, Purdy gets a box of Goobers... I'm not sure if it was supposed to be that funny or not. But, we take funny moments when we find them... The Johnson brothers have a special conversation about money, which I don't want to spoil...

Mattingly is driving Doodle and his crew in the limo...Doodle has a short speech on how women are like hair...Two trucks then crash into the car, repeatedly. Tiffany manages to escape. Plug, Pickle, and Mattingly are killed. Doodle wakes up checks on them and starts shooting at the car with Mommy's gang. He doesn't stand a chance. He is shot dead. Tiffany is running for her life...

Cleo is back in the hood again. At a cheap run-down hotel, some guy tries to kill her. Cleo takes care of him fast. Then, she begins to question the charming pusher, Snake, about his business. Cleo wants his stash and begins to trash the room. Snake gives some answers and unwilling flushes his stash at Cleo's strong insistence.

The Johnson brothers tell Cleo about Purdy. He's not quite such a pure innocent soul. Purdy is selling stolen and confiscatedguns to anyone. Purdy beats it when Cleo shows up. She takes care of the buyers, Kung Fu style. Purdy is trapped between the Johnson brothers and manages to get away by threatening to shoot them. He almost gets out of the building as the fire escape ladder goes down right in front of him with Cleo right in front of him. Purdy gets Kung Fued, too. The police arrive and find pout that Purdy was selling stolen guns. Cleo is going to talk to Doodlebug again and discovers that Doodle and his crew are dead, but Tiffany escaped.

Cleo talks to Andy, Tiffany's brother, and convinces him to tell her where she is. Tiffany is hiding at a church and justifiably scared. Cleo gets there in time to be ambushed by Kert who apparently was working for Mommy all the time. Kert planted the drugs on the teenager and managed to have the B&S house raided, too.

In a junkyard, Mommy's gang is waiting for Cleo and Tiffany. Mommy's plan consists of putting them in a car, which will be compacted. At least, she doesn't have a secret plan to reveal. Mommy has one of her gang Tony, who has screwed up about everything he's done in the movie, find a car. subsequently, the car is picked up by the crane dropped to the ground and compacted, too. We now we know that the compactor is very efficient.

Cleo and Tiff are put in a car about to be compacted. But, Reuben manages to overpower the crane operator and set the car safely on the ground. The Johnson brothers commence to unleash some Kung Fu on Mommy's gang. While some more of the cavalry chase the rest of Mommy's gang in a bulldozer... Mommy tries to knife Cleo. Fat old white woman versus the kung fuin' Cleopatra Jones.... Mommy learns she has a better chance running away than fighting Cleo. Reuben is showing Kert not to mess with the community anti drug efforts by giving him a good thrashing as the dead Mattingly might opine...Mommy is climbing up some construction machinery. Cleo catches up with her and manages to throw her off the side. The fall kills Mommy. This is probably the only time I could type that last sentence without any sadness.

A party is being held for Cleo at the B&S house. She's about to go on another mission. Cleo and Reuben share a tender kiss goodbye. And she drives off in the Cleomobile. Her car needed a name....

What I say:

A few years ago, I caught the sequel to this on cable: "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold" and from what I remember it was pretty good. I managed to find a copy of the original. It is pretty good. The only thing I keep wondering is how Pam Grier would have done as Cleopatra. I thought that it managed to avoid some of the typical stereotypes of blaxsploitation movies. Mommy had white chicks. That has to be one of the stranger things to say in any review. For instance, in Black Gestapo, the bad guys are surrounded by white chicks in either bikinis or topless. This movie didn't have any nudity. Actually, it was really tame compared to some other movies...

Updated: 11-13-2006

First off, long after I posted this review a couple of months ago, Tamra Dobson died. She never really had that many starring roles but her Cleopatra Jones will probably be more remembered as part of the name for Beyonce's character of Foxy Cleopatra in the third Autsin Powers movie.


Quotable Dialogue

"Ride on sweet, sister."
"You're out of sight. Mr Pickles."

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