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Cleopatra Jones (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection scratches yet another title from my ongoing Blu-ray wishlist with the kick-ass 70s film Cleopatra Jones. This was a pleasant surprise when it was announced, giving potential hopes to the likes of its sequel Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold landing on Blu-ray or maybe even the possibility of the Shaft sequels (Shafts Big Score, Shaft In Africa) FINALLY seeing the light of day around the time the new film drops. I’m a fan of restoring and getting these exploitation classics out there and this is one of the more high profile titles. Unfortunately its light on the bonus material, but getting a newly mastered transfer of the film on the Blu-ray format is the best you can really ask for at this point when streaming seems to be the focus of most of the major studios. It does have its classic trailer attached, so that IS something (Considering those were gems back in the day). Order a copy using the link below. 

Film 

Tamara Dobson is Cleopatra Jones, a special agent in the international war against dope, but she has her own private vendetta going against the pushers who operate in the ghettos.  Her most ruthless enemy is Mommy (Shelley Winters). After Cleopatra supervises the spectacular napalm burning of her Turkish poppy fields, Mommy lures Cleopatra stateside by framing Cleopatra’s anti-drug crusading man (Bernie Casey) as a dopester. But Mommy has just unwittingly opened a can of karate-kitten whup-ass.

1973’s Cleopatra Jones is a quick and fun little action packed escape. The film is basically James Bond enters a street-level action film. The glamour is there in the character, but the story is more localized and the action feels a bit more raw. It feels like this was some sort of bigger studio answer to Coffy, but my mind would be blown if they got this whole thing put together, shot, finished and in theaters just 2 months after that film happened (Coffy – May 1973, Cleopatra Jones – July 1973). Probably a happy coincidence or just the vibe at the time was heading in the direction of getting a female ass kicker out there in theaters.

Pam Grier vs Tamara Dobson was probably a schoolyard/film nerd debate back in the 1970s. Obviously, Grier is an icon to this day, but lets not sell Dobson short here. She’s quite commanding, cool and confident here. Dobson is also really tall and looms large over the rest of the cast, adding an agent of believable fear to scenes where she’s about to whip some dudes ass. But she’s also got a high class sense of style and makes everything feel so effortless while wearing stylish, runway-level clothing.

Jack Starrett’s film is a pretty solidly paced film that delivers decent drama between the action. The action in the film ranges from kung fu fights, shoot outs and foot/car chases.  For the most part, the action is well shot, staged and cut in the film that impresses still today. The centerpiece is a flat out, all-timer car chase scene that I’m surprised nobody brings up because there is much like it. Its a rugged fun, and intense ride that sees cars driving through an emptied canal with still some water flying everywhere and balancing the on the ramped walls lining it.

Cleopatra Jones is quite fun and feels like a slicker version of a Pam Grier film. For the most part, it delivers those goods, but has quite its own flavor as well. Dobson is a unique presence and brings both finesse, fear, power and charm to her role. It does have some 70s movie dragging in areas, but the overall plot is engaging enough and the film shines in the action department, highlighted by the car chase mentioned about. Its a fun romp, and hopefully we see its sequel heading the format soon as well.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Cleopatra Jones debuts on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection with a new 2019 transfer on the film. It looks pretty great here too. The film looks very slick, clean and polished. Cleopatra’s image is pretty crisp looking with good sharpeness overall. WAC continues to deliver quality catalog titles from any era with this one.

Depth:  Depth of field is solid here with good looking pushback on the backgrounds, especially in exteriors, with the finale looking quite good. Motion is cinematic and natural with no distortions noticed.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and not far off from a pretty natural look. Grain is a hair heavier in the darker areas of the frame. No real issues occur with missing detail and no crushing found.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty solid here and it has a very 70s sheen to it. Oranges, reds, purples and more come through very solid. The film features many flashy bits of apparel and the transfer does bolster them but shows some good sense of restraint and keeps to what is likely the films natural look.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and pretty rich throughout with good consistency. Facial features and textures are visible in any reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty clear, but do have some limitations. Shelley Winters’ screaming does peak quite a bit during some of her louder moments.

Extras 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:57) – Deems Shelley Winters as “The female successor to Goldfinger”.

Summary 

Cleopatra Jones is a fun little 1970s action relic and a bit of a breezy watch. Warner Archive Collection finally brings this exploitation classic to Blu-ray with a very nice transfer and some solid audio. A trailer is your only bonus feature. It’d be cool to have more, but personally I’m happy that this made the WAC slate this year. And the price on it is quite decent for a good pick up if you’re a fan of the film or a collector that this might wind up in your wheelhouse of pickups.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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