Plot: Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson) is an elite special agent, but she keeps her focus on making a difference in her own neighborhood, even if that means traveling across the globe to do so. Jones winds up in Turkey, where she lays waste to millions of dollars worth of poppy fields and she couldn’t be happier, as that means less drugs will be on the streets back home. But local crime boss Mommy (Shelley Winters) is irate about the loss of the precious fields and she calls in every favor she has to try to settle the score, even leaning on corrupt cops and crooked officials. This leads to some of Jones’ friends being framed for crimes and of course, she doesn’t take that well and kicks off a full on showdown with Mommy’s forces. But can one woman, even one as bad ass as Cleopatra Jones take down an entire crime syndicate?
Entertainment Value: This is a super fun movie, one of the first and most bad ass female driven blaxploitation epics, the over the top Cleopatra Jones has style, action, and of course, massive camp value. The narrative is rooted in the usual blaxploitation elements, but with some colorful and outlandish ingredients blended in, such as Shelley Winters as the ridiculous, hilarious villain. This is almost like a female James Bond to boot, as Cleopatra has a mastery of just about every skill you could think of, which includes martial arts and marksmanship. So she can outrace you on a motorbike, has a wicked set of wheels, and can fight circles around most men, a street tough superhero, if you will. This leads to a very fun movie, but you never doubt that Cleopatra will come out on top, so the tension is low and compared to its genre peers, there’s not as much grit to the atmosphere. But it entertains and has style to burn, not to mention wild action scenes and a brisk pace that ensures the movie rarely slows down. I think this one would be of interest to anyone who appreciates blaxploitation cinema or action movies with a campy texture.
This one has a lot of camp value and the performances reflect that, with some over the top efforts on showcase. Tamara Dobson has the titular role and does exactly what the character requires, kick ass and look damn good while it happens. She is more or less a superhero here, as Cleopatra can crush her enemies and set the fashion trends all in one fell swoop. Her performance is a little more sincere than most in the movie, which works since her persona is one of a cool, collected type special agent. But she has sparks of camp and especially in the fight scenes, where there is some unintended humor, though the action is still fun to watch. As good as Dobson is, Shelley Winters goes bananas in Cleopatra Jones and steals her fair share of scenes. Winters really embraces the camp in the material, from her wild performance to outlandish clothes to wacky wigs, she goes for it in grand style here. I think having an outrageous, colorful villain suits the tone of the movie just fine and Winters is immense fun to watch in action. The cast also includes Bernie Casey, Brenda Sykes, and Antonio Fargas.
The Disc: Warner Archive has unleashed Cleopatra Jones on Blu-ray in an all new remaster and it looks fantastic. The image is clear and super clean, with rock solid detail and the inherent grain is present, so the movie looks natural throughout. The colors are in order, not the boldest visual approach in terms of hues, but it looks as it should, while contrast is spot on as well. This is a marked improvement in all respects, one that is well worth the upgrade from previous incarnations.