Straight to USB: Superfly (1972)

It’s that one moment in the film that you have heard so much about, the one that makes those pop-culture references make sense, it’s the twist, the tear-jerker, the strumming of every heart string, the capture, the escape, the embrace, the rejection, the close call and the ‘did you just see that?’.

Do you know what made this moment so brilliant and memorable? Was it that beautiful cinematography? The ever so clever script? Or the acting of that person you have on your Hall Pass list? Sure they play a big role, but for me, it’s always the soundtrack. When what we hear, perfectly matches with what we see, that is when we take a hard left down Feels Street and we have those moments as a viewer. Well, for at least me anyway that is the case and to be honest if you are reading about films on a music blog then I’m hedging some very short odds that you’re rowing in the same boat.

The presence (or even the absence) of music in a film is the unsung hero of the cinematic experience. Maybe not an unsung as I would like to make out considering Hans Zimmer just played Coachella. Nevertheless, it guides us, misdirects us, scares us and excites us just as much, if not more then what is going on in front of our faces.

There’s plenty of great movie moments that the soundtrack and choice of song will forever be connected to. You may reenact Bender’s one fist in the air every time you hear Simple Minds, or you may have both fists are in the air as you Balboa your way up some stairs humming that famously awful Survivor riff. However, I am not concerned with these great cinematic moments and neither is this series of articles. I’m concerned with the soundtracks that you blast through your headphones, but wouldn’t dare find their way onto your TV screen. This series is all about highlighting the above average soundtracks, which feature in rather average films. It is about showing that their is some bop in every flop and that even a Razzie nomination can be a jazzy exploration.

(NOTE: Do keep in mind that this is simply based on my subjective taste in films and music. So if you believe one of the movies mentioned in the coming weeks has high-quality cinematic value and your offended, don’t bother letting me know, just continue mulling over what score to give the new Michael Bay film on IMDb and arguing with your mates about why Leo should two Oscars and was robbed in Wolf Of Wall Street)

Superfly (1972)

I thought why not start with one that is not such an obvious imbalance and easily the most contentious of them all. For some it is the pinnacle of blaxploitation cinema, for many, it is a cult classic and I’m sure a lot will disagree with me here, however, I believe Superfly to be an average film.

For those that haven’t seen it the films plot and main dramatic focus is upon a New York drug dealer that yearns to escape the dangerous yet lavish world which he lives in. Whilst it is an enjoyable movie, with some engaging themes I think personally that it more or less just dangles such gritty themes over viewers to engage their interest, like a baby to car keys. For me, Gordon Parks Jr’s film fails to properly explore or deeply represent such themes of addiction, corruption and inequality enough to be highly regarded.

To set the record straight I love 70’s cinema, so this isn’t a case of something ageing awfully. I love long scenes, drawn out dialogue and slow transitioned camera work. However, fairly often important features of the film or elements of the plot are so blatantly zoomed in upon or stressed through the script that I would be upset with my dog if it didn’t predict the twists.

Whilst the coming weeks are truly average films, this made it purely because Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack doesn’t just stand alone from the movie, it bloody runs, sprints and hurdles beyond it. There are not many better examples of a score dwarfing the film that it is written for. So, with this in mind in comparison, the brilliance of Mayfield’s soundtrack makes the film just average. Many might not have even realised the title track of the album ‘Superfly’ has a film of the same name it is written for. Curtis even pops up in the film playing himself and performing the track ‘Pusherman’.

I would highly recommend giving the soundtrack a start-to-finish listen below. Each track that Mayfield includes on the soundtrack is not so much written to accompany the scenes of the film but they are to dissect the very themes that the film touches on and what Curtis sees as the vices that were plaguing American streets and society at the time. This one for me is most definitely Straight to USB.