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    Auction Finds

    Super Fly, Shaft & black movie posters

    Ron O’Neal looked out from the “Super Fly” poster at the auction house in all his grandness – the same way I remembered him from the 1970s in his long coat, matching wide-brimmed hat, quarter-moon moustache and flowing hair.

    It also brought back memories of Curtis Mayfield singing his song:

    “Darkest of night
    With the moon shinin’ bright
    There’s a set goin’ strong
    Lotta things goin’ on
    The man of the hour
    Has an air of great power
    The dudes have envied him for so long

    Oh, Superfly …”

    In the early 1970s, Superfly, Shaft and Coffy helped usher in a trend that broke the mold of who was on the big screen, what their message was and who their enemies were. The movies even got their own name – blaxploitation – and black folks went in droves to the theaters to see them.

    “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” (1971)  is deemed by some to be the first of the lot. Melvin Van Peebles wrote it, produced it, directed it and starred in it. He even wrote the score and Earth, Wind and Fire recorded it. I never saw the movie, but I did see some of the others from that period – the Shafts, the N- Charlies (can’t print that word), Robert Hooks’ “Trouble Man” with that sad sad theme song by my man Marvin Gaye.

    So what that these movies dealt with the worst of our culture (drugs, pimps, hit men and lots of killings). For once, we were telling the story – in effect, a far different story – and taking charge. That was pretty heady for a people whose lives had been so controlled by others.

    So we sopped up these new heroes, all oozing sexuality along with their brashness: No one could fill out a pair of black leather pants and jacket like Shaft (Richard Roundtree will always be John Shaft). For us black women, Coffy was our female hero and to this day we all just adore Pam Grier.

    Grier in “Sheba, Baby” was among the more than 300 posters for sale recently at one of my favorite auction houses. Ten boxes of posters had been stored away for the last 20 years in a garage owned by a former local theater employee, according to the auctioneer. This person apparently was a collector of sorts, but he didn’t take good care of his collection – most of the posters had been folded. In some instances, creases had cut across the center of the posters, defacing the sheets.

    Posters lay in stacks of up to a dozen on rows of tables and on the floor under tables, and hung in two rows on the walls. Bidders, including my auction buddy Janet who is a horror-movie aficionado, followed the auctioneer closely from table to table. The auctioneer tried to lighten up the bidding by mimicking dialogue from a few of the movies he had seen.

    Blaxploitation was not the only thing selling, though. There were horror, classic mainstream, kung fu (Bruce Lee) and more recent movie posters.

    Blaxploitation posters from the 1970s and 1980s – some in groups of 19 assorted sheets – sold for $17.50 to $32.50. The highest poster sold was Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke” for $135. There was at least one person at the auction who snapped up most of the posters at ridiculously low prices.

    Here’s a sampling of the sales (the prices do not include a 15 percent premium):

    Sweet Sweetback, $130

    Cooley High, $80

    Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, $25

    Black Mama White Mama, $22.50

    Super Fly, $40

    Black Girl, $40

    Shaft’s Big Score (2 posters), $22.50 & $25

    Shaft in Africa, $25

    Boss N–, $47.50

    Sheba, Baby, $35

    Legend of N– Charley, $22.50

    Petey Wheatstraw, featuring Rudy Ray Moore, $9

    The Black Gestapo (2 posters), $12 & $30

    Penitentiary (2 posters), $3 & $12

    Let’s Do It Again (3 posters), $7, $8, $17

    Hot Potato/Enter the Dragon, $5

    Black Shampoo (2 posters), $9 & $10

    Uptown Saturday Night, $12

    Altered States, $22.50

    Jimi Hendrix Rainbow Bridge, $45

    Mad Max, $80. This was one of the few in very good condition.

    Apocalypse Now, $65

    Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke, $135.

    Godzilla vs Megalon, $70

    Rocky II, $20

    Dressed to Kill, $5

    Raiders of the Lost Ark, $75. Another one in good condition.

    Galaxy of Terror, $85

    Janet was able to buy three horror movies. Here they are with her commentary:

    Cannibal Girls, with stars from SCTV, $10

    The Devil’s Rain, with Ernest Borgnine, a young William Shatner and Ida Lupino’s final movie, $7.

    Her only blaxploitation movie poster, Willie Dynamite, $3.

    Enjoy the slideshow of movie posters below. Click the first photo to see the first group and click on 2 to see the rest.

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