Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

“I never claim to be God… Only close to him.”

With the help of a local detective (Tanny) in Hong Kong, female operative Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson) tries to rescue her co-workers (Albert Popwell and Caro Kenyatta) from the clutches of a vicious drug dealer known as the Dragon Lady (Stella Stevens).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • African-Americans
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Drug Dealers
  • Shelley Winters Films
  • Stella Stevens Films
  • Strong Females

Response to Peary’s Review:
Although I haven’t yet seen 1973’s Cleopatra Jones (not listed in Peary’s book), I believe Peary when he states that this sequel — a “sexy, funny, fast-moving exploitation film” — is “better than the original.” As Peary notes, “Amazonian” Tamara Dobson (“one of the main assets of [the] blaxpoitation generation”) is “no Pam Grier”, but she fits the bill here as a larger-than-life female agent; in her outrageously colorful outfits and over-the-top make-up, she’s consistently stunning to look at. Even better, however, is her “pretty and lethal” sidekick (played by “Tanny”, a.k.a. Ni Tien), who kicks some serious butt in a couple of well-choreographed fight scenes; meanwhile, cult film star Stella Stevens seems to be having fun in her role as the Dragon Lady, a drug “queenpin” who you don’t want to mess with. The film as a whole moves quickly, and director Chuck Bail makes good use of authentic Hong Kong locales; the final extended fight sequence — taking place inside the Dragon Lady’s baroque “Casino of Gold” — is especially exciting.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • “Tanny” as Mi Ling
  • Stella Stevens as the Dragon Lady
  • Cleopatra’s seemingly endless array of outrageous outfits
  • Enjoyably stylized set designs
  • Effective use of Hong Kong street locales

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look as a representative blaxploitation / “strong female” film of the ’70s.


One thought on “Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, though blaxploitation fans will likely check it out.

    I didn’t feel qualified to respond re: this film until I had seen the original. Now that I have (I take my ‘homework’ seriously! 😉 ), I can’t agree with Peary that this sequel is the better film (though it certainly tries hard).

    In a manner similar to Bruce Lee films, this sequel has some difficulty establishing and maintaining a consistent tone. The original doesn’t have that problem; from the beginning, it has a more compelling narrative drive. (I won’t make the case that ‘CJ’ is a *good* film – such things are relative when it comes to films of this type; fans can be less than discriminating – but it comes off as more focused.)

    ‘CJ’ has a better script (certainly the dialogue is better and has more punch to it, allowing Dobson to come off as a stronger character). It also has a more formidable villainess in Shelley Winters as ‘Mommy’. As the Dragon Lady, Stevens (until near the end) comes off as soft, and lacking the command more suitable for someone in her position.

    ‘CJ’ has a memorable centerpiece car chase sequence which ‘COG’ attempts to copy in short form; it’s less effective.

    In its defense, ‘COG’ does become rather lively in its final 15 minutes – in a way that makes me think that Tarantino might consider the sequel to be the better flick.

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