Whether you’re talking about Cleopatra Jones (1973, Jack Starrett ) or Un Flic (1972, Jean-Pierre Melville), a cop movie is likely to have maps of the city (thanks to M (1931, Fritz Lang) more than anything else, I’d guess).

Cleopatra Jones map 1 Un Flic maps in police office 1 M map 6One of the interesting aspects to Cleopatra Jones is that it includes some other visual aids. For instance, one of the cops has a bar graph on his wall:

Cleopatra Jones bar graphYou don’t see a wall-size bar graph too often in cop movies. Maybe they’re tracking arrests – a spike at the end of February and again in late April and early May. Mommy (Shelly Winters), the film’s villain, uses a map in Cleopatra Jones as well.

Cleopatra Jones map 2It’s important to maintain a sense of your drug-dealing territory.

But head and shoulders above all the maps we find Reuben’s (Bernie Casey) visual aid for his community organization.

Cleopatra Jones visual aidsThere’s so much to like in this composition – the way in which the 1970s colour palette throws the primary-coloured pills into relief, the empty seat at the front of the table that clears the way for our view of the image, and the hand-drawn nature of the image itself. We know Reuben is completely above-board because of that flip-chart image.

All of these visual aids make it possible for an exploitation picture like Cleopatra Jones to get to the stuff it wants to do quicker. There’s no need to have long tedious exposition theatre scenes when you can have something else in the image carry the weight. Rather than having one stupid vocal tic that throws in a laugh line every dang scene, the current way of doing things, the stuff that sits still in the mise en scene gives us a sense of who these people are and what they do. Cops + maps (+ graphs) = collecting evidence. Villain + map + shouting = under pressure. Secondary lead + hand-drawn graphic representation of drugs to avoid = legit.

Now let’s get to the chase through the Los Angeles River.Cleopatra Jones LA River chase

 

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