Santa Kleinman just sent me a fist full of Pam Grier classics. We already talked about Foxy Brown a few weeks back, but rashly skipped right over the immortal Coffy (1973, 90 minutes), which burns a bit hotter and longer than its slick, non-sequel sequel. It won't happen again, sugar. We'll also explore the kinder, gentler side of Ms. Grier in the comic-strip-turned-motion-picture called Friday Foster. And finally, for the moment, the Queen of Blaxploitation revisits her women-in-prison roots in the sweeping anti-buddy picture Black Mama, White Mama. All-in-all vintage Pam. But where's that Jackie Brown disc?
The movie: Coffy (Grier) is a nurse fed up with the police department's inaction in her community -- one that's crawling with dope pushers, pimps and the politicians who seem to be pulling the strings. But it's when her own sister falls victim to the scourge of drugs that Coffy picks up a sawed-off shotgun and decides to settle the score. And revenge fells GOOD, baby. In between some late-night cavorting with her civic-minded boyfriend, the one-chick hit squad follows a trail of junkies and working girls to King George (Robert DoQui) who is the pimpiest pimp who ever pimped. And that's just describing his wardrobe. Coffy infiltrates his harem of high-class escorts, which isn't easy especially seeing how they're an extremely MEAN group of gals. Thankfully, this tension builds into a catfight royal that's darn near unrivaled in B-cinema's lurid history. Though her detective work isn't exactly in Jim Rockford's league, she talks and sexes her way into the inner circle responsible for most of the unseemly stuff that'd hacked her off in the first place. But who she comes face-to-face with there may prove more than one woman can take. At least without a loaded scattergun in her hands. CineSchlockers will snicker when they first see Allan Arbus as the diminutive mob boss who makes, ahem, UNUSUAL demands of King George's girls. Arbus is probably most recognized for his recurring role as Dr. Sidney Freedman on "M*A*S*H."
Notables: 13 breasts. Eight corpses. Shotgun blast to the face. High-speed pimp pull. Gratuitous Jamaican accent. Dinner tray to the brainpan. Throat slashing. The ol' razorblades in the bouffant gag. Busted bottle as weapon. Multiple diddling.
Quotables: Coffy in Angel of Death mode, "This is the end of your ROTTEN life -- you mother f@#%ing dope pusher!!!" In Seductress mode, "Now don't start gettin' insecure ... you know the long goodie will keep on workin' as long as I'm able to handle it." At least he's an HONEST wimp, "I'm sorry, man. I can't argue with no .45."
Time codes: Coffy puts the permanent hurt on a dealer (6:22). Angry lesbian comes to the rescue of her woman (31:10). High-class hookers try to pull each other's hair out (43:00). Cop gets clobbered by a car (1:15:30).
Audio/Video: Presented in its original widescreen (1.85:1) format. The print is mostly clean, but exhibits noticeable grain during dimly lit scenes. Utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track. This disc is part of MGM's "Soul Cinema" line that each carry an unusually low suggested retail price ($15 and lower). The prints aren't exactly pristine, nor is any real effort spent on creating superior audio masters, but most feature trailers and the occasional commentary. Titles include Black Caesar, Coffy, Cotton Comes To Harlem, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, Sheba, Baby, Slaughter, Slaughter's Big Rip-Off, Truck Turner and Black Mama, White Mama. Plus, the Keenen Ivory Wayans parody of these films, I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka.
Extras: Another solid commentary by legendary B-auteur Jack Hill. The writer/director talks about preparing the script with Ms. Grier in mind, as he'd worked with her previously on The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. He also explains why he specifically cast a one-eyed man as one of the heavies. Mr. Hill is insightful and refreshingly modest when discussing his work. Theatrical trailer. Static menus without audio. No insert or liner notes.
Final thought: Coffy is a ferociously violent, but truly unique heroine, as she uses her wits and buxom bod to seduce the scum who ultimately end up in her crosshairs, instead of her bed. Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.