With his 1973 precursor to seminal Blaxploitation/female power flick Foxy Brown, writer/director Jack Hill (Switchblade Sisters) not only tapped into the burgeoning black power movement on the big screen but also helped lay the groundwork for violent revenge films, such as Death Wish (which would follow a year later) or Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
In Coffy, Pam Grier plays nurse “Coffy” Coffin, whose 11-year-old little sister is hopelessly strung out on heroin. Looking for vengeance on the dealers who got her sister hooked, Coffy goes poses as an addict to take down a dealer whose head she blows off with a shotgun. Then, after her childhood friend is beaten into a coma by his fellow police officers for refusing to take bribe money, Coffy goes undercover to rid her neighborhood once and for all of the corrupt cops and drug pushers. Posing as a Jamaican prostitute, she infiltrates the inner sanctum of drug kingpin and pimp King George ( Robert DoQui) and his ultimate boss, Italian mafioso crime boss Vitroni (Allan Arbus).
Filtered through decades of distance and history, Coffy is an exercise in absurdity, but in 1973 the idea of a black woman laying down some serious ass kicking on men and women of all colors, including corrupt white cops, and dirty politicians, was a radical and confrontational idea. Coffy is given plenty of chances to dish out nearly obscene levels of violence in this film, blowing off a man’s genitals, jamming a junkie with an overdose of heroin, and stabbing a goon several times in the neck. We even get the requisite amounts of sex and nudity, courtesy of Grier and others to fulfill the needs of all lovers of exploitative grindhouse fare.
Pam Grier is fantastic in her role as Coffy; she’s sexy, tough, and just a bit vulnerable, kicking butt and taking names. Altogether, there’s nothing much to argue against Coffy as a film that ticks all the boxes for what it is meant to be, an in your face, outrage-fueling exploitation film with plenty of gratuitous sex, violence, and social impropriety.
Arrow lists Coffy as a “Restored High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, on Blu-ray for the first time in the world!” it arrives with an AVC/MPEG-4 encodement that looks absolutely fantastic. Although it has been cleaned up so that dirt and scratches are not a problem, the image retains all of its natural grain structure, texture, and fine detail in close-ups and that detail extends well into the background shots. Furthermore, the nuance in the shadows is quite good, only breaking down in the darkest of scenes where some issues with crush and heightened grain levels do cover up some of the detail. It’s not enough to take away from the overall pleasing appearance, however, and problems with post-processing like edge enhancement aren’t a worry.
The original monaural soundtrack is supplied in an adequate LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) track. It’s just a little bit boxy and compressed, but given the age and limitations of the format provides a clean and reasonable aural experience that nicely conveys the funk and soul musical accompaniment and the dialogue.
- Commentary with Jack Hill
- A Taste of Coffy with Jack Hill (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:18:49) – A brand new interview with Jack Hill
- Pam Grier: The Baddest Chick in Town! (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:17:38) – A brand new interview with Pam Grier on Coffy and its follow up, Foxy Brown
- Blaxploitation! (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:28:56) – This specially commissioned video essay charts the history and development of the genre by author Mikel J. Koven.
- Theatrical Trailer (1.85:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:01)
- Image Gallery (1080p/24)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher and a profile of Pam Grier by Yvonne D. Sims, author of Women in Blaxploitation, illustrated with archive stills and posters
The Definitive Word
Arrow resurrects this primo Blaxploitation escapist classic with a fantastic, nearly flawless high definition transfer on Blu-ray. As genre films go, this one should satisfy most fans.