The Import Corner: Pam Grier is Coffy and Coffy Is Good. A Coffy (Arrow Video U.K.) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots

Coffy is one of the very best Blaxploitation films out there, with a great performance from Pam Grier. The film has some really nice action scenes and also has a killer soundtrack.

Released by: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 13th, 1973 (Theatrical)
                        April 20th, 2015 (Blu-ray)

Region Code: REGION B (locked)

Run Time: 1h 31m

Audio: English LPCM Mono

Video: 1080p (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio)

This is the end of your rotten life, you motherfuckin' dope pusher! -Coffy

THE FEATURES [3.5 out of 4]

Coffy Title Card

Commentary with director Jack Hill

Hill is a well-spoken man who clearly loves what he does for a living and you can tell from listening to this commentary track. Hill is brimming with information about the film. He starts off the track by telling us the story of how he got the job of writing and directing Coffy. He then moves to talking about working with Pam Grier and the other members of the cast. While listening to the track, you will find that Hill has a love for his actors and almost lost his job because he chose to shoot a scene in a comedic sense instead of as an action scene. This is the second commentary track that I have listened to from Hill and he is always engaging and fun to listen to.

A Taste of Coffy with Jack Hill (18m 49s, HD)

Hill was hired to and direct Cleopatra Jones by AIP, until AIP lost the rights at the last minute. The producer was furious that the project was taken to a different studio because of a better deal with that studio. Hill was told that he was to write a film that could knock Cleopatra Jones out of the water. Hill wrote the film for Pam Grier, who he had worked with on two films before this, and told AIP that Grier was the only actress that could do the role. After finishing the film, Hill was not allowed to edit the film as he had with the Cage films he made for Roger Corman. Hill says that AIP hated directors and only allowed them to direct a film and move on to another project. Hill also talks about the sequel, which would have been called “Burn Coffy Burn” (which is a great title). The studio hated the title and wanted Hill to make a different film. That film would become Foxy Brown. Just like in his commentary, Hill offers up a cornucopia of information about the film and his troubles with AIP.

Pam Grier: The Baddest Chick in Town (17m 38s, HD)

Pam Grier got her start in exploitation films like The Big Bird Cage and Women in Cages, and she is not ashamed of that. She does consider her films to be exploitation, but that is how Hollywood is. She talks about the script and how it hit close to home and she didn’t want to do a film that sugar coated the issues with the black community. She gives us a bit of her history and how she got into the business. Grier comes off as a humble woman who had a great time making films in the 70s.

Blaxploitation! (28m 56s, HD)

This is a video essay by Mikel J. Koven, who gives us a history of black actors in cinema up to the 70s. These roles were mostly servants and slaves, not very many starring roles for blacks. It was Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadassssss Song that changed the way that black films were seen by the studios. All of a sudden, all the big studios wanted a piece of the action and that meant hiring black actors to be in the lead roles and sometimes even directing films. Most of the films would have some type of message attached to it, usually about drugs, but the films were also about sticking it to the man and standing up for what is right. All of this was done through exploitation. This is a well made essay that should have been longer. I wanted more, but sadly there wasn’t any.

Theatrical Trailer (2m 1s, HD)

This is a well produced trailer that gives the entire film away.

Image Gallery (16 Images)

THE PACKAGING [3.5 out of 4]

Coffy comes to us courtesy of Arrow Video U.K. (in the states the film was released on blu-ray from Olive Films, who sadly did not even port over the commentary track from the MGM DVD release from years ago) and they have done a bang up job here.

The front cover has newly commissioned artwork by Giles Vranckx. It is minimal (not that minimal) but it does the job of looking nice on the shelf.

The reverse side offers the original theatrical poster, which is usually what I prefer. The art gives us a taste of the many things to come in the film.

The disc art is from another poster for the film, with Grier wearing a red outfit holding a sawed off shotgun. Ratings labels (which are a law in many countries) are placed onto the disc and cover art. 
The reverse cover art does not contain these ratings logos.

Also inside the case is a 24 page booklet with essays from Cullen Gallagher and Yvonne D. Sims. 
Both of these essays are worth the few minutes it will take to read them. In the back of booklet is information about the transfer.

All of this is packaged inside of the normal clear amray case (14mm) that Arrow uses for most of 
their releases. The clear case works better with the artwork than a blue case.

The disc is REGION B (locked).

THE PICTURE [3.5 out of 4]

Coffy wants to shank a bitch with a broken bottle

I really like the transfer for Coffy. This is not a transfer that is going to win awards, but I think that it is pretty faithful to the source material. Detail is high, with us being able to see a lot of the smaller things that went into the costume design (which is really nice). We can also see the pores on the actors’ faces. Colors are a bit muted, except when it comes to flesh colors, but that is expected from a film that seems grittier and down and dirty. The colors that do shine are the oranges and reds of the various costumes that Grier wears in the film. There is a nice level of grain as well and I did not see any DNR or other digital manipulations. This transfer could have been better, but I am more than happy with what we have been given.

THE SOUND [3.5 out of 4]

Coffy tries to persuade the bad guy to do something good

Arrow has given us one audio track (outside of the commentary track) and it does the job nicely. Coffy is a dialogue heavy film, with the music coming up second. Everything is nicely done here. Dialogue is crisp and clear and there is no hissing or distortions. The music comes through loud and clear and has nothing wrong with it either. This is a nice track.

THE FILM [3.5 out of 4]

Sid haig wants him some Coffy

Coffy is one of the first Blaxploitation films that I had ever seen. It used to play on Channel 50 all the time with other Blaxploitation classics like Slaughter! and Hell Comes to Harlem. I have seen this film a bunch of times and it was the film that made me fall in love with Pam Grier.

Grier is a force to be reckoned with and she doesn’t take no for an answer. Her first scene in Coffy climaxes with her blowing a guy’s head off with a sawed off shotgun. If there is any better introduction for an actress of color, then you must point me in the direction of that film. From then on, Grier’s Coffy has to juggle her day job (as a nurse) and her night job of busting dope pushers. Her motive is her younger sister (who we see twice and then forget about) who succumbed to the temptations of dope and is now in the hospital.

Coffy goes about getting to the top of the dope game by using her brains as well as her body. This film came out during a time when being a black actress meant that you could kick as much ass as you wanted to and tell the story that you wanted to, but you had to so while getting naked throughout the film. I don’t think that there is a man alive (gay or straight) that could resist Ms. Grier. The attitude and the body make one lethal combination. There are scenes where random men come up to Coffy and she takes care of them but quick.

The film was directed by Jack Hill who had a few films under his belt at the time. He made a slew of pictures with Roger Corman, including one of many versions of Blood Bath and The Big Bird Cage. Working on the Corman films taught Hill how to shoot fast and lean. The schedule for Coffy was 18 days and that is quick for an action film. Hill also had worked with Grier and Sid Haig before so he already knew their strengths and weaknesses. The scenes between Grier and Haig are really good, they play off of each other very well, and they are some of the best scenes in the film. Hill trusted his actors, but knew when to rein them in.

Coffy is one of the first Blaxploitation films and set the groundwork for the many, many films to follow. It showed audiences that blacks could do just as good a job as whites could and it showed the studios that black films could go up against white films any day of the week. In fact, I would put Grier up there with the likes of Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Yeoh as one of the best action stars of all time.

Coffy is a really good film with good performances and a rockin’ soundtrack. The acting can be a bit wobbly at times and the action is a little stiff, but the film has so much going for it that we can look past the minor quibbles. I wish that more people would take a look at Blaxploitation films. Most of the are entertaining and some of them even have Pam Grier. So you really can’t go wrong.

OVERALL [3.5 out of 4]

Coffy holds a shotgun at someone offscreen

Arrow has done a fantastic job bringing Coffy to blu-ray. The film is great and look great too. The sound is really good as well. The special features give us a detailed look at the making of this film as well as what it was like to be a person of color headlining an action film in the 70s. There is a lot to this release and I would recommend it to anyone who likes good action and Pam Grier.  

Post a Comment