Pam Grier bursts into stardom with this classic Blaxploitation film from the ’70s
B-movie auteur Jack Hill wrote and directed one of the most successful hits in the Blaxploitation genre with this 1973 film for AIP. Coffy stars Pam Grier in one of her iconic roles as nurse “Coffy” Coffin, a woman that takes vigilante justice on the dope pusher who got her sister killed. This film’s success would soon pave the way for Grier’s stardom in other movies like Foxy Brown.
Blaxploitation flicks were made as cheap, disposable films originally intended for African-American audiences. Their diverse casts, colorful characters, and memorable soundtracks would later find a wider mainstream audience. Quentin Tarantino has called Coffy “one of the most entertaining movies ever made.” It’s a first-rate example of the genre, featuring a charismatic turn by Pam Grier as a lone vigilante hoping to even things up against a crime syndicate.
Coffy (Pam Grier) opens the film posing as a junkie in need of a fix, Coffy proposes trading her beautiful body to the dealer for a hit of heroin. The surprise is on him when Coffy pulls out a double-barrel shotgun and blows his head off. It’s a stunning, unforgettable moment in the film that works as the film’s calling card.
…a cultural touchstone that proved popular with film audiences.
…a cultural touchstone that proved popular with film audiences.
Coffy then uses any means at her disposal, including her body, to take down the head of the criminal ring pushing drugs into her community. The strong, independent black woman was a fairly new trend in the 1970s, a cultural touchstone that proved popular with film audiences. Coffy wants to permanently take out Vitroni, a Las Vegas gangster with closer ties to Coffy than she knows. It’s a fun ride as she pretends to be a Jamaican prostitute, working her way into a local pimp’s stable of women. King George, a colorful pimp character that practically defines the stereotype, indirectly works for Vitroni. Coffy hopes that connection will get her close enough to enact her vigilante justice.
Pam Grier is wonderful as the smart, tough Coffy. Her sex appeal in the role can’t be understated. The film crackles with an electricity that few female-driven movies of the era can match. What separates Coffy from some of the lesser Blaxploitation efforts are its well-planned story and believable characters. Jack Hill had no prior experience with Blaxploitation before Coffy but the movie still remains a memorable entry today in the field.
Arrow Video has locked this Blu-ray to Region B since they only control rights for the movie in the United Kingdom. Olive Films has released their own version of Coffy in the United States, presumably from the same HD master licensed from MGM. This is a serviceable, steady film transfer that looks like many other older MGM-licensed films on the format. The 1973 film is presented in its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution. This is not a recent transfer derived from a pristine scan of the original camera negative. Coffy has adequate clarity and definition, showing a decent improvement in the transition to Hi-Def video. Arrow claims this transfer was made from a 35mm interpositive, which sounds correct.
One thing that does its job is the strong AVC video encode, mastered at high bitrates on a BD-50. The compression has to deal with the thick grain structure of Coffy and its occasionally suspect black levels. Darker shots turn out fairly rough in picture quality, clipping some shadow detail and delineation. The softer film has its sharper moments but doesn’t exude the type of depth seen in newer film scans from better elements.
The transfer itself possesses decent color saturation and consistent contrast. Some mild processing to it is evident from the faint ringing and uneven grain structure. This transfer hasn’t been destroyed by filtering. The average levels of fine detail in close-ups is more attributable to the choice of film elements. Bits of positive and negative specks are part of the film print, which otherwise resides in stable condition with solid definition.
I suspect a new film restoration from the camera negative would make for a dramatic improvement in video quality over this BD. There is nothing overly wrong with the serviceable transfer but Coffy probably deserves better as a landmark film in Blaxploitation.
The music and score by Roy Ayers sounds better than ever in this remastered monaural audio presentation. The 1.0 PCM soundtrack has excellent fidelity and perfect recording quality. Its pleasing mono mix has a warm, inviting sound with crisp dialogue. The vintage tunes are a trademark of the Blaxploitation genre and sound fantastic in lossless quality.
Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.
Arrow Video provides a decent package of special features for Coffy. Highlights include a new interview with star Pam Grier as she reflects back on her career and an informative commentary by director Jack Hill. Hill is a veteran of commentaries and has the formula down pat as an entertaining speaker. The included booklet has a couple of nice pieces related to the film.
- Audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill
- A Taste of Coffy (18:49 in HD) – A brand new interview with Jack Hill in which he goes over how he got this gig and more.
- The Baddest Chick in Town! (17:36 in HD) – A brand new interview with Pam Grier on Coffy and its follow up, Foxy Brown.
- Blaxploitation! (28:55 in HD) – A video essay by author Mikel J. Koven (Blaxploitation Film) on the history and development of the genre. This is a very thorough piece that explores the evolving role of African-American actors in movies.
- Original theatrical trailer (02:00 in upscaled HD)
- Image Gallery
- 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.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a screener that may not represent the retail disc. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.