Coffy (1973)
By: Stuart Giesel on June 11, 2012  | 
Shock | Region 4, NTSC | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 90 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Jack Hill
Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, William Elliott, Sid Haig
Screenplay: Jack Hill
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
Having recently watched and loved the Pam Grier blaxploitation classic Foxy Brown, I knew I had to seek out the earlier Pam Grier/Jack Hill pair-up Coffy. After all, Foxy Brown had all the classic ingredients I look for in exploitation films: gratuitous nudity, sleazy villains, over-the-top violence and a grimy 70's vibe. And this earlier film doesn't disappoint either. Whilst Foxy Brown might just pip it at the post for entertainment value, you can't go wrong with 70's-era Pam Grier in revenge mode.

When we first see Coffy (Pam Grier) she's strung out in the back of a sleazy dope peddler's car. The drug pusher thinks he's got all the 'tail' he can handle and he doesn't need any more, but he's convinced by dope fiend Grover to check out the special piece of tail that's in his car. Casting his eyes on Coffy, he's naturally spellbound. But Coffy's got something else on her mind, and she handily dispatches the sleazebag like he's yesterday's garbage. It turns out that Coffy is out for revenge after her sister LuBelle OD'ed on some bad junk. When her ex-flame, a cop named Carter (William Elliot), refuses to accept bribes from a pimp named King George (Robert DoQui) and is brutally beaten, Coffy makes it her mission to bring down George's empire, as well as that of scumbag crime boss Arturo (Allan Arbus). It should be noted that we first see King George in an absolutely horrid mustard outfit complete with shitty glasses, brown hat and cameltoe, so from this it's fair to say that he clearly deserves what he gets. To add more confusion to the mix, Coffy is currently dating a businessman named Howard Brunswick (nicely played by Booker Bradshaw) who has plans to become a congressman, and may or may not have criminal ties.

As with Foxy Brown, this is written and directed by Jack Hill who, according to my extensive research (*opens IMDB*), has done a couple of other films with Grier, The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House which, if they are as much fun as their other collaborations, need to be picked up ASAP. It's unfortunate he seems to have retired in the mid-70's, as it would have been interesting to see where his film career would have led him through the neon-soaked 80's and beyond. Still, we'll always be able to cherish his 70's output, which stand as some of the strongest entries in the exploitation genre.

The opening music isn't quite as catchy as Foxy Brown's, but everything else is at least on par with that film - and you get Sid Haig to boot! There's a bucketload of unnecessary nudity and brutal violence - the opening gunshot scene is a little reminiscent of that gory opening salvo that George Romero shocked audiences with in his landmark Dawn of the Dead. It's clear from the opening scene that Coffy means business, and Pam Grier will be about as tolerant of drug pushers as U.S. right-wing commentators are to welfare recipients. Memorable scenes abound: other than the opening scene; there's a fight at a swanky dinner where half the girls get their tops torn off, a brutal home invasion, a fight with a prostitute and her sizeable handler, an ultra-disturbing lynching, not to mention various scenes where Coffy blows away scumbags with a shotgun with the sort of cool professionalism normally reserved for Chow Yun-Fat. Something for the whole family!

The cast is quite good and, thankfully, play their roles totally straight - there are no winks to the camera or completely over-the-top performances to detract from the revenge plotline. William Elliot's incorruptible cop has little to do but he makes the most of his role. Sid Haig plays a nasty Armenian thug with his usual intensity, Robert DoQui's pimp is entertaining, and Allan Arbus is as slimy a European bad guy as you could possibly hope for. Watch out, too, for Rolling Thunder's Linda Haynes as one of King George's prostitutes who becomes jealous at all the attention Coffy is getting. But dominating over all, of course, is the towering presence of Pam Grier. With her curvaceous body and sizeable afro - which is as much a fashion statement as it is a location to surreptitiously store weapons - Grier looks the part whether she's brandishing a shotgun, a broken bottle or simply standing her ground weaponless against the scumbags threatening to bring her down. Her Jamaican accent, however, is appalling, though that may have been deliberate. She also has no qualms about doing nude scenes, so fans certainly get an eyeful.

It's not the sort of film that'll blow you out of your seat, and it's not the sort of film that makes you want to immediately rewatch it to savour its brilliance, but as a slice of B-movie revenge it's hard to do much better, smartly directed by a genre pro and capturing everything that's great about this period of moviemaking. It's silly, trashy, violent, un-PC and completely entertaining.

Coffy asks at one point, "Now do I look like the kinda girl one man would be enough for?" Hell no, Coffy, and that's just the way we like you.
The video quality for Coffy, like Foxy Brown, isn't going to win any awards, but the transfer is clear for a low-budget 70's exploitation film. There is some softness in a few scenes, but overall it retains the B-movie origins and grain of the source material nicely.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is standard quality; the Coffy theme and its variants come through nice and clear, as does the dialogue and the prerequisite gunshots, screams and meaty punches.
Extra Features
As with Foxy Brown, Coffy's main feature is an audio commentary by writer/director Jack Hill, and it's as entertaining and informative as the one he did for Brown, with plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes commentary and tidbits for fans. There's also a theatrical trailer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Coffy, like its successor Foxy Brown, is a prime slice of good old-fashioned exploitation: copious nudity, violence and a heroine who uses her ample charms and assets to take out the criminal scumbags. It's entertaining and under no pretensions as to what it is, the sort of film you wish you could have seen on its original opening day in downtown New York with an energised crowd.

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