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Coffy (Blu-ray Review)

CoffyPam Grier became a staple of early 1970s blaxploitation films by playing bold, assertive women, starting with Jack Hill’s Coffy. Her character was advertised in the original trailer as the “baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!” Grier’s role was noted as being the first African-American female to headline an action film.  As many of you may know, I’ve been touting more blaxploitation on Blu-ray since my first wishlist back in 2013.  As a matter of fact, Coffy was at the top of that list.  It appears things are finally turning around here in 2015.  There are many on the slate over the globe throughout the year and on the horizon.  Olive Films is taking on a trio of Pam Grier’s finest.   Coffy was already available in the UK, but its now making its Blu-ray debut here in the US.

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Film 

Coffy is a one-woman vigilante force, out to even the score with those that have hooked her sister on drugs. Using her feminine wiles (along with deadly weaponry), Coffy sets about ridding the streets of low-life drug dealers, pimps, deviants and society’s scum in the kick-ass action film Coffy.

Yeah, this is one of my favorite all-time action films and all time movies.  I was blown away by how awesome it was when I was a kid and checked it out.  From the moment this one introduced us to Pam Grier and she frickin’ blew a guy’s head off from point blank range with a shotgun, I was hooked, a fan and in love.  The actress and film surrounding her brought upon a sort of energy and rawness I hadn’t really seen before (I was a kid in the 90s, if you need that little bit of a booster to help your imagination).  How many more characters and actors can you say have as badass an entry as that?

While things will always track back and mark Coffy as a landmark piece for a black woman to change cinema, I think they get something wrong.  This was a big deal for women in general.  Yes, we had some spys and stuff back in the 60s, but most of them were hanging onto the jet pack or shoe phone of their male counterparts.  No, Pam Grier starting with Coffy was a one-woman wrecking crew.  She didn’t take shit from anyone, doing things her way and only her way.  Men needed to be rescued by her. And she could punch and shoot better than any of them.  It was quite a revelation.  Doors were opened.

The film itself still holds up quite well.  Its an absolute joy and blast of 70s exploitation goodness.  You get some excellent foul language, nudity, drugs, violence, gore and despicable characters filling every frame.  This story of vengeance is also quite terrific.  Its vigilante justice at its finest just one year before Death Wish came along and “invented the wheel”.  And as is always fun, director Jack Hill tosses Sid Haig in here in one of his more signature roles.  While yeah, what the character of Coffy is balsy and some might see being far fetched, its played very real and works terrifically within the confines of the film.

I love Coffy and I love Pam Grier.  I’m ecstatic this movie and the others are dropping here on Blu-ray very soon (Sheba, Baby and Black Mama White Mama next please, Olive Films?).  Coffy is a film that still feels very fresh and raw 42 years later (WOW! that’s crazy).  Pam Grier has one of the great “debuts” (She was in a few Corman “Women in Cages” movies prior) from an actor up there with Connery’s “Bond, James Bond” in the 60s.  Hopefully new audiences will be curious to check out this treasure and one of 70s exploitation cinema’s finest.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I compared this to my copy of Arrow’s release of the film and I have to say they are pretty much the same transfer.  This Olive Films release version looks just the slightest bit rough around the edges in terms of print quality.  The film features an impressive amount of detail, especially in looking at clothing fabrics and patterns as well as wallpaper textures and other surfaces.  Guns also feature finger prints, smudges and scratches as well.  Coffy looks pretty awesome here on Blu-ray.

Depth:  Whether it be the club or the ladies’ lounge, things look pretty distinct in foreground and background imagery.  Movement is smooth and loose.

Black Levels: Blacks are accurate and pretty rich.  Hair follicles and fabric do a decent job of still having detail.

Color Reproduction: Colors are nice and natural.  Most are bold and natural, nothing really goes for the “bleeding” vibrant look.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones look natural and consistent.  Detail is really evident upon closeups as you can make out every bit of Sid Haig’s colorful face.

Noise/Artifacts: A nice layer of grain accompanied by some dirt specs and scratches.  Nothing distracting, its a perfect look for this one, actually.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  The audio here is pretty crisp and clean.  Its very impressive when you take in part the history of how these films were handled by theaters and distributors.  The audio has nice distinct work on gunshots, and crash screeches and crashes.  Something like a switchblade opening sounds rich.  And glass shatter works quite well.  The score is also very lovely and loose, with each instrument sounding full and of itself in the mix.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are nice, centered, clean and clear.  Some points do sound a tad analog, but this is really nice for the most part.

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Extras 

Coffy contains no supplemental features.  Menu offers “Play Movie” and “Chapters”.

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Summary 

If you don’t have a region free Blu-ray player and you’re in the United States, this is really the best you’re going to get.  Knowing that there are supplemental features out there and they aren’t on this disc is a bummer, but its SOMETHING to just have this film on Blu-ray.  And it took forever to get here too.  The transfer in both audio and video are pretty terrific, and the film itself is strong enough to warrant whatever price tag is attached to it (In my opinion).  The movie looks great and so does Pam.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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