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THE ONE CHICK HIT SQUAD!

Regarded as one of the best of the Blaxploitation genre along with Shaft and Superfly, Coffy has been described as ‘one of the most entertaining films ever made’ by Quentin Tarantino.

With Coffy Pam Grier was catapulted to stardom and iconic status following solid roles in earlier ‘chicks in chains’ films. Here she plays nurse ‘Coffy’ Coffin seeking vigilante justice when her little sister is hospitalised by a smack pusher. Coffy uses her body, bullets and blades to get justice, working her way to the top of the criminal ring. But as she nears the top she finds the level of corruption is closer to home than she thinks.

When American International Pictures lost the chance to make Cleopatra Jones the studio looked for another project and turned to up and coming B-movie auteur Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Pit Stop). Coffy was such a success that the studio fast tracked Grier’s next movie (Foxy Brown) with Hill straight away.


About the Transfer: Coffy was restored from a 35mm interpostive. The film was transferred in High Definition by Ascent Media. The audio was transferred from a restored 35mm mono mag. Additional picture restoration was performed under Arrow's supercision at Deluxe Restoration, London.

Some minor picture and audio issues remain, in keeping with the condition of the original materials.

Video


This newly-restored HD transfer is exclusive to Arrow's Blu-ray and it looks pretty damn impressive all things considered. In fact, on the evidence presented here it's hard to believe that Coffy is a low-budget ($500,000) feature from 1973. The image is surprisingly clean and detailed, with a warm but natural colour palette and reasonably strong (if imperfect) black levels. There are a few film artefacts scattered here and there, but they're generally small enough to be unobtrusive, and the encode preserves the grain structure quite nicely. I was very pleasantly surprised by this presentation; I honestly didn't expecte the film to look as good as it does.

Audio


Oddly my amp reported the soundtrack as an LPCM 7.1 affair, but I can assure you that it's actually a far more modest LPCM 1.0 Mono effort that reflects the original theatrical mix. As you might expect, it's not the most dynamic or expansive of tracks, but generally speaking it does a good job of prioritising the various elements. Admittedly dialogue can be a little indistinct on occasion, but thankfully such moments are few and far between and are more likely due to the source material than anything else. There isn’t a whole lot of bass, even during the action scenes, but again this is to be expected with material of this nature. Roy Ayers' soundtrack also sounds surprisingly good. Basically it’s a solid track limited by the original elements.

Extras


Arrow has assembled an enjoyable collection of bonus material for this release. Although most of the features are relatively short in length they punch above their weight in the entertainment stakes. Here's what you'll find on the disc.

  • Audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill
  • A Taste of Coffy: A brand new interview with Jack Hill
  • The Baddest Chick in Town!: A brand new interview with Pam Grier on Coffy and its follow up, Foxy Brown
  • Blaxploitation!: A video essay by author Mikel J. Koven (Blaxploitation Film) on the history and development of the genre
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • 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

Overall


To this day I still rate Jackie Brown as Quentin Tarantino's best film. I originally saw it on VHS back in the late nineties when I was in my early twenties, but being a middle-class white male from England I can't say that seventies Blacksploitation flicks were high on the agenda of 'must watch' films when I was growing up, so I didn't get half of the references. Watching Coffy for the first time I was surprised by just how much of it Tarantino referenced in his film; not just the obvious characterisation, but things like the music, locales and even the title font. I also agree with Tarantino's assessment of Coffy's entertainment value, although perhaps I wouldn't go quite as far as he did in his exaltation. That said, it still a blast from start to finish and Pam Grier makes for a great leading lady. On balance I think I even prefer this film to the follow-up, Foxy Brown, which also has a great release from Arrow.

As mentioned in the accompanying booklet there are a number of minor issues with the source material, but to be honest they're almost to be expected with a release like this and they almost enhance the aesthetic. Sure it was transferred from an IP, but the image still looks fantastic, more impressive in fact than some of the more well-known titles in Arrow's recent line-up. The audio issues are only really problematic on a handful of occasions as well. For me though, it's the extras that really make this package. If you're unfamiliar with Blacksploitation movies not only do you have a commentary from the director himself, but also a fabulous video essay which, in my case at least, leaves you with a desire to seek out further examples of the genre. The interview with Pam Grier is just the icing on the cake of this impressive release.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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