director Jack Hill
Pam Grier is an undeniable movie goddess. Maybe not of the classic Hollywood soft-focus glamorous starlets and icons, but goddess all as much in her own elements. And it’s pretty doubtless that her fans love her all the more as a goddess from the other side of the cinematic tracks, whether you call it grindhouse, drive-in, exploitation, what-have-you. She is as beautiful as any movie star, but tough and cool, righteous, fun and sexy.
For the night, I put together a mini double feature of Coffy and its follow-up 1974’s Foxy Brown, both starring films for Grier and written and directed by Jack Hill, who Quentin Tarantino aptly called “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking”. Just as Hill’s prior films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972) (both also starring Grier in smaller roles) would make a good double feature, Coffy and Foxy Brown do as well.
Coffy is a nurse set on revenge for the drug dealers that stocked the market which led to her sister’s addiction and ravaging by drugs. She starts the film off seducing one dealer and blowing his brains out and then OD’ing his henchman, and from there she works her way up the chain of command.
It’s a glee fest of entertainments, with razor blades hidden in afros for cat fights, blouses ripping off at the slightest hint of tussle, and tons of charm and humor amid the action. Hill’s cast might not be as name-recognizable outside of Grier and long-time collaborator Sid Haig, but they are all recognizable and able character actors in deftly-drawn roles, ensuring that every scene stands out for its own reason.
But it’s Pam Grier at her youthful perfection and sheer stardom that makes this so good. I do have to say I prefer it to Foxy Brown by a smidgen or so. Great stuff.