Category Archives: Exploitation

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast | A fitting farewell tribute to the goremeister who was born on this day in 1926

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast

On 26 September 2016, Herschell Gordon Lewis – who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 15 June 1926, headed to the last drive-in in the sky aged 90. But, in doing so, he left behind an enduring legacy as the Godfather of Gore.

It was in 1963 that the exploitation film-maker decided to branch out from his nudie movies and attempt to emulate the success of American International Pictures (AIP) – but with his own style of shocking imagery (cow tongues, anyone?), bizarre visual slapstick and a ‘fuck-you ‘ attitude towards established film tropes. He ended up changing the horror cinema landscape forever.

In celebration of the schlock master, Arrow Video released 14 of HGL’s exploitation movies (including nine Blu-ray world debuts) in one giant box-set, filled with a bucket-load of bonus content, last October.

Blood Feast

Yes, his blood-n-guts epics are all presented in restored versions (Two Thousand Maniacs!, The Wizard of Gore et al.), but also included are his rarely-seen exploitation flicks on sleazy photographers (Scum of the Earth), sex robots (How to Make a Doll), biker girl-gangs (She-Devils on Wheels), youths-run-amok (Just for the Hell of It), psychic witches (Something Weird) and hard liquor-loving hill-billies (Moonshine Mountain).

Color Me Blood Red

I’ve finally got my hands on the box-set and am now looking forward to some exploitation HGL’s movie madness. Now, bring on the moonshine…

WHAT’S IN THE BOX…
• Newly-restored from original and best surviving vault materials of Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Two Thousand Maniacs!, Moonshine Mountain, Color Me Blood Red, Something Weird, The Gruesome Twosome, A Taste of Blood, She-Devils on Wheels, Just for the Hell of It, How to Make a Doll, The Wizard of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls, This Stuff ll Kill Ya!
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the features and extras on 7 Blu-ray and 7 DVD discs
• Brand new introductions to the films by HGL
• Newly-produced interviews and featurettes, commentaries, and short films
• Two bonus Blu-rays featuring 1.33:1 versions of Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Color Me Blood Red, A Taste of Blood and The Wizard of Gore [limited editions exclusive]
• Bonus DVD: Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore documentary [limited editions exclusive]
• 28-page HGL annual stuffed full with Lewis-themed activities plus archive promotional material [limited editions exclusive]

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31 (2015) | Rob Zombie’s ultra-violent valentine to blood-soaked 1970s exploitation is a demented kill-ride

Rob Zombie's 31 (2016)

Following 2013’s supernatural misfire The Lords of Salem (which I rather liked, so check it out here), the shock rocker pays homage once again to 1970s grindhouse by tipping a blood-soaked Bozo clown wig to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Funhouse, by way of Stephen King’s The Running Man and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. But frankly, its not a par on those classics.

Rob Zombie's 31 (2016)

The director’s wife and muse, Sheri Moon Zombie, heads up a group of carnival workers who are kidnapped on Halloween night 1976 and let loose in a derelict factory where they are given 12 hours to fight their way to freedom through a maze of secret passages containing deadly traps and a cavalcade of homicidal clowns bearing sicko monikers like Psycho-Head, Sick-Head, Death-Head, Sex-Head and Doom Head.

Rob Zombie's 31 (2016)

Placing bets on who will survive is Malcolm McDowell (who turns 74 today) as the bizarrely-named Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder, veteran British actress Judy Geeson (who was also in The Lords of Salem) and voice over artist Jane Carr. Bizarrely, their aristocratic 18th-century attire makes them look like they are appearing in a completely different film – and indeed they might well be as their characters are never fully explained.

Rob Zombie's 31 (2016)

Fans of Rob Zombie’s cult hits House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects will relish his return to ghoulish sadistic form, but this demented trip through the most blood-drenched funhouse this side of the late Hershell Gordon Lewis might leave everyone else colder than all those corpses that pile up before Sheri’s final girl showdown with the film’s most intriguing character, the psychopathic killer Doom Head (Richard Brake, who played the Night King on Game of Thrones).

Rob Zombie’s 31 is available on platforms like Shudder and YouTube (£3.49) but has yet to have an official DVD/Blu-ray release in the UK. A Region A Blu-ray is also available.

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The Driller Killer (1979) | Abel Ferrara’s notorious art house video nasty gets a deluxe HD restoration release

The Driller Killer (1979)

Abel Ferrara’s debut is in the exploitation ballpark, but it’s as much a product of Warhol low-budget artiness as the slasher genre.’ Empire

One of the most notorious of the video nasties, this 1979 exploitation-art-house crossover from future Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant and Welcome to New York director, Abel Ferrar was judged almost entirely on its video sleeve artwork with the film itself left out of the equation. Now it’s getting a deluxe Limited Edition Steelbook from Arrow Video with the disturbing film fully uncut.

The Driller Killer (1979)


Director Ferrara also goes in front of the camera to play struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of late-1970s New York and the No Wave band practising in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey…

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The Arrow Video release of The Driller Killer features a high definition restoration of the film, plus the following special features…

The Driller Killer SteelbookSPECIAL FEATURES:
• 4K restoration from the original camera negative of the never-before-seen pre-release version and the theatrical cut.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations in both 1.85:1 and 1.37:1 aspect ratios.
• Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio.
• Audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision) and recorded exclusively for this release
Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer, a brand-new interview with Ferrara (see a clip below).
Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101, a new visual essay guide to the films and career of Ferrara by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Cultographies: Ms. 45
Mulberry St., Ferrara’s feature-length 2010 documentary portrait of the New York, available on home video in the UK for the first time ever.
• Trailer.
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Michael Pattison and Brad Stevens
• Steelbook Limited Edition features original artwork (2,500 copies).
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil (UK Amaray specs).
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only).

To celebrate Arrow Video’s release, we have been given this exclusive extra to share with you. In this new interview with Abel Ferrara recorded for this release, he discusses why he cast himself in the title role after initially asking David Johansen of The New York Dolls…

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Psychomania (1973) | The British black magic biker flick roars back into mirthful mayhem in high definition

Psychomania (1973)

Let’s face it, 1973’s Psychomania is seriously daft! But this bizarre British exploitation oddity is also the only Surrey-set satanic frog-worshipping zombie biker flick ever to be made in the UK. Now it’s about to raise hell amongst horror aficionados again as the BFI brings it back from the dead for a re-mastered 2k dual format release.

Psychomania (1973)

Set its own warped version of Walton-on-Thames where pram and shopping trolley-pushing suburbanites live cheek to cheek next to a ancient pagan site where legend has it that a coven of witches were turned to stone, Psychomania (I have no idea why its called that either) finds real-life motorbike fan Nicky Henson (taking time out from treading the boards at the Young Vic) donning his own leathers and revving up a clapped out AJS to head up The Living Dead, a group of posh-sounding Hell’s Angel’s types with a penchant for tie-dye, crochet knitted tops, multi-coloured name patches and singing mournful folk songs.

Psychomania (1973)

Bored shitless in suburbia, where the only fun they get is in knocking down cereal boxes at the Hepworth Way Shopping Centre, Nicky’s medallion man makes a pact with the Devil in return for the secret of immortality, commits suicide, then returns from the grave. Soon his gang (who come off like Eric von Zipper’s Rat Pack in the Beach Party movies) are following their leader in order to create more Beano-esque mischief down at the shops.

Psychomania (1973)

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Well that’s what makes this black magic biker flick from director Don Sharp (who also helmed the Fu Manchu movies and the Tony Randall comedy Our Man in Marrakesh for Harry Alan Towers) so much fun. Plus there’s Beryl Reid as the high mistress of comfy sofas and veteran Hollywood actor George Sanders casting a long shadow as the ghoulish guardian of a big toad that possesses arcane powers (no idea why, either!).

Their scenes take place in what looks like a showroom for the crème de la crème of 20th-century chair design (some I spied in Taschen’s 1000 Chairs), and it’s also the setting for some improvised waltzes between Reid and Henson and some ridiculous straight-faced dialogue, like ‘I’m dead, Mother, but apart from that, I couldn’t be better!’.

Psychomania (1973)

And if that’s not enough to wrap your laughing gear around, wait until you see the dead coppers lined up inside the mortuary cool boxes (that ended up in Space 1999) and the wonky prison-set where Doctor Who’s Sergeant Benson (John Levene) presides. There’s also guest appearances from the like of Robert Hardy, Bill Pertwee and future EastEnder June Brown (who would follow this movie with David Hemming’s Jack Wild drama, The 14).

Psychomania (1973)

Mind you, the action sequences (which all take place on the newly built M3) are terrific and more than once did I find myself shouting ‘OMG’ at screen as those spluttering bikes narrowly missed coming a cropper; while a sequence involving Hatchet (Blood on Satan’s Claw‘s Denis Gilmore) jumping off a bridge in front of a oncoming Commer van is a standout. Playing one of the suicidal bikers is Britain’s oldest stuntman Rocky Taylor, who has worked on everything from James Bond to Harry Potter.

Psychomania (1973)

Topping it all, however, is the soundtrack by Donovan’s former arranger, composer John Cameron. A mix of 1960s pre-punk garage, doom-laden psychedelia, and blaxplotation-infused funk, peppered with ecclesiastical organ sounds and early prog. – it belongs in every film buffs soundtrack collection. And makes a fitting companion to this new BFI release, which is a must have.

Sadly, this was the final feature for 65-year-old George Sanders. The Hollywood legend, who had made a career out of being a cad in classics like Rebecca, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The House of the Seven Gables, committed suicide on 25 April 1972 in Spain – and some say this was the last thing he ever saw…

 

Psychomania (1973)

Did you know that the film’s titles feature the same font that was used in American International Picture’s Dr Phibes movies – there’s even a Rolls as well?

Psychomania (1973)SPECIAL FEATURES
• Newly re-mastered in 2K and presented in the original aspect ratio (1.66:1), with optional subtitles.
Return of the Living Dead (2010, 25 mins): featuring interviews with stars Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor.
Sound of Psychomania (2010, 9 mins): interview with composer John Cameron.
Riding Free (2010, 7 mins): interview with singer-songwriter Harvey Andrews.
• Interview with Nicky Henson (2016, 14 mins): who recalls his time on the film (much of which is a repeat of what he says in the 2010 featurette).
Hell for Leather (2016, 8 mins): Short film about the company who supplied the film’s costumes.
• Remastering Psychomania (2016, 2 mins):
Discovering Britain (1955, 3 mins) Fantastic vintage travelogue, narrated by the celebrated poet, about the Avebury stone circle.
Roger Wonders Why (1965, 19 mins): Amateur film which sees two Christian biker youths visit the 59 Club, and meet its founder Reverend Bill Shergold. You have to stick with it to understand why its included here.
• Original theatrical trailer.
• Wilson Bros Trivia Track (2016, 91min, onscreen text): in lieu of an audio commentary, this is a hilarious subtitle trivia track, and works a treat.
• Collector’s booklet with new writings on the film; plus full film credits.

Dead-End Drive-In (1986) | Catch the day-glo Ozploitation thrills on Blu-ray

Dead End Drive InIn an apocalyptic Australia, where lawlessness prevails, outcasts and misfits are being secretly herded into concentration camps disguised as drive-in movie theatres. When young petrolhead Crabs (Neil Manning) takes Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to the local drives in his brother’s ’56 Chevy, they soon face the terrible realisation that they have become the latest inmates of this bizarre social experiment. Can they escape before becoming resigned to a hellish existence of all-day parties, round-the-clock movie shows, and all the radioactive junk food they can eat?

Dead End Drive In

Dead-End Drive-In is a prime slice of crazed Ozploitation from Brian Trenchard-Smith (aka Australia’s answer Roger Corman), who was responsible for Australia’s first martial arts thriller The Man From Hong Kong and the cult prison actioner Turkey Shoot. When it was released Down Under in 1986, it was written off as a bargain bin Mad Max rip-off, while its unconvincing cast of day-glo punks, freaks and loons looked like they had stepped out of an issue of the era’s über-trendy i-D magazine.

Dead End Drive In

But it does have its fans, including this (Australian-born) writer, especially as it popularised German Bundeswehr vests and featured some rocking new wave tunes from those legendary Aussie alternative bands, Hunters + Collectors and Kids in the Kitchen. It’s also a great reminder of the now lost Australia tradition of going to the Drives.

dead-end-drive-in_2

Originally put out under the ArrowDrome label on DVD in 2013, Dead-End Drive-In is now out on Blu-ray, featuring a 2k restoration print, and packed with new extras, including an audio commentary from Trenchard-Smith and a documentary by the director on Australian stuntman Grant Page. Which only makes this the perfect excuse to revisit the much-maligned futuristic thriller.

 

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Virgin Witch (1971) | The saucy sorcery Britsploitation classic screens today on Horror Channel

Virgin Witch (1972)

Virgin Witch (aka The Virgin Witch and Lesbian Twins) is a 1971 British sexploitation horror about two models (played by real-life sisters Vicki Michelle Ann Michelle) who are lured into a coven by a lecherous lesbian. Directed by Ray Austin (TV’s Journey to the Unknown) from a screenplay by Klaus Vogel (allegedly the pseudonym for Hazel Adair, one of the creators of TV soap Crossroads), it was later disowned by the Michelle sisters, but remains a guilty pleasure for genre fans.

Catch it on The Horror Channel today at 10.55pm (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138).

Dear God No! (2011) | This is biker-horror-sexploitation heaven

Dear God No!

INTO THE WOODS
Following a bloody fallout with their mob boss dad, two biker brothers and their sadistic Impalers gang invade the secluded cabin of a crazy scientist and his glum daughter. But they soon regret it when they unwittingly become guinea pigs in the scientist’s latest genetic experiment, while a sasquatch starts picking them off…

Dear God No!
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GRINDHOUSE-STYLE BLOOBATH
A huge fan of 1960s and 1970s drive-in exploitation movies, director James Bickert hits the jackpot in recapturing the sleazy vibe of those films with Dear God No!, a breast-tastic, ultra-violent trip that fuses John Waters-style humour with Roger Corman’s biker classic The Wild Angels, the trippy satanic film I Drink Your Blood and the 1970s faux documentary The Legend of Boggy Creek to create a grindhouse homage to die-for. Shot on super 16mm, Dear God No! is a drive-in lovers’ wet-dream. Just forget the lame acting and bad synching and enjoy the ride.

Dear God No!

THE DVD RELEASE
In 2012, a two-disc Impaler edition was released by Monster Pictures which included the Grindhouse Cut of the feature (with 1.32sec cut by the BBFC), collector’s booklet, audio commentaries, trailers, gag reel, two parodies and an animated short. In the US, Big World Pictures released a R1 DVD featuring the film uncut and unrated.

Dear God No! also screens today (Sunday 3 April) on The Horror Channel at 11.40pm

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) | Is this THE cult movie to end all cult movies?

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!
Cult film history was made when maverick sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer joined forces with fellow boob lover Roger Ebert for their 1970 Hollywood satire, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. A fusion of rock, horror, exploitation and musical, it was a project made entirely by accident by two outsiders whom 20th Century Fox bravely gave free reign to in a bid to reverse their dwindling box-office receipts. The result was a freakish creation indeed!

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

This time… they’ve really gone
This wild ride follows band mates Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers) and Petronella (Marcia McBroom), and their naïve manager Harris (David Gurian), as they are taken under the wing of a egocentric LA music mogul, Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell (John LaZar). But temptation leads our Scooby gang astray (well they do ride around in a combi-van) and their individual fates are all linked to the colourful characters they encounter, including heiress Susan (Phyllis Davis), pretty boy gigolo Lance (Michael Blodgett), sapphic fashion designer Roxanne (Erica Gavin), porn star Ashley (Edy Williams), heavyweight champ Randy (James Iglehart), and dedicated law student Emerson (Harrison Page).

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Painted with a gaudy psychedelic palette, this demented parody of Fox’s pill-popping 1967 melodrama Valley of the Dolls cranks up the soap opera elements to camp excess, while Ebert’s tongue-in-cheek moralising script shines a cynical spotlight on the Hollywood dream factory and the hippy movement – which was dealt a final death blow in the wake of the Manson family murders, and which inspired the film’s OTT drug-fuelled climax.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

The first of the shock rock!
Ebert, of course, not only gave the film its satirical edge and comic tone, but also its immensely quotable dialogue. And he should have got a special award for coming up with lines like: ‘You’re a groovy boy, I want to strap you on sometime’ and ‘You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance’? It’s bonkers, brilliant, and the stuff of legend, as is the incredibly catchy hippy folk rock score.

With help from stoner band The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Sandpipers, Stu Phillips (who gave us the Battlestar Galactica theme and also worked with The Monkees) and soul singer Lynn Carey (whose full throttled voice is the one behind Dolly Read’s lip-synching) produced one of the greatest film musical soundtracks of all time. Its so deserving of a Rocky Horror-styled sing-along screening.

And what do critics know anyhow! When BVD was released it was labelled ‘garbage’, ‘sick’, and ‘a totally degenerate enterprise’. But it’s now the ultimate cult movie and – if you look closely – you can see its progeny today in shows like Desperate Housewives and Scream Queens.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release features a gorgeous transfer and is packed with extras. Most of these were made back in 2006 for the DVD premiere, but they are a welcome addition (especially as Ebert and two of the cast members have since died), as is the DVD extras of The Seven Minutes (see my separate review). This one’s going straight into my Top 10 releases of 2016.

The Special Extras in full:
• Intro from John LaZar in which he screams, ‘BVD is finally here on DVD. You know it’s your happening and it freaks you out’.
Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: Meyer’s biographer and various journos discuss his wayward career (which rode the thin line between genius and crazy).
Look On Up at the Bottom: The Music of the Dolls: My favourite extra explores how Stu Phillips’ score paved the way for women in rock like The Runaways.
The Best of Beyond: The cast and crew on their favourite lines, breasts and scenes.
Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby! This short doco looks at the 1960s counter-culture’s dark side.
Casey & Roxanne – The Love Scene: Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers on their controversial lesbian scenes.
Screen Tests: Harrison Page and Marcia McBroom and Michael Blodgett (d 2007) and Cynthia Myers (d 2011) perform the same scene.
• Galleries: Behind the Scenes, Cast Portraits, Film Stills, Marketing Materials.
• Trailers
• Roger Ebert commentary (this is hugely entertaining and quite poignant considering Ebert was in grips of papillary thyroid cancer at the time, and had his lower right jaw removed in June 2006, which cost him his voice. Ebert died in 2013).
• Cast commentary with Erica Gavin, John LaZar, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page and Dolly Read.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) | Freak me out! Russ Meyer’s demented cult camp classic is unleashed on Blu-ray

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)From Arrow Video comes Russ Meyer’s cult camp classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in a limited special edition release (3000 copies only) on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 18 January, which will include its usual bevy of bonus features, plus the world video premiere (on DVD) of The Seven Minutes, Meyer’s rarely-seen Hollywood swansong.

When Easy Rider proved offbeat movies could be box-office success, all the major studios scrambled to catch up – including 20th Century Fox who decided to hedge their bets on giving sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer the chance for mainstream success. The result was this X-rated musical sex comedy horror about an all-female rock band trying to make it big in Hollywood with the help of their Phil Spector-styled manager, the notorious Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell.

Co-scripted by film critic Roger Ebert, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a merciless satire of Hollywood and the music business, a no-holds-barred psychedelic thrill-ride that gleefully stirs sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, fashion, lesbianism, transvestism and Nazis into one of the most demented and gloriously OTT black comedies ever made.

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Arrow’s special edition also includes the rarely seen The Seven Minutes (1971), Russ Meyer’s adaptation of Irving Wallace’s novel about the absurdities of American obscenity laws. Rarely-seen, it became his Hollywood swansong, as his contract was not renewed after poor returns at the box office (mainly due to a lack of tits and ass).

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)THE ARROW SPECIAL EDITION
• Limited Edition collection of both of Russ Meyer’s Hollywood films (3000 copies)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Standard Definition DVD presentation of The Seven Minutes
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for both films
• Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Separate music and effects track for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Two commentaries on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by co-screenwriter Roger Ebert and actors Erica Gavin, John LaZar, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page and Dolly Read
Sinister Image: Russ Meyer, David Del Valle’s 1987 interview with the director and his former model Yvette Vickers
• Introduction to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by John LaZar
Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The making of a musical-horror-sex-comedy
Look On Up at the Bottom: with composer Stu Phillips and three members of the Carrie Nations discussing the film’s music
The Best of Beyond: favourite moments selected by cast and crew members
Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby!, a look at the late 1960s culture that spawned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene, discussed by participants Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers
• Screen tests for Michael Blodgett, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, Marcia McBroom
• High Definition photo galleries
• Multiple trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
• Booklet featuring new writing on both films by critic Kat Ellinger, Anne Billson’s 1991 interview with Russ Meyer, excerpts from the outraged British critical reaction at the time, and a personal reminiscence by David Del Valle.

Coffy (1973) | The Godmother of Blaxploitation in motherf***ing HD

Coffy on Blu-rayOne of my Top Five re-releases of 2015 has to be Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Jack Hill’s 1973 thriller Coffy, one the best Blaxploitation films of the era, and the one that turned Pam Grier into a cinematic icon.

‘This is the end of your life you motherfucking dope pusher’
LA nurse Flower Child Coffin (Pam Grier), aka Coffy, goes on a one-woman mission to take down those responsible for turn her little sister onto heroine and putting her honest cop friend Carter (William Elliott) in hospital. Posing as a junkie hooker and a high-class Jamaican escort, Coffy works her way into the inner circle of drug-dealing pimp King George (Robert DoQui), where she finds the level of corruption is much closer to home than she expected…

Coffy (1973)

Coffy was a godsend part for exploitation actress Pam Grier. Her baddass vigilante was a landmark in 1970s cinema and redefined what it meant to be a powerful black woman on screen. As the street wise and fiercely independent hard-working nurse who isn’t unafraid to put her body and her life on the line to exact her own form of justice, she was the perfect modern, revolutionary heroine. And Grier brilliantly brought her to life.

Coffy (1973)

The American International Pictures actioner was also a career boast for B-movie auteur and director for hire, Jack Hill, who had previously lensed two ‘chicks in chains’ grindhouse movies (both with Grier), as well as the Lon Chaney Jr cult curio, Spider Baby, and also shot the US scenes for Boris Karloff’s infamous Mexican horror quartet.

Coffy (1973)

When Cleopatra Jones, AIP’s female Shaft project, ended up being picked up Warner Bros, AIP put Coffy together in just 18 days in a bid to beat them to the punch. Director Hill certainly delivered the goods, as audiences really dug the film. A follow-up, Foxy Brown, quickly followed, again with Grier in the lead, and Hill directing – and it was just as good.

Coffy (1973)

Despite it’s grindhouse veneer, Coffy‘s sex and violence isn’t done solely for cheap thrills. There’s a strong morale code running under the surface, while the racial issues it touches on reflected what was going on in 1970s America – and still does today, particularly in the light of those events in St Louis and Baltimore. But its Hill’s street smart script and tight direction that sets this Blaxploitation feature apart.

Coffy (1973)

But Coffy is also pure entertainment, with some great ‘guilty pleasure’ moments that stay with you forever, like the call-girl cat fight scene and Coffy hiding razor blades in her Afro. There’s also King George’s wicked fashions (he also gets his own theme tune) and the funky R&B Roy Ayers soundtrack (which peaked at No31 in the US charts in 1973). Oh, and let’s not forget THAT poster, which Tarantino called ‘the epitome of a great exploitation poster’. Grier followed this film with AIP’s Scream Blacula Scream, which also available on Blu-ray (click on the link for my review).

Coffy on Blu-rayTHE BLU-RAY RELEASE
Arrow’s director-approved presentation features a restored HD transfer (which looks fantastic btw) alongside an audio commentary with Jack Hill. Among the new interviews on this release is A Taste of Coffy, featuring Hill on making the film (19min), and The Baddest Chick in Town!, in which Pam Grier discusses the films and her inspiration behind the character (17min). Also included is an academic video essay on the Blaxploitation genre, image gallery, and a collector’s booklet, with new artwork packaging by Gilles Vranckx.

Foxy Brown, director Jack Hill’s follow up to Coffy, is also out on Blu-ray from Arrow, along with the director’s Spider Baby and Pit Stop, which are also on Dual Format (DVD and Blu-ray). Click on the links for my reviews.

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