Coffy [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (18th June 2024).
The Film

"Coffy" (1973)

Coffy (played by Pam Grier) is an ER nurse at a Los Angeles hospital working hard to save lives, but she is also leading a double life hellbent on revenge. After witnessing her younger get hooked on drugs by local dealers and gangs, she takes matters into her own hands to track down and kill the people that were responsible. She is keeping her plan a secret from her boyfriend, Howard Brunswick (played by Booker Bradshaw) who is running for city council, and from officer Carter (played by William Elliott), her friend and a trustworthy policeman. But when Carter is beaten down by the druglord's gangmembers, it gives even more of a reason for Coffy to seek vengeance...

Following the collapse of the Hollywood studio system in the late 1960s, it led to numerous changes in the industry. Smaller independent films by younger filmmakers were gaining more traction and proved to be profitable for the masses. On screen violence, sexual content, swearing, and other taboos were starting to creep into the mainstream cinemas, and it would never be the same again. Black cinema made an impact with the low budget independently produced "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" and the major studio backed "Shaft" being released in 1971, making major notices and being profitable works. American International Pictures was in negotiation to produce "Cleopatra Jones", which would have been the first major action film to have a black female character in the lead. Unfortunately the deal fell apart as the script went to major studio Warner Brothers instead. AIP was still looking to have their own black female led action film, and hired writer and director Jack Hill to work on a story. Although he had no experience in making a black centered film and was not familiar with the emerging Blaxploitation genre, he wrote a revenge film with a female lead in mind. His first and only choice was Pam Grier, who worked with Hill on "The Big Doll House" in 1971 and "The Big Bird Cage" in 1972. From there, "Coffy" was born.

The budget was exceptionally small at $500,000, which was the most AIP would spend on a "black" film at the time, and it does show in the fairly small production. Sets were not constructed but used real existing locations. The cast and crew were fairly minimal in numbers. In addition there were issues in production such as how the film required stuntwork, but there were no black female stuntwomen in Hollywood at the time. Fight sequences were slightly shoddy, the car chase sequences were done sparingly as they couldn't afford to wreck many cars, yet the simplistic nature of the plot moving from scene to scene without unnecessary transitions made things compact and quick to the point, focusing not just on story but also with nudity and violence as well.

"Coffy" has its share of sexual content and violence, with Grier stripping down in a number of scenes, as well as with other women such as in the office of pimp King George (played by Robert DoQui). Grier stated that she was comfortable with the scenes and was able to use her sexuality to seduce and take advantage of the characters as intended, as well as being eye candy for male patrons to the cinemas, and was a requirement for the film to have. As for the violence, heads get blown off right from the beginning, people get run down by cars, get lynched, knifed, sliced, and more in a number of memorable sequences. Coffy hiding razor blades and even a gun in her afro are ingenious moments, and her quest to rid of the scum that surround her is one that makes audiences cheer loudly.

With the men that are in the film, most of them are quite unlikeable. As mentioned with King George the pimp with his legion of prostitutes is not the friendliest man towards his own "properties". Druglord Vitroni (played by Allan Arbus) may seem like a short and timid man, but he is quick to push Coffy down and humiliate when they are alone together. Club owner and drug dealer "Sugarman" (played by Morris Buchanan) is basically a horny rich man, and it's easy to see him getting his dues by Coffy with a shotgun blast. Even the character of Howard which one is supposed to like ends up playing the political game and being on the other side of the law. The characters in the film are fairly two dimensional in being good or bad, and the lustful eyes of the men and their greediness is not a surprise. Each of them do have a chance to make their characters stand out, though obviously it is Coffy who shines the best with everything she does. Going undercover and pretending to be a junkie, pretending to be a Jamaican callgirl with a not so convincing accent, and using her wits to get what she wants. Grier is able to put a lot of work into the character with her mannerisms of strength when she needs to but also showing her range of skills with impersonating and also with action in the stunt sequences, as she had to perform a number of things on her own. It's also memorable to see her change not just in character but in appearance with various costume and hair changes for the differing sequences. Another major player for the film was Roy Ayers, who was commissioned to create the score for the film. With his use of jazz, soul, and funk, the soundtrack became a staple for coolness and many of the cues are equally as memorable as the actors' performances.

There are some holes in the logic with the plot at times, such as how she is able to get away with so many bodies being left around town and how she could connect so many dots on her own. The film is minimal enough that it doesn't have to show the logistics and her methods of how she mapped out her vengeance trail, but instead has the audience follow along from crazy scenario to crazy scenario, which may not make a whole lot of sense. Yet it still holds as being massively entertaining enough to not let the audience stop and pause to think about the logic.

"Coffy" was made quickly and with a small budget, and AIP released it in cinemas before "Cleopatra Jones", making its premiere on May 13th, 1973 while "Jones" received its theatrical release in July. Though it was primarily marketed to black and urban neighborhoods, the film expanded as it crossed over, and on the weekend of August 15th, it became the number one film at the box office in the United States, eventually grossing $4 million. Jack Hill wrote a follow-up screenplay for AIP which would be a continuation of Coffy's story. But at the time, sequel films were not considered profitable, so it was rewritten as a completely different title character named "Foxy Brown" who seeks revenge against a drug gang for killing her boyfriend. "Coffy" made Grier into an icon of cinema and her impact can still be felt today as a positive role model and how women, not just black women can lead and take control for the better. The film itself has its flaws with logic and its low budget nature having to cut corners, but it still stands as one of the most memorable from the period and essential viewing altogether. The film along with other Blaxploitation features were not given much critical praise at the time of their releases, but have been reappraised from the 1990s onward, especially following the success of the Blaxploitation homage film "Jackie Brown" in 1997 and also putting Grier's career in a higher position again. In addition, director Quentin Tarantino opened a coffee shop in 2024 in Los Angeles called Pam's Coffy, after the film and the actress.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The transfer comes from MGM's HD master. This seems to be identical to what was used for the Olive Films from nearly a decade ago, which was fine though it was not exactly the best. On the positive side, it has good colors and depth, with a healthy amount of film grain to be found. Unfortunately there are little speckles that are quite noticeable and a full cleanup was not done to remove them. In comparison, the Arrow Blu-ray release took the MGM HD master and had some additional restoration work applied to remove many of the visible damage marks. Colors are fairly well reproduced, though it doesn't particularly have a wow factor with the palate looking slightly dull. It is certainly serviceable and watchable, though it could have been a bit better with added restoration work.

The film's runtime is 90:04.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
The original mono audio track is presented in lossless form. Roy Ayers' amazing funky and jazzy score is well reproduced here with the music cues, and are well balanced against the dialogue and effects. Dialogue is always clear, though there are some muffled moments due to the original recordings. There are no issues with hiss, pops, crackle, or other defects for a clean sounding audio track for the film.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature. They are in a white font, are well timed, and easy to read.


Audio Commentary with writer/director Jack Hill (2001)
Hill does a fantastic job in this commentary, as he is very talkative and doesn't hold back on some of the issues with its production. From how he got the job as writer and director, going against many of the wishes of AIP including the budget and casting choices, choosing Grier for the lead, the choices in wardrobe and sets, the contribution from actors, on set accidents, a recasting mid-filming due to illness, the stuntwork, and much more. This was originally recorded for the MGM DVD release and has appeared on a number of subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"A Taste of Coffy" 2015 interview with Jack Hill (18:50)
This interview with Hill has some him recalling that he had never seen a Blaxploitation movie before filming the movie, the fairly low budget for black films from AIP, remembering Grier and her performance, Tarantino's love for the film and its dialogue, the positive reactions from audiences, and more. This was originally recorded for the Arrow Blu-ray release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"The Baddest Chick in Town!" 2015 interview with Pam Grier on Coffy and its follow up Foxy Brown (17:38)
This interview with Grier has her discussing the struggles of black life in the early 1970s, excited to play a positive and strong black female role, the importance of female action heroes, breaking her ankle during the production, remembering the hard work by all the cast and crew of both films, and more. This was originally recorded for the Arrow Blu-ray release.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Baadasssss Cinema" 2002 documentary (57:48)
This documentary by director Isaac Julien looks at the Blaxploitation genre through numerous clips of films and interviews with filmmakers, actors, critics, and more. Featuring interviews with Pam Grier, Gloria Hendry, Melvin Van Peebles, Samuel L. Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, and many more, it explores the post-civil rights movement and the difficulties still faced, the socio-political messages in the films in the genre, the audience reactions to rising popularity of black films in the 1970s, the formulaic nature and low budget cash-ins of later period films, and the resurgence and appreciation the films finally received in the 90s. Featuring clips from "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song", "Shaft", "Coffy", and more, plus the resurgence and homage films "Original Gangstas" and "Jackie Brown" as well for a well rounded look at the genre. The packaging mistakenly gives credit to Larry Cohen as the director for the documentary, though he is only an interview participant here. The transfer comes from a standard definition source, upscaled and slightly windowboxed.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.62:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Pam Grier Trailer Reel for "The Big Doll House", "Women in Cages", "Black Mama, White Mama", "Foxy Brown", "The Arena", "Sheba Baby", "Friday Foster", "Jackie Brown", "Jawbreaker", "Bones" (16:36)
A fun but short trailer reel featuring Grier’s most well known 70s features plus three more during her comeback years. Each trailer comes from a different source so they differ in image and sound quality. “Friday Foster” is a newly edited trailer for reissue so it comes from a remastered source with great picture and audio. “Jackie Brown” also looks and sounds fantastic. Others can be blurry, scratchy, or both.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in various ratios, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

The film was first released on Blu-ray in 2015 by Olive Films in the US, which was barebones and didn't even carry the commentary from the MGM DVD. The UK Blu-ray from Arrow in 2015 was a fantastic one, with the DVD commentary plsu the two interviews listed above, a video essay by author Mikel J. Koven, plus the trailer and a stills gallery. There were French and German Blu-ray releases in 2019 from BQHL and Studio Hamburg respectively, but both can be dismissed as the French release had no extras and the German release had trailers only and lossy audio. It was issued again in Germany in 2021 by Wicked Vision in their excellent Black Cinema Collection line of releases, which included a new German language commentary, a new interview with Jack Hill, a new interview with PD Dr. Andreas Rauscher, the DVD commentary by Hill, the Grier interview from the Arrow release, a cut down Super 8 version of the film, plus stills and trailers.

Notable clips:

Trailer with commentary by director Jack Hill from Trailers from Hell

The opening theme song by Roy Ayers

1998 interview with Pam Grier on Late Night with Conan O'Brien

2015 introduction to "Coffy" by Pam Grier at the Toronto International Film Festival
(Age restricted content and cannot be embedded)

"Coffy" Q&A with Pam Grier at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
(Age restricted content and cannot be embedded)

2018 interview with Pam Grier on her "Coffy" character for People Magazine

Pam Grier on "Coffy" at the 2022 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival

2024 interview with Pam Grier on CBS Sunday Morning

Pam's Coffy, Quentin Tarantino's coffee shop visited by Last Good Weekend


The disc is packaged in a standard clear keep case with a reversible inlay, with the opposite side looking identical except the Australian R18+ logos being removed. The packaging mistakenly states it is region B only. It is region ALL.

It is also available with a limited edition slipcover exclusively from the Umbrella Webshop.

It is also available in a Collector's Edition exclusively from the Umbrella Webshop and limited to 750 copies which also includes a 48 page book with behind-the-scenes, experiences and art, classic art outer rigid slipcase, a classic poster art slipcover, 8 replica lobby cards, and an A3 reversible poster.

The slipcover has classic artwork that is similar but slightly differing from the inlay's design with taglines from the film. The booklet has production notes by an uncredited writer, the essay "Pam Grier and the Women of Blaxploitation" by David Michael Brown, a text interview with Jack Hill by David Michael Brown plus stills and poster designs. The artcards have black and white stills from the film, and the double sided poster has the choices of classic artwork as seen on the inlay and on the slipcover. The poster is folded and housed in the keep case, which fits along with the artcards and booklet into the rigid box with its own exclusive artwork.


"Coffy" has lost none of its badassery and female power over fifty years later, with a fantastic performance by Grier in the lead. One of the most iconic film in the Blaxploitation genre, it's a fun ride even with its flaws in place. Umbrella Entertainment's Blu-ray has a dated HD transfer of the film, though it has a great selection of extras included. Highly recommended.

The Film: B Video: B Audio: A Extras: A Overall: B+


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