Fueled largely by the popularity of Pam Grier, Coffy hit theaters in 1973. Right in the middle of the blaxploitation craze, the film would immortalize Grier at her sexy, butt-kicking best. It would set the genre standard for cool and its star Pam Grier would prove to the rest of the world that women could be action heroes too.
The formula for the blaxsploitation was a simple one. Redo the early 1930s Warner Brothers films, only with black actors, in which in there was an untapped abundance of talent at the time, add more sex and violence. The studios found a new audience, inner-city black people, who group militant groups like the black panthers targeted as well to fight against the white establishment. Militant rhetoric and images filled the screen and was a staple of blaxploitation films.
As Coffy, a nurse who would take on the drug dealers and the mob in her city after the drug overdose of her sister, Grier would not only have to act the part she would have to look it as well. The character of Coffy spans the gamut of emotions, from shotgun toting vigilante to potential rape victim.
After her shift, Coffy’s police friend Carter offers to drive her home. Carter is a straight-shooting officer who is not willing to bend the law for the mob or the thugs who have been bribing officers at his precinct. Coffy doesn’t believe his strong moral resolve until two hooded men break into Carter’s house while she’s visiting him and beat Carter severely, temporarily crippling him. This enrages Coffy, giving her further provocation to continue her work as a vigilante, killing those responsible for harming Carter and her sister.
Long time B-movie director Jack Hill, who was white, would team with Grier for Coffy and several other of American International Films.
Of Hill, film scholar Wheeler Dixon believed:
“(…)that for Hill and fellow low-budget auteur Monte Hellman, film was primarily a means of personal expression while remaining a “deeply financially dependent medium”. Dixon wrote that Hill and Hellman’s movies often were sufficiently successful while remaining true to their personal vision.”
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