SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
If you’re seeking for no-holds-barred blaxploitation, look no further. Pam Grier’s first solo starring role is a gem!!
Nurse by day, vigilante by night, luscious Coffy (Pam Grier) leads a complicated life. Her sister is a vegetable in a drug rehab centre, prompting Coffy to seduce and kill one of the dealers responsible. Her boyfriend Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) is a politician campaigning against drugs in the ghettos. Her policeman pal Carter Brown (William Elliot), after refusing a bribe from mobster Arturo Vitroni (Allan Arbus), is beaten into a coma. Coffy swears vengeance and works her way into the stable of whores run by drug-dealer King George (Robert DoQui) in order to switch his stash of heroin for sugar and catches the eye of his guest Vitroni.
The plot is rather predictable, but it takes a couple of unexpected detours before its brutal conclusion. Violence is extreme and often genuinely shocking, with Coffy blasting the head off a drug dealer even BEFORE the opening credits! Aside from the violence, there’s quite a fair bit of gratuitous nudity and casual perversity in the film too, as when Coffy first catches the eye of Vitroni, a man she knows to be a sadist, instigates a catfight with a jealous prostitute. Naturally blouses are torn asunder! When King George tries to intervene, Vitroni stops him, ordering him to let them fight! It’s apparent screenwriter-director Jack Hill is clearly having a ball of a time with this material, milking it for every exploitative moment!
Having helmed another independent trash cinema in SPIDER BABY (1964), film student Jack Hill was employed in the mid-1960s by American International Pictures (along with former classmate Francis Ford Coppola), for whom he worked in every possible capacity. During the initial gold rush of blaxploitation, he was brought aboard CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) in the developmental stage, but when the project was bought out by Warner Bros. and the producers left out in the cold, they decided to make their own variation on the theme. Hill wrote COFFY and cast AIP’s former receptionist, Pam Grier, in the lead role. Previously Grier had featured in Hill’s two women-in-prison films, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971) and THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972) – all of which were shot in the Philippines. At the time of COFFY she wasn’t overly skilled as an actress (check out her Jamaican accent when she goes undercover), but Hill’s script didn’t exactly require Grade-A acting either. It called for her to look good and kick some serious arse, two things that nobody’s ever done better than Pam!