Coffy (Jack Hill / U.S., 1973):

Seventies cinema was home to Gogol's lost souls (Taxi Driver, Fighting Mad, Rolling Thunder). Here, a year before Vibenius' Thriller, is the feminine side. A dope pusher is taken from his nightclub entourage to the backseat of his dealer's auto, where he spots the opulent figure of Pam Grier. Her strung-out chick is one of the avenger's incarnations (nightshift nurse, Jamaican trick, politician's mistress), she keeps it up until the peddler is in his purple boxers and then produces a sawed-off shotgun. Her little sister, comatose from narcotics, fuels Grier's vigilantism, a murky "dream" that tends to the "conflict of interest" between kingpin and commissioner. "Is there something you want to talk about," asks the one clean cop in the Los Angeles force (William Elliott) minutes before getting pulverized by thugs. The villain is a "kinda freaky" mob don (Allan Arbus), to reach him the heroine offers herself as "a wild cat from a tropical jungle" and infiltrates a pimp's (Robert DoQui) harem. Jack Hill runs a tight construction, founded on cogent views of the city at night, ferocious stunt work and almost reflex playing. There are risky allusions to lynch-mob imagery in DoQui's demise (tied by a noose to the limo piloted by Sid Haig), plus a barbed political joke in the smooth, crooked Congressman's (Booker Bradshaw) impassionate analysis of the implications of the drug trade ("a vicious attempt by the white power structure to exploit our black men and women in this society") before the pasty TV director steps in to congratulate him ("real convincing"). Grier is the movie's bristling force, properly saluted in the soundtrack: "Coffy baby, such a rare black pearl / In a world full of tragedy and tears..." She sticks razors in her hair and strides to the sadistic traffickers, dirty officers and double-crossing lovers of the climax; Grier plows through it and Hill takes her in, majestically. With Barry Cahill, Linda Haynes, and Carol Locatell.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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