Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Coffy (1973)

Poster for Coffy (1973)Coffy (1973) by #JackHill

w/ #PamGrier #BookerBradshaw #RobertDoQui #AllanArbus #SidHaig

“She had a body men would die for – and a lot of them did!”

“Coffy’ll cream ya!”

Music by #RoyAyers

#Action #Blaxploitation #Crime


What can one say about Coffy (1973) that hasn’t been said before? It’s the movie that launched Pam Grier to stardom. It inspired other filmmakers. It’s been ripped off and spoofed. Depending on your point of view, it could either be the greatest Pam Grier movie (and possibly the greatest female-led Blacksploitation movie ever made), or it could be the worst. 

Yes, surprisingly enough, the movie is a bit divisive. I have friends who hated, hated, hated it. I also have friends who love it more than life itself. How can this be?

Coffy was, in fact, the first of the Big Four Pam Grier Blacksploitation Pictures that I ever saw. I talked about this a bit in my discussion of Sheba Baby (1975). Just to refresh your memory, the Big Four are:

Coffy, Foxy Brown (1974), Friday Foster (1975) and Sheba, Baby (1975). All four of the movies were named after the character that Grier played in the movie, and all four were available to rent in matching VHS boxes. I don’t think I realized that Coffy was the first one in the series. Somehow it just found its way into my hand on that day and I took it home. 

As I said back then, I enjoyed Coffy, so I started renting (and buying) all of the other films (including other movies Pam Grier was in, like The Big Doll House (1971), Women in Cages (1972) etc).

In some ways, Coffy is the grittiest of all the Pam Grier movies. It feels ultra low budget, and it feels edgy and sleazy. Depending on your point of view, this is either a good thing, or a bad thing. I tend to lean more toward the “good thing” side of the argument. Coffy is raw, and it is nasty. The opening sequence of the film lays it all out for the viewer. We get some graphic sleaze, and then we get a really graphic shotgun blast to the head. And if you didn’t know what kind of movie you were watching before that moment, you surely do now. 

This is a hard R revenge movie. No PG tastefulness here. And I guess this could be why some people find it distasteful. Others may simply be thrown by the very low budget feel of it.

Foxy Brown was apparently conceived of as a sequel to Coffy. They changed their minds at the last minute and made her a different character. But if you watch closely, you can tell she’s basically the same woman. There’s even a hospital scene. Coffy, as you may recall, is a nurse. Foxy Brown isn’t, but you can still almost see her being one. But I digress…

Jack Hill has claimed that the budget of Foxy Brown was the same as the budget for Coffy. I find this hard to believe, as Foxy Brown looks so much slicker. Just watch the credit sequence of each movie and ask your self which one looks more expensive. 

The point is, Coffy really feels rawer than all of the other movies. It feels like a quick and dirty production. And I like ’em that way. Just tell me a good story. Don’t waste my time making it look pretty.

But speaking of looking pretty… as someone on twitter remarked to me, Pam Grier looks amazing in this movie. She really does. It’s easy to see why she became a movie star and a cultural icon. Of course, it’s more than her looks. It’s her no nonsense, in your face, badass attitude. You really believe that she is physically, and mentally, able to do the things that she does to get revenge. She easily earns her place in the vigilante action hero hall of fame.

The only thing that I don’t understand is how Pam Grier didn’t make more than four of these movies. Sure, she made a lot of other movies – and some of those are among her best. But whey weren’t there five sequels to Foxy Brown or Coffy? Or a least a few more, similar movies? I think we could have used them. 

But, ultimately, I guess we have to simply be grateful for the movies we have. And Coffy is the one that got the ball rolling. And for that reason alone, it is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic. I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched it over the years, but I am confident when I say that I will certainly be watching it again, on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Monster Makers (2003)

Dvd cover for Monster Makers (2003)Monster Makers (2003) by #DavidSCassSr.

w/#LindaBlair #AdamBaldwin #GeorgeKennedy

A boy, his girl friend, and a fictional movie hero try to round up three celluloid creatures that escaped from reels of film and into the world.

“They’re Off The Screen, They’re On The Loose, And They’re Coming Your Way.”

#Horror #SciFi #Fantasy


Monster Makers (2003) is a Hallmark movie. As such, it’s pretty slickly made and has a decent cast. I picked up a copy (years back) because I’m a huge fan of Linda Blair. I recall thinking it was pretty cute back then, but I somehow have never had the urge to watch it again.

So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Monster Makers (2003) is neither Trash nor Terror. It’s not even remotely scary. There’s not really any suspense. It’s basically just a family friendly silly movie. It plays for laughs more than anything, and it even gets a few here and there. And I’ve certainly seen much worse movies. But I can’t call it even a mild Terror.

It also lacks any sort of Trash components that might make entertaining in a different way. It’s a Hallmark movie, so it’s very tame. No sleaze.  No violence. No gore. I don’t think a single person gets killed.

It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not the kind of monster movie spoof that will excite many hardcore horror fans. I suppose it’s kind of going for The Monster Squad (1987) meets The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). But it not as good as either of those films. And The Monster Squad is far edgier and more satisfying for monster fans. Even Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) has more scares in it than this movie.

So what’s the verdict?

Monster Makers (2003) is only for Linda Blair completists. Or Adam Baldwin completists. Or maybe hardcore Hallmark horror fans (if there is such a thing). I don’t think that I will need to see it a third time in my life. Twice was more than enough.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Truck Turner (1974)

Poster for Truck Turner (1974)Truck Turner (1974) by #JonathanKaplan

w/ #IsaacHayes #YaphetKotto #AlanWeeks #AnnazetteChase #NichelleNichols #ScatmanCrothers

“Skip tracer – but not the fuzz; he’s tougher”

“If you jump bail, you’re his meat.

Music by Isaac Hayes

#Action #Blaxploitation

Truck Turner (1974), like last week’s Trouble Man (1972), is another movie that I did not see until AFTER I knew the soundtrack music. My first encounter with Truck Turner was via a two part CD compilation called MGM Soul Cinema (Volumes 1 and 2).

MGM SOul Cinema CD featuring Truck Turner (1974) vol 1MGM SOul Cinema CD featuring Truck Turner (1974) vol 2

Volume 2 featured the Main Title from Truck Turner and I loved it. it was like the theme from Shaft (1971), but more intense. No surprise, I suppose, because both soundtracks were written and performed by Isaac Hayes. Volume 1 of MGM Soul Cinema featured another song from Truck Turner called Give It To Me, which was also a highlight. 

Truth be told, the entire compilation is pretty top notch, but still…

A couple of years later I actually found the complete soundtrack to Truck Turner on CD and I bought it. I played the hell out of that thing, but still I hadn’t seen the movie. 

Finally, I tracked down a copy on DVD and bought it. And even though I had probably built the thing up in my head over the years that I’d been listening to the soundtrack, I still loved the movie the first time I watched it.

Isaac Hayes plays the titular character, and he is great in this. There’s a really solid cast all around. Yaphet Kotto, whom I’ve admired since I first saw him in Alien (1979) when I was 10 or 11, is fabulous as one of the main bad guys. But I suppose the real highlight for a lot of people is Nichelle Nichols, of Star Trek fame, playing a foul-mouthed madam (and another one of the principal baddies). She is spectacular in this movie, and is probably the most unlike her iconic image as she ever was in any of her roles. Fans of Star Trek should proceed with caution so as not to have a heart attack…

Truck Turner is about a former football player who becomes a bounty hunter. He unwittingly gets himself into a situation where a lot of people want him dead. But his old football moniker still applies; he’s Mack Truck Turner, and if you get in his way, you just might get crushed.

As the song says:

There’s some dudes in a bar,
With busted heads and broken jaws,
What hit ’em?
Truck Turner!

And yes that IS a scene in the movie. I was not disappointed to confirm that the first time I watched it. And I was thrilled to re-visit it again last week.

Truck Turner (1974) is a somewhat lesser known entry in the blaxploitation genre. It may not be iconic like Shaft or Superfly (1972). It may not be highly rated like Across 110th Street (1972).  But it’s a masterpiece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema and a personal favourite of mine. I’ve watched it three or four times over the years, and listened to the soundtrack countless times. There is no doubt in my mind that it can make any night feel like a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Trouble Man (1972)

Poster for Trouble Man (1972)Trouble Man (1972) by #IvanDixon

w/ #RobertHooks #PaulWinfield #PaulaKelly #JuliusHarris #JeannieBell

One cat… who plays like an army!”
His friends call him Mr. T. His enemies call for mercy!”
Mr. T is Cold Hard Steel! He’ll Give You Peace of Mind… Piece by Piece!

Soundtrack by #MarvinGaye

#Action #Blaxploitation #Crime

I’ve talked about a few Blaxploitation movies in this blog. I’ve also talked about Blaxploitation soundtracks in this blog. To sum up, I like them both. In some cases I’ve watched movies because I knew the music first. And Trouble Man (1972) is one of the those movies. 

I was in Toronto many moons ago, attending the AGM of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and I went into the legendary Sam The Record Man’s massive flagship store on Yonge Street. I found a lot of really cool things there, many of which I had never seen before. After selecting an armload of stuff to purchase, I carried it up to the front of the store to the cashier. And on the wall, near the cashier, was a small display of CDs. I don’t recall if there was a theme to the selection – in fact, I don’t recall what any of them were, except for one: the soundtrack of Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye.

I had see a lot of Blaxploitation movies in my life, but I had never seen Trouble Man. In fact, I had never heard of Trouble Man. But I knew immediately that I had to buy this CD.

When I got back home, I put the CD on and I was immediately transported into the world of a cool movie that I had never seen. I imagined what might be happening on screen, and I liked it. I listened to that soundtrack a lot over the next couple of years.

Of course, this made me want to see the movie. But it was many years before I was able to do so. For some reason, Trouble Man was not like Shaft (1971) or Foxy Brown (1974). It was very hard to come by. I’m not even sure if it was ever released on VHS.

Finally, a DVD of Trouble Man appeared on a shelf one day and I took it home. I had years of anticipation built up and I needed to see this movie NOW.

Truth be told, I was a little disappointed after that first viewing. It didn’t quite live up to the movie that I had imagined in my head. It also didn’t live up to Marvin Gaye’s music. It just seemed a little underwhelming to me. Not bad. Just not as good as I had hoped. So, I put it into my collection and forgot about it for a few years. I knew that one day I would have to try it again, but I did not want to rush into it.

Last Friday, I decided it was time to give it another go. Perhaps my expectations had been sufficiently lowered, but I found myself enjoying it quite a bit this time. The music was just as good as ever, but this time the story was catching my interest as well. Robert Hooks, as Mr T. (was he the inspiration for was real life Mr T.?) was a revelation this time. In some ways, his character was not completely sympathetic right off the top. But in other ways, he was making me laugh with his complete unflinching confidence and lack of diplomacy. This is a man who doesn’t worry about pissing people off. He is so pathological about it that it becomes kind of endearing. And I was totally in his corner by the time the shit starts to hit the fan.

I guess the “T” stands for Trouble, and I found myself thinking that this is the character that Fred Williamson’s Mr. Mean (1977) should have been. A guy whose personality lives up to his name. Mr. T. gets into trouble without even trying too hard. And we enjoy seeing him get into it, almost as much as we enjoy watching him get out of it.

Trouble Man (1972) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema of the forgotten kind. It’s not famous like Shaft or Foxy Brown – but it kind of feels like it belongs with those movies. It’s not a cheapo campy kind of Blaxploitation film (like Mr. Mean perhaps). It feels more serious and classy. It’s got one of the best soundtracks of all time. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been remembered as well as many others. Maybe the character of Mr. T. was slightly off-putting to some viewers back in the day. But I think if you stick with him, you’ll learn to love him before the movie is done. And I for one will be looking forward to seeing that Trouble Man again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: Unrest (2006)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

Cover art for Unrest (2006)Unrest (2006) by #JasonToddIpson

W/ #CorriEnglish #MarisaPetroro #BenLivingston

A young pathology med student suspects that the spirit of a dead cadaver in the hospital morgue where she works is killing off all those who handle or desecrate the body.

Don’t Scream. You’ll Wake the Dead.

#Horror #Thriller


I guess it’s getting to be 15 plus years since the After Dark HorrorFest appeared on video store shelves with their 8 Films To Die For series. I saw most of the films back then. Some I rented, but others I purchased (when I found them for a reasonable price). I found most of them to be at least worth a watch. Some I found downright good, and put them into my permanent collection.

A while back I took a second look at one of those films that made the cut 15 years ago – a film called Dark Ride (2006) – and I found it to be somewhat closer to Trash than Terror after all these years. This got me to thinking that maybe I should take a look at some of the other films in the After Dark HorrorFest to see if they are also aging poorly (in my opinion). With that in mind, last Tuesday I took a look at Unrest (2006).

The good news is that I rather enjoyed this one. I found it to be legitimately scary and suspenseful at times. And it had characters that I actually cared about.

No, it isn’t a perfect film. It’s fairly claustrophobic in that it mostly takes place in the hospital morgue where pathology students are learning to dissect corpses. There are a few other settings in the hospital, but I don’t think we ever leave the building (or only very briefly if we do). So it takes place in a very small world. It mostly gets away with it, but I couldn’t help but feel that it was missing something that would have made it a great movie.

Still, it kept me entertained for 90 minutes, and that’s all it really needed to do.

So what’s the verdict?

Unrest (2006) is a mild to moderate Terror. Don’t expect The Exorcist (1973) or Rosemary’s Baby (1968), but as far as low budget supernatural horror films go, this one is not bad at all. Definitely worth a look, in my opinion. And I will be putting it back on shelf, because I can imagine watching it again someday. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Cult of the Cobra (1955)

Poster for Cult of the Cobra (1965)Cult of the Cobra (1955) by #FrancisDLyon

w/ #FaithDomergue #RichardLong #MarshallThompson #KathleenHughes

Ex-G.I.s are hunted down by a woman who can transform herself into a cobra.

“The fangs of the Snake Goddess will PIERCE YOUR FLESH!”

#Horror #Fantasy

Cult of the Cobra (1955) is another one of those movies that may well have been shown on Not Quite Classic Theatre back in the 1980s. I don’t recall seeing it back then, but it could have been part of a triple feature I experienced one late Saturday night. It certainly fits in with movies I do remember like  Monster on the Campus (1958) and The Monolith Monsters (1957). 

Cult of the Cobra is kind of like a werewolf movie, but about a woman who turns into a snake. I suppose the other obvious comparison might be to Cat People (1942). And I always used to lament the fact that Cat People didn’t spawn a whole sub-genre of movies about cat people (sort of like the over-crowded werewolf genre, for instance). Yes, there was one sequel and a remake. And I used to imagine that The Leopard Man (1943) might be some sort of not-too-distant cousin. But, basically, cat people did not become one of the three or four big movie monsters. 

Cult of the Cobra gives me the same feeling. The “it’s too bad this movie didn’t spawn a whole series of movies”, feeling. It’s really quite a great idea. A woman who becomes a deadly cobra monster. She even experiences some of the same doubts and guilt that Larry Talbot (The Wolfman (1941)) does. It had a lot of potential, I think.

There were a couple of other human-beings-turning-into-snakes-movies over the years, but none of them sparked a whole sub-genre of copycats. Sssssss (1973) is a prime example (and it’s a movie that should be featured in this very blog sometime in the future). I suppose  The Lair of the White Worm (1988) is also related in it’s own way. It’s a very good movie that should be better known that it is.

But Cult of the Cobra is what I’m here to talk about… and unfortunately my time is as scarce as it’s been for the past couple of weeks. So, I’ll have to get right to the point:

I liked Cult of the Cobra (1955) very much. I’m sure there are some outdated, politically incorrect moments in it (as there are in many older movies), but overall I found it to be charming and delightful. It’s exactly the sort of movie that could have inspired me when I was a teenager. It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema of a type that they just don’t make anymore. Classy and tasteful, and yet somehow edgy and provocative at the same time – or perhaps I should say, for it’s time. I don’t know how I’ve missed it up until now, but I intend to make sure that I revisit it many times in the future. And I can say without a doubt that at least one them will be on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.