Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Rolling Vengeance (1987)

Poster for Rolling Vengeance (1987)Rolling Vengeance (1987) by #StevenHilliardStern

w/ #DonMichaelPaul #LawrenceDane #NedBeatty #LisaHoward

A truck driver builds a special truck to get revenge on the rednecks who killed his family.

“Always use the right tool for the job.”

#Action #Revenge #Canada

Perusing the shelves of my local video stores, I would often see VHS copies of both Rolling Vengeance (1987) and Rolling Thunder (1977). I knew that one of them was supposed to be good, but which one was it…? Unsure, I would often pass both of them up and rent something else. Eventually, I figured out that Rolling Thunder was the more admired of the two – and it is indeed a very good movie. But any title that includes the word Vengeance is automatically appealing to me. So, when I found a reasonably priced VHS tape of Rolling Vengeance in a bargain bin, I grabbed it and headed for the till. Continue reading

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.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Naked Vengeance (1985)

I rented Naked Vengeance (1985) on VHS sometime in the late ’80s. My video store had two different tapes to choose from: one R-rated, and one unrated. I knew enough to know that unrated meant better, or perhaps more: more nudity, more violence, more of everything that made my friends and I rent a movie. You could usually see that the running time was longer on the back of the unrated box than on the R-rated one. There were a few noted exceptions, but in this case the unrated tape was clearly the way to go.

Aside from horror films, I was also a big fan of of any kind of vigilante or revenge movie. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my school was lousy with gangs of thugs who liked to terrorize anyone who got marks higher than a ‘C’. I had previously enjoyed such titles as Death Wish (1974), Death Wish II (1982) and Savage Streets (1984).

I don’t think I had ever heard the term “rape-revenge” or “rape-revenge movie” at that time. But a lot of these movies (including the three I just mentioned) involved a rape, which would then lead to some form of revenge (or at least random vigilanteism). I had seen the most notorious movie of this type, which was of course  I Spit On Your Grave (1978). Its reputation had preceded it. I knew Roger Ebert had called it a “vile bag of garbage” and one of the worst films ever made. But he also gave Death Wish II no stars and said: “I award “no stars” only to movies that are artistically inept and morally repugnant. So Death Wish II joins such unsavory company as Penitentiary II and I Spit on Your Grave.”

I happened to love Death Wish II. It was certainly the most violent movie I had ever seen when I was 12, but it was also tense and exciting. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat and sweating as I watched the climactic sequence. Incidentally, I screened it for a friend years later, when we were well into our twenties, and I watched him having the same physical reaction during that sequence. It made me smile.

So, Roger Ebert’s condemnation of I Spit On Your Grave was not a deterrent to me. And the cover of the VHS box was irresistible. “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition… but no jury in America would ever convict her!”


Truth be told, I was disappointed in I Spit On Your Grave the first time I saw it – and not just because she only kills four men – not five like the box claimed. I think I had expected something closer to Death Wish II or Savage Streets, but I Spit On Your Grave was way more rape than revenge. Way more. That’s not to say there weren’t some good moments once the revenge part got going, but I guess it was too little, too late for me at the time. I have since re-evaluated it (with the help of a director’s commentary and Joe Bob Briggs) and I appreciate it more now than I did back then. But that’s another story.

When I first saw Naked Vengeance (1985) I was shocked to discover that it was almost the exact same movie as I Spit On Your Grave – woman from the big city goes to a small town / rural area to be alone. She gets gang raped by a group of assholes and then kills them all in creatively violent ways. But Naked Vengeance, it seemed to me at the time, was better than I Spit On Your Grave. It was the movie that I Spit On Your Grave should have been. Naked Vengeance spends way more time on the revenge than on the rape. And it does it well, with energy and forward movement. I Spit On Your Grave seemed to move at a snail’s pace to my younger self. And it wasn’t fun. Naked Vengeance manages to be fun, as well as shocking, violent, suspenseful and all that good stuff.

Now, I know there are people out there who love I Spit On Your Grave. And as I said, I appreciate it way more now than I did back then. I have a nice edition of it in my home drive-in library. But for years I remembered Naked Vengeance even more fondly and wanted to add it to my library. Unfortunately, I never found a copy of the unrated edition on VHS after it disappeared from my video store. And I never found it on DVD. It seemed to literally vanish, perhaps eclipsed by better known movies like the ones I’ve mentioned. Thankfully that has all changed thanks to the new Shout Factory / Scream Factory double feature Blu-ray (which also includes Vendetta (1986), another personal favourite of mine.

Naked Vengeance was directed by Cirio H. Santiago, who made about a hundred movies, including Savage! (1973), Vampire Hookers (1978), and She Devils in Chains AKA Ebony, Ivory & Jade (1976). I used to see his name frequently in the credits of movies I would rent or purchase. They weren’t all great. Some of them were slow and tedious. So his hame was not a guarantee of excellence to my younger, movie watching self. But this one I thought was one of his best. I’m also a huge fan of TNT Jackson (1974), but that’s another story. 

Naked Vengeance (1985) lived up to my fond memories, and I believe it is more than just nostalgia. I will be watching it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. It is a a #Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema favourite!