I had a pretty flimsy excuse for inviting you over.
We featured a very nice shot of U.S. actress Marilyn Joi last year, but she deserves a rerun, so here she is again, chilled out, sporting an afro, and looking like she has something naughty on her mind. The shot was made in 1973 as a promo for the blaxploitation flick Coffy. The fact that the photo exists is a bit is unusual due to the fact her role in the film was so brief she never got screen credit. She was one of the prosties in the pimp King George's stable, competition for an infiltrating Pam Grier, who was on a revenge mission. Joi probably got fifteen seconds of screen time, which may be why this photo is often misattributed. It's Joi, though. As proof there she is below in a screen grab from the movie.
It's strong and bold and might be just the wake-up you need.
Coffy is not a movie we planned to write about, due to the fact that it's been covered by so many websites. But then we came across this French poster made for its release in Paris today in 1973—where it was called Coffy: la panthère noire de Harlem—and we changed our minds. The movie possibly falls into the category of those everyone has heard about but few have seen, so we gave it a run for the first time in some years. The story is straightforward—a teen girl is in the hospital suffering from the effects of an overdose, and her sister, played by Pam Grier, goes looking for revenge. She kills the dealer who sold heroin to her sister, but soon learns there's another dealer behind that one, and so forth. In a world that's corrupt to the core, revenge is a maze where the center is impossibly difficult to find.
Coffy isn't well acted, but those who go in expecting Oscar worthy performances are setting up false standards. Blaxploitation was about telling stories from a new point of view, one lacking in American cinema. Trying to round out a black cast, as well as find compelling black leads, meant taking chances and bringing novice performers into the fold. The message is what mattered in these movies, and the message was that something was seriously wrong in America. Those who paid attention learned one of the most basic lessons anyone can learn—your reality is just one of many. Other people live entirely different lives governed by different, equally valid truths. Mainstream Americans who understood this concept learned plenty from blaxploitation. Those who denied this most simple of life's facts learned nothing—and are the same people who today look at what happens in America's inner cities with bafflement or scathing contempt.
Coffy was really an envelope pushing film. We'll just highlight one scene to make that point. Pam Grier's title character has sex with her boyfriend then heads toward the bathroom. On the way there, but off-camera, we hear her say, “Oops! Oh, you shouldn't have made me laugh.” What do you supposed happened? Here's a hint—it involves spillage, and not from a glass. It may well have been the first movie ever to hint at post-coital drainage. Later it does another off-camera bit with oral sex when Grier pours wine in her boyfriend's lap and proceeds to clean it up. Coffy may not have been well acted, but it had moments of earthy realism that were almost microscopic in focus. You also get plenty of action and a fierce, single-minded heroine you can root for. Coffy opened in France today in 1973. Check out a rare U.S. promo poster for it here.
They might catch her but they can never tame her.
There’s nothing we can write about Pam Grier’s blaxploitation thriller Foxy Brown that hasn't already been written. But our site wouldn’t be complete without an entry on this film, so above are two American promo posters, and below are some production stills. Foxy Brown was made using the same basic blueprint as 1973’s Coffy, and in fact was originally written as a sequel to the earlier film. Why American International ditched the sequel concept and denied itself a franchise is unclear, but the movie was a hit anyway. We love it, but in honesty, it’s clunkily written and badly acted, however we can also sense how visceral and different it must have felt at the time. At the very least, it’s worth seeing for Grier’s groovy opening dance number. We have some promo photos below, and sharp eyed readers may notice Grier wears the same red cut-out jumpsuit as in Coffy. We haven't mixed up our images. While Grier wears that red jumpsuit in the film Coffy and the promo shots for Foxy Brown, she doesn't actually wear it onscreen in the latter movie. Foxy Brown premiered today in 1974.
Even one foot high she cuts an impressive figure.
Here’s a little something different—you're looking at a foot-high statuette of Pam Grier as Foxy Brown. It comes from Mark Alfrey Studios and goes for $70, or thereabouts. He also has a version of Grier as the immortal Coffy, seen below. They’re done in stylized proportions, but amusingly, their extreme shapes are not too far off Grier’s actual mid-20s physique—all praises to genetics. By the way, someone asked us recently why Coffy never had a last name. When you consider Grier has played such characters as Sheba Shayne, Friday Foster and Jackie Brown, Coffy no-last-name would seem to be a grave omission, but she actually does have a last name—it’s Coffin (see what we did there with that “grave” omission thing?). Her character is called Coffy as a nickname, (much better than Coffin, considering she’s a nurse), so what she actually lacks is a first name. It never occurs in the film.
Last time we watched Coffy we made a game of coming up with a first name. Her sister is named LuBelle, so that gave us a general sense of which way to go, but we settled on something ridiculous, owing to the brain-muddling influence of demon alcohol. Next time you watch the movie try some names on for size—it’s kind of fun. Anyway, back to the figures, these things are licensed, so Alfrey got some signed by Grier, and those go for a cool $145. But for the blaxploitation fan who has everything price is no object. And for Grier, statuettes are great, but how about a star on the Walk of Fame? She’s had far greater cultural impact than many of the recipients.
She's all the stimulation you need.
Above is a beautiful panel length promo poster for the blaxploitation classic Coffy, which starred Pam Grier in one of her defining roles, and premiered in the U.S. today in 1973. This film has been written about thousands of times, so we don't need to bother. But maybe we'll revisit the subject later anyway.
Lock, stock and two soon-to-be-smoking barrels.
Pam Grier, beautiful and angry in the blaxploitation classic Coffy, 1973.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
1936—First Edition of Life Published
Henry Luce launches Life, a weekly magazine with an emphasis on photo-journalism. Life dominates the U.S. market for more than forty years, publishing scores of iconic photographs that remain some of the most recognizable ever shot, and peaking at one point with a circulation of more than 13.5 million copies a week.
1963—Doctor Who Debuts on BBC
The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as a mysterious alien who time travels in his spaceship, the TARDIS. With his companions, he explores time and space while facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. The show would become the longest-running science fiction series ever broadcast.
1963—John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated
In Dallas, Texas, U.S. President John F. Kennedy is killed and Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded as they ride in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald
, an employee of the schoolbook depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges of the murder of a local police officer and was subsequently charged with the Kennedy killing. He denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Today, Americans who believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy are routinely dismissed
in the press, yet the vast majority of them believe Oswald did not act alone.
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