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reviews added: 2/5/01

Todd Doogan is... the DVD Fanboy DVD Fanboy reviews MGM's Soul Cinema DVDs

reviews by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits
(a.k.a. DVD Fanboy)
[email protected]

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1973 (2000) - American International Pictures (MGM)

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/B+

Specs and Features:

90 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by director Jack Hill, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English, Spanish and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

"This is the end of your rotten life you motherf*%#in' dope pusher!"

Only one woman could play Coffy, and it's that super fine lady, Pam Grier. Coffy's got a serious mad-on. She absolutely hates drug pushers, and she has good reason - her whole family is hooked on the shit. Coffy's real name is Coffen, and she's the big sister of a young girl who recently got addicted to smack. Enough is enough and, right off the bat, we see a woman out for revenge against the dope pushers of the inner city, blowing heads clean off and dumping "hot shots" into unsuspecting runners. But what would such a vigilante do for a day job? Why... she's an emergency room nurse, of course. On top of that, she's also dating a congressional candidate. You'd think life could be good for this chick, but no. She's full of hate and is willing to do anything to get junk off the streets. When a cop who won't play dirty (and who just happens to be one of Coffy's oldest friends) gets put into the hospital in critical condition by some mob enforcers, Coffy gets even more suped-up. She infiltrates the harem of a notorious pimp named King George, to find out how the mob is involved in these operations. And naturally, she kicks things open from the inside out, leaving no stone unturned or head kicked in.

I know, I know... an ass kickin' nurse. But it works. Grier is actually good here, mostly thanks to director Jack Hill. This is one of his better films and it's a lot of fun. Coffy isn't as "important" as Hill's next film Foxy Brown, but it is better-made and works better as a film than Foxy does. It has nothing on Foxy though, when it comes to balls-out fun. But Coffy does have a few pay-off's, like the bloodletting in the opening sequence and one of the greatest catfights ever caught on film (in chapter 8).

Coffy is presented non-anamorphic on DVD, but it looks really good anyway. Colors are bright, blacks are solid and the grain is tight. It would look better in anamorphic, but it's fine for what it is. The sound is a straight mono track, with not too much range, but it sounds fine.

There's also a trailer and a really good commentary track with writer/director Jack Hill. Hill always seems put out on his commentary tracks, but he has loads and loads of information. Hill is a leader of genre filmmaking, and he has plenty of stories to tell. They flow from this track like honey. We get facts about the filming, who was cast and why, attitudes of the time - everything that's relevant. You'll have a really good time listening to it.

Coffy a good film. It's not as fun as Foxy Brown, but it'll entertain you. The commentary track is a veritable textbook on blaxpoitation filmmaking and this disc is worth picking up just for that. If you like genre films, this is one of the better ones.


Foxy Brown

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Foxy Brown
1974 (2000) - American International Pictures (MGM)

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B-/B+

Specs and Features:

91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, commentary by Jack Hill, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

"The game ain't over yet, bitch!"

Originally meant to be a sequel to Coffy, Foxy Brown once again stars Pam Grier as a tough and silky broad out for revenge. Foxy's boyfriend, a former undercover narcotics agent, has been given a new face and a new lease on life. But with the good comes the bad, as Foxy's brother Link (a drug dealer and numbers runner) gets involved with a ruthless syndicate. He owes them 20 grand, and he's out of time but not ideas. Once he gets wind that Foxy's new boyfriend may, in fact, be her old one with a new face, he realizes that the people that want him dead might think that information would be worth an exchange. And after the syndicate guns her boyfriend down, Foxy goes in undercover as an escort to even the score.

Foxy Brown is one of the preeminent blaxpoitation films. It may not be the best film Grier's been in, or even the best exploitation film director/writer Jack Hill has ever made. But everything about it IS blaxpoitation - there's no doubt about it. The colors, the style, the dialogue - it just screams Soul. You can't get much better than this, no matter how hard you try.

Here on DVD, Foxy shines. It's anamorphic, it looks clean and the colors are bright. There's very little damage to the source print and no artifacts are visible. It's a good-looking transfer for a film made in 1974. The sound is okay. It's mono and there's nothing dynamic about it at all. I know you can't expect too much from a 2-channel mono track, but one can always hope especially since it represents Willie Hutch's excellent score.

Thankfully, MGM gives us yet another entry in the Jack Hill commentary series for this disc. Here, Mr. Hill is his usual methodical self. He talks slowly, but the facts spill forth, making the track worth listening to. He brings us through the script process and he marketing decisions that lead to the film's re-conceptualization and re-titling. He talks about the casting, the acting and the influence of the film on pop culture. It's a really good track, right up there with the one on Coffy, and it gives nice insight into the blaxpoitation filmmaking world. MGM also includes the original trailer, which looks pretty good.

Foxy Brown is on DVD and that's what counts. And, once again, the commentary track automatically makes it a must-buy. Come get Foxy... before she comes to get you.

Foxy Brown

Friday Foster

Friday Foster
1975 (2000) - American International Pictures (MGM)

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/D+

Specs and Features:

Specs and Features 89 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English, French and Spanish (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

Colt: "So now you're hustling, huh?"

Cleve: "Nope. Strictly black capitalism."

Former fashion model-turned-photographer Friday Foster isn't having a good week. She works for "Glance Magazine", and although her past is riddled with assignments that she's screwed up because she got too involved, her publisher has no choice but to send her out for a tricky shoot. It would seem that Blake Tarr (the horribly named black Howard Hughes, i.e. one of the richest black men in the world) is coming back into town and "Glance" needs pictures of this momentous event.

What's supposed to be a simple surveillance photo gig to capture Tarr on film ends up with Friday in the middle of a messy plot to assassinate him. As if that weren't bad enough, her best friend's man was one of the assassins. This is no way to spend your New Year's Eve, is it? Well, it gets worse. The next day, the assassins come back and want Friday's friend dead. So they nail her at a fashion show, headed up by Eartha Kitt. Friday, out to find the truth with her P.I. buddy Colt Hawkins, uncovers a horrifying plot that leads all the way to Washington, D.C. and which involves Thurston Howell III in a racist plot to kill every rich black man in America. Yikes - see what happens when you sit on an island for years? Now, Friday has to put away her camera and pull out a gun to bring the syndicate down.

What we have here is a frickin' cast made up of every power player of 1970s soul cinema, all collected together in one flick. There's soul sister number one Pam Grier as Friday, Yaphet Kotto (playing Colt), who always seems to have the perpetual mad-on, the sexy at 105 Ms. Eartha Kitt, the stately Thalmus Rasulala (Blake Tarr), comic relief Godfrey Cambridge (Cotton Comes to Harlem's Grave Digger Jones), Carl Weathers in a throw away hired killer role, Scatman Crothers as a priest who likes the ladies and who could forget The Love Boat's very own Ted Lange (playing a pimp).

The colors and clarity of the transfer on this DVD are impressive. There's a bit of edge enhancement here and there, but it doesn't distract. This isn't an anamorphic transfer, and it could have benefited from one, but there's no use crying over spilled resolution. The mono sound also has its faults. It'll does the job, but it's not going to impress anyone.

Extras include the film's trailer and nothing else. Again, there's not even an insert sheet with notes, photos or chapter stops. You're on your own with this disc. Just like Friday.

Friday Foster

Sheba, Baby

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Sheba, Baby
1975 (2000) - American International Pictures/Orion (MGM)

Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C-/D+

Specs and Features:

91 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

After her father is roughed up by some toughs, Chicago private eye Sheba Shayne (Pam Grier) heads back home to Louisville, Kentucky (huh?), to find out what the hell is going down. Turns out her father's new neighborhood-based loan company is being eyed by the Mob (in Kentucky?). It's funny... I just wasn't aware how much the Mafia hated African-Americans. It seems like all of these films involve the mob wanting some cat or kitten dead. Weird. Anyway, Sheba is a badass private eye (as if there was any other kind), and doesn't take too kindly to the mob beating her daddy up. She takes it even worse when the Mob tries to blow her up in her dad's car. So, Sheba does what any self respecting private eye would do - she goes undercover, makes it with the evil white guy to instigate his demise, blah, blah, blah.... You know the drill.

This film is nothing but a vehicle for Pam Grier to shine, and shine she does. The other acting is bad all the way around, the script is incredibly weak and the set-ups are lame. But Sheba, Baby's got Grier in it and it's on DVD. I've seen much worse... even if I've seen much better.

The anamorphic picture for Sheba, Baby is fine looking (but not as fine as Ms. Grier). In its dark spots, the picture falls apart with artifacting and rough grain. It's still quite watchable, though. I have no real complaints. The audio, on the other hand, is truly God-awful. It sounds like it's being played through a rusty tin can, riddled with holes. The track has a hollow, tinny quality and just doesn't sound good at all. You can hear what's going on, but it'll sound like you're inner ears need a good cleaning.

Rounding out this disc is a trailer, that's seen better days. And that's it. This is not the best presentation for one of Grier's entries in the Soul Cinema series.

Sheba, Baby

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