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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Revenge > Blaxploitation > Sex > Horror > Satanism > Spaghetti Western > Martial Arts cycle > Coffy (1973/American International/MGM/Arrow U.K. Region B Import Blu-ray Set)/Satan's Cheerleaders (1977/VCI DVD)/The Stranger Trilogy (1967 - 1975/MGM/Warner Archive DVD Set)/Tracers (2014/Lionsgate

Coffy (1973/American International/MGM/Arrow U.K. Region B Import Blu-ray Set)/Satan's Cheerleaders (1977/VCI DVD)/The Stranger Trilogy (1967 - 1975/MGM/Warner Archive DVD Set)/Tracers (2014/Lionsgate Blu-ray)



Picture: B/C+/C/B Sound: B-/C+/C/B- Extras: B/C+/C-/D Films: B-/C/C/D



PLEASE NOTE: The Coffy Import Blu-ray set is now only available from our friends at Arrow U.K. and can only play on Blu-ray players that can handle Region B format discs, while The Stranger Trilogy is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.



Here are the latest genre releases for you to know about...



Jack Hill's Coffy (1973) took advantage of the rising star of Pam Grier and became the film that cemented her lead status as the queen and godmother of what became the Blaxploitation cycle, a name that has stuck no matter who has or has not been happy with it. As significant as the original Shaft or Superfly, Grier is a nurse (think Julia perhaps?) who seems to have a decent life when her sister is brutally attacked by a group of out of control drug dealers who think they can get away with anything.


Now, a woman who has spend her life healing and helping people in pain is going to let some loose as she seduces her way into their dirty world and slowly but surely takes out each one, one by one by one by one. Grier is great here and despite the stereotypes as bad as ever (a few episodes of The Wire as compared to this more than show the limits of this film and the ones that followed) but it was a big hit and kept American International Pictures the king of the genre, even as the other major studios stepped in after Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) made a fortune on a tiny budget.


Hill helms this very effectively (expect some graphic violence) and the rest of the cast is solid including the late, great, ever-underrated Robert DoQui (Altman's Nashville, original RoboCop films, endless great guest turns) as the main villain who has some odd charm for being a killer. That includes odd chemistry with Coffy that makes the film always more interesting than most films in the Blaxploitation era. Arrow U.K. has gone all out in a Region B-only Import Blu-ray set that is the definitive home video release of this film and it is a shame it is only available in that market. However, diehard fans will want to get this set (and a Region B-compatible player) that is one of the best, most comprehensive releases of any such film in home video history to date.


Extras include a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx and new illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher and a profile of Grier by Yvonne D. Sims, author of Women in Blaxploitation, illustrated with archive stills and posters, while the Blu-ray adds a feature length audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill, A Taste of Coffy brand new interview with Hill, The Baddest Chick in Town! brand new interview with Pam Grier on Coffy and its follow up, Foxy Brown, Blaxploitation! video essay by author Mikel J. Koven (Blaxploitation Film) on the history and development of the genre, an Original theatrical trailer and an Image Gallery. Nice!!!



Greydon Clark's Satan's Cheerleaders (1977) makes no secret that it is an exploitation film with a high concept theme (Satanists penetrate (no pun intended) high school cheerleading squad to keep their evil going), but this one landed up having name stars at the last minute like John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, John Carradine and Sydney Chaplin, so they are amusing when they show up and some of the scenes with the guys and gals are amusing, but this sadly drags on and on too much for its 92 minutes adding up to too many missed opportunities. A low budget is no excuse, as this is a problem with a poor script and going for the T&A quotient.


At least it plays as a time capsule of its period, but it is a camp piece and teen film primarily, with the horror genre coming in afterwards and is inferior to the much better Satan's School For Girls (1973, reviewed elsewhere on this site) which was actually a TV movie! This is still the best version of the film out there and you could do worse. If you are curious, settle for this edition only!


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Director Clark and a Behind The Scenes photo gallery.



Vance Lewis' The Stranger Trilogy (1967 - 1975) is a soulless, tired rip-off (like so many of its ilk) of the Sergio Leone Man With No Name films with Clint Eastwood that also made for a trilogy. In this case, we get Tony Anthony (that name...) in the title role in A Stranger In Town (1967), The Stranger Returns (1969) and the oddly karate/kung-fu-filled Silent Stranger (a belated 1975 entry) co-produced with MGM and infamous near-Beatles manager Allen Klein, whose name has been no much better feature film fare.


I can see why Warner Archive is issuing this DVD set as one of theirs as these films were never that good, have not aged well, pale as compared to other non-Leone Spaghetti Westerns and are all a curio at best. The first is a very derivative imitator down to the imitation editing approach that rings false, the sequel trying to do the same thing with more energy to no avail and the third a last-minute afterthought adding the martial arts cycle of the 1970s in the mix by having our 'hero' go to Japan and deal with Samurai! I kid you not and it is the worst, never even becoming unintentionally funny. If you are curious, be very curious or just pass and move on.


A trailer for the second film is the only extra in the whole set, but a fourth film that served as a late continuation of the series with Get Mean (1975), reviewed here on Blu-ray...


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/13849/Get+Mean+(1975/Blue+Underground+Blu-ray/DVD


Then he sent it all up with his indie hit Comin' At Ya! (1981) in 3D, reviewed on Blu-ray here...


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/14059/Comin'+At+Ya!+3D+(1981/MVD+Visual+Blu-ray




Last and least is Daniel Benmayor's Tracers (2014) in another boring dud with Taylor Lautner picking the worst possible projects to sign on. In what plays like a worthless, tired (at 94 long, long minutes), pointless extended version of the opening chase sequence in the Daniel Craig Casino Royale where the man he runs after does all kinds of parkour (the name of the movements) jumping and running techniques that combine acrobatics and martial arts. Lautner is a bike messenger (his job not yet killed by e-mail) who get in trouble with criminals until he meets a younger group of criminals who steal with the same jump-and-run talents.


Too bad among all the items they heist, a better script is not one of them. With Saban Films involved and everyone here pretty much a no-name in the business, I was amazed how jaw-droppingly bad this played throughout. Everyone has the depth of corrugated cardboard and the stunt work is as played out and tried as lambada, Robert Wise's Rooftops and every bad music video of the last 30 years. Guess Lionsgate, et al, were looking for a tax write-off. Yawn!!!!!!!


Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds The Art Of Motion making of featurette and Director's Pitch Reel that somehow sold this thing.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Coffy has a little sign of age, but is looking pretty good throughout with more than a few demo shots that definitively show how hood AIP urban color films of the time looked. That makes it the picture playback champ in what is a fun, memorable shoot. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Tracers looks food for a digital shoot more than expected, but not enough to make it more watchable by any means.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Satan is from a good color print, except that daylight shots have a slight overcast look for the age of the print, but it is slight. At its best, it looks really good for its age. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the three Stranger films are rough, soft, have print damage more than they should and ll need serious restoration work. Few shots are as good as they should be.


As for sound, Tracers is the sonic winner somewhat by a narrow margin, but I am not rating it better than the PCM 2.0 Mono on Coffy (which has never sounded this good) since that is very improved and Tracers is uneven. The DVDs all have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with Satan sounding about as good as expected, but the three Stranger films are rough, show their dubbing and are down a generation like their accompanying film prints putting them sonically in last place.



To order the Coffy Region B import Blu-ray set, go to this link...


http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/


...and to order The Stranger Trilogy Warner Archive DVD set, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


https://www.warnerarchive.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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