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Weekly Alibi Videodrome

By Scott Phillips

Coffy (1973)

AUGUST 18, 1997:  I was in a really crabby mood the other night, but soon after Emily popped writer/director Jack Hill's blaxploitation classic into the VCR, I found myself carried away on a wave of euphoria the likes of which I've never known. The flick opens with perhaps the greatest theme song ever recorded ("Coffy is the color/of your skin/Coffy is the world/you live in"), then jumps head-on into its violent storyline: The incredible Pam Grier--built like a brick shithouse full of bobcats and in full-on ass-whoopin' mode--is out to avenge her little sister, who, at the tender age of 11, shot up with some bad smack and ended up comatose. Pam plays the horny junkie to lure in a local pusher, then blows his head off with a shotgun. The brains are still dripping off the camera when the fierce Pam jabs a needle into the pusher's li'l buddy, forcing him to OD. Later, the Pamster chills with her cop ex-boyfriend, who tells her that Italian mobster Arturo Vitroni is "moving in on the black rackets." When the cop refuses to go on the take, Vitroni sends a couple of ski-masked, baseball bat-wielding honkies to stomp a mudhole in the cop's ass. Pam, unaware that her Congressman wannabe boyfriend is mixed up in all this, sets out on the vengeance trail. She questions a junkie ex-hooker, but is interrupted by the arrival of the hooker's burly black dyke "old man," who says, "I go away for half an hour for you to turn a trick and when I come home I find you balling some nigger bitch!" By pretending to be Jamaican (!), Pam infiltrates the legion of hos under the employ of suave pimp King George in hopes of getting close to Vitroni. After hiding razor blades in her 'fro, Pam instigates one of the wildest catfights ever committed to celluloid, featuring more gratuitous boobs than you can shake a pimp-stick at. The flick gets even cooler as it goes along, if you can believe that, as the always-great Sid Haig tries to do the underpants-polka with Pam in the L.A. river, King George meets a brutal end and Pam discovers the truth about her lovin' man. Blaxploitation flicks don't get any better than this, and nobody rules the planet like Pam Grier (soon to be seen in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown!). Rent it immediately. (Orion)

Spider Baby (1964)

Another all-time great from the fabulous Jack Hill, and this one has its own terrific theme song, actually performed by "Videodrome" fave Lon Chaney Jr.! Lon is the caretaker of the Merry family, a bunch of twistoids who carry a "regressive gene." As they age, they become more animalistic, eventually becoming cannibals! Distant relative Carol Ohmart, who hopes to toss the current occupants out of the Merry house and take possession of the old place, comes to visit, along with her lawyer, his kewpie-doll assistant and kindly Uncle Pete. The severely weird teenage daughters (one of whom likes to pretend she's a spider and "sting" folks with a pair of kitchen knives) aren't real happy about this turn of events, and they set out to prevent Carol from getting her hands on the house. Cat-eating freak Sid Haig (in a great performance) is mostly oblivious but digs hanging from the wall outside Carol's bedroom and spying on her as she dolls herself up in a garter belt and stockings for no reason other than it's fun to look at! Uncle Pete drives drunk, Sid chases Carol through the woods, Spider Baby ties Pete up and comes on to him and the older members of the family make an appearance by crawling out of a pit in the basement! As people begin turning up dead, Lon decides it's time to put a stop to the Merry bloodline, heads out to score some dynamite, and before long we're zipping towards the "shock" ending--and trust me, you're gonna want to rewind this sucker and watch it again, 'cause it's just about the coolest movie ever. (Video Treasures)

--Scott Phillips

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