From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
According to writer/director Hill, the project began when American International Pictures' head of production, Larry Gordon, lost the rights to the film Cleopatra Jones after making a handshake deal with the producers. Gordon subsequently approached Hill to quickly make a movie about an African American woman's revenge and beat Cleopatra Jones to market.
Coffy is notable in its depiction of a strong female lead (a capable nurse), rare in the genre at the time, and also in its then-unfashionable anti-drug message. It was remade (with an all-white cast) in 1981's Lovely But Deadly.