Santa Kleinman just sent me a fist full of Pam Grier classics. We already talked about Foxy Brown a few weeks back, but rashly skipped right over the immortal Coffy, which burns a bit hotter and longer than its slick, non-sequel sequel. It won't happen again, sugar. We'll also explore the kinder, gentler side of Ms. Grier in the comic-strip-turned-motion-picture called Friday Foster. And finally, for the moment, the Queen of Blaxploitation revisits her women-in-prison roots in the sweeping anti-buddy picture Black Mama, White Mama (1973, 86 minutes). All-in-all vintage Pam. But where's that Jackie Brown disc?
The movie: Several sweaty babes land in the Womens Rehabilitation Center of a far away tropical island of questionable political stability. The gal with the most attitude is, of course, Lee Daniels (Grier) who is on the wrong side of the law for peddling her bod. But running a close second is a beautiful blonde revolutionary named Karen (Margaret Markov). Salivating over both of them are the two lesbian honchettes who run the humid hoosgow and take turns trying to coax inmates into impromptu games of nekkid Twister. For plot purposes, Lee and Karen hate each other and are mighty steamed when they're shackled wrist-to-wrist during a prison transfer. In a bloody, but semi-failed escape, the girls manage to evade their captors, but each remains chained to a wildcat who wants to scratch her eyes out. A fay-YAW to communicate? Nah, their priorities are just different. Lee wants to vamoose with the $40,000 she stole from her Jabba-The-Hunt pimp/sugar daddy, while Karen merely wants to overthrow the government. So after some gratuitous flailing about in bright-yellow nighties -- er, prison uniforms -- they decide to put aside their differences long enough to save their hineys. Among the fellas a-lookin' for them is the incomparable Sid Haig as a wanna-be cowboy with a passion for western wear, country music and kickin' ass. CineSchlockers undoubtedly know Mr. Haig has been cast as Captain Spaulding in House of 1,000 Corpses -- rocker Rob Zombie's upcoming ode to superior '70s horror. A film that's already sent Universal suits running scared due, in part, to a likely NC-17 rating.
Notables: 21 breasts. 37 corpses. Peeping with self-gratification. Heroic slow-mo death. Multiple gun battles. Catfighting. Guitar to the brainpan. Exploding car. Food fights. Panty sniffing. Nuns on the run.
Quotables: Warden Logan starts the movie off right, "OK, strip 'em and get 'em wet!" Rhonda knows the score, "To get a gun, you need something to trade that's pretty damn valuable. What you got besides your ass?" Ms. Grier emotes, "I'LL KILL THAT BITCH!" Karen plays the race card, "We're trying to set this island free! You're black. You understand, don't you!?" But Lee isn't hearing it, "Some jive-ass revolution don't mean [email protected]#% to me!"
Time codes: The girls entertain themselves in the shower (4:05). Our heroines are tossed into "the oven" -- topless, of course (16:33). Karen and Lee attempt to break the ice and each other's skulls (25:00). Cowboy Ruben thinks size matters (56:15). Underage gals engage in some horseplay (1:03:35).
Audio/Video: Remarkably clean widescreen (1.85:1) transfer that's as bright and crisp as it's ever been. The utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track is strong enough to handle the gunplay while also showcasing Harry Betts' energetic score (sorta like the soundtrack to any episode of "Hawaii Five-O.") This disc is part of MGM's "Soul Cinema" line that each carry an unusually low suggested retail price ($15 and lower). The prints aren't exactly pristine, nor is any real effort spent on creating superior audio masters, but most feature trailers and the occasional commentary. Titles include Black Caesar, Coffy, Cotton Comes To Harlem, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, Sheba, Baby, Slaughter, Slaughter's Big Rip-Off, Truck Turner and Black Mama, White Mama. Plus, the Keenen Ivory Wayans parody of these films, I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka.
Extras: Fullframe trailer with voiceover that harps "WOMEN IN CHAINS!!! WOMEN IN CHAINS!!!" over and over, which certainly harkens back to a bygone era of up-front film promotion. But, in this case, the tagline WAS the original title of the movie. Static menus without audio. No printed insert or liner notes.
Final thought: Think The Defiant Ones with a much needed infusion of sex appeal AND explosions. Gimme Pam and Margie over Sidney and Tony any day. Highly Recommended.
Check out CineSchlock-O-Rama
for additional reviews and bonus features.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.