Blu-ray Reviews: Black Mama White Mama & Sheeba, Baby

You know what’s better than one Pam Grier film? How about two of them! Arrow Video has released special edition sets of two films from both of the genres that starred Pam in the early ’70s. Black Mama White Mama takes her back to the Philippines for jungle women’s prison action. Sheeba, Baby puts Pam in the role of kicking the asses of those that mess with her family. Both together are perfect way to spend a hot summer night with a double dose of Pam.

Black Mama White Mama (1973 – 87 minutes) is a variation of The Defiant Ones with Pam Grier and Margaret Markov (The Hot Box) in the Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis roles. Heading to prison on the bus are two women with very little in common. Lee Daniels (Grier) is a hooker who worked for a major drug kingpin (Vic Diaz). She needs to bust out soon since she has stolen quite a bit of cash from her old boss and she doesn’t need to be found. Karen Brent (Markov) is a white American who has come to this strange land to fight with the underground. She needs to get out of prison because the revolution needs her. Both women have issues with each other and different approaches to life. When a lesbian guard invites Lee to her room, the prisoner won’t play sweet in order to get time out of the bunkhouse. Things quickly get rough. Karen has no problem pleasing her guard to get away. The two ladies differences explode so they get forced together in the notorious hotbox. Suffering in the heat and sweating on each other causes them to bond a little bit. This works out good when they are put on a bus and shackled together. When the bus makes an unexpected stop, the duo hit the road in order to escape. There’s plenty of action as Lee and Karen disguise themselves as nuns. Can they flee and free the oppressed people at the same time? Black Mama White Mama was Pam’s last women’s prison flick and a fine one to escape on. She’s fierce with Markov tagging along. Sid Haig plays a cowboy loving gun runner with quite a few good lines. Diaz is menacing as he tracks down Pam so he can prove nobody takes his cash. Grier and Markov were so fine together that they’d reunite a year later in the women gladiator flick The Arena.

Sheba, Baby (1975 – 90 minutes) changes the revenge formula around for Pam Grier’s American set movies. She’s finally someone who knows how to handle herself around trouble as private investigator Sheba Shayne. She’s doing good for herself in Chicago. But back in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, there’s trouble brewing. Her father (Rudy Challenger) and business partner (Austin Stoker) are getting muscled out of their loan business by well dressed goons. But who is paying to keep them down? Sheba comes home to help out her family, but dad doesn’t want her taking the law into her own hands. He thinks the police can handle this if given the proper clues. Sheba knows better and the violence escalates fast. Trouble comes in the form of D’Urville Martin (Dolemite). Dad realizes his daughter needs to care of his business which means unmasking the man calling the criminal shots. Sheba, Baby is less down and dirty than Coffy and Foxy Brown. Louisville isn’t quite as scary as the bad parts of Los Angeles used in her previous outings. The PG rating keeps things a little tamer on the screen. Pam doesn’t need a long shower as part of her deductive qualities. The film is all about Grier since she outshines the film.

White Mama, Black Mama and Sheba, Baby remind us what makes Pam Grier special. Whether she’s escaping from prison or defending her family, she’s in control. She’s got no qualms killing the bad guys. She is fierce without losing her ability to be sweet. Getting to see her kicking ass in Blu-ray makes the experience so much more enjoyable.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic for both films. The transfers look fine and allow Grier’s smile to glow on the screen. The audio is uncompressed PCM mono which works fine. You can hear the groovy soundtracks. The movies are subtitled.

DVD with everything on the Blu-ray.

White Mama Unchained (14:01) is an interview with Margaret Markov. She talks about her career as a dancer and actress. She has a nice story about Rock Hudson. She praises Vic Diaz as a true professional which is why he was in every film shot in the Philippines. She was pals with Pam Grier and enjoyed working with Pam on The Arena. While she’s retired from acting in film in the mid-70s, she married Mark Damon, the producer of The Arena.

Sid Haig’s Filipino Adventures (15:50) allows the legend to flashback to those sweaty days in the early ’70s. He felt an immediate friendship with Pam.

The Mad Director of Blood Island (14:38) is a vintage interview with Eddie Romero. He talks about his success cracking the American market.

Trailer (1:54) opens up with the ladies trapped in the hot box.

Gallery (0:25) features dozens of posters, promos pics and behind the scenes views. There’s an odd shot of Margaret with a toad on a leash.

Audio Commentary with Andrew Leavold allows him to explain what’s happening. He associate produced Machete Maidens Unleashed about this era on film. He loves Filipino filmmaking.

Arrow Video USA presents Black Mama White Mama. Directed by: Eddie Romero. Screenplay by: H. R. Christian, Joseph Viola & Jonathan Demme. Starring: Pam Grier, Margaret Markov, Sid Haig & Vic Diaz. Rated: PG. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: March 22, 2016.

DVD with everything on the Blu-ray.

Sheldon, Baby (15:16) lets producer and screen writer David Sheldon discus the film and his time with director William Girdler. He started as an assistant to Larry Gordon at AIP. He originally wrote the script to be originally used for Coffy before Jack Hill wrote his own script for the Pam Grier classic. Sheldon ran the production part of AIP for a few years. Turns out AIP bumped up the budget and told Pam she could keep her top on.

Pam Grier: The AIP Years (11:54) has Chris Poggiali break down all the films Pam made for American International Pictures. It’s an amazing tale of a phone operator becoming the face of a legendary indie studio.

Trailer (1:54) promises Pam as the queen of the private eyes. She can’t be stopped on land, sea or air.

Gallery contains over a dozen production pics and promotional items. There’s an ad from when her AIP collection came out on home video.

Audio Commentaries include one with writer/producer David Sheldon and another featuring Patty Breen who runs a William Girdler website. Sheldon’s the first commentary since he was there for all the fun.

Arrow Video USA presents Sheba, Baby. Directed by: William Girdler. Screenplay by: William Girdler & David Sheldon. Starring: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, Rudy Challenger & D’Urville Martin. Rated: PG. Running Time: 90 minutes. Released: February 9, 2016.

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