Black Mama, White Mama – Blu-Ray Review

Black Mama White Mama is one of many woman in prison films that Pam Grier did in the early ’70s for American International Pictures. It’s basically a low-budget rip-off of The Defiant Ones which starred Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. Eddie Romero was behind the camera who was a Filipino director who made both Filipino language films and also low-budget English language B-Movies.

Lee (Pam Grier) and Karen (Margaret Markov) are brought to a woman’s prison on a nameless tropical country which suspiciously resembles the Philippines. They are under the rule of Logan (Laurie Burton) and you can cut the tension of lesbian lust with a knife between the inmates. Lee is a prostitute and Karen is a revolutionary and after initially disliking each other they escape but naturally they are still chained together.

Naturally often with these films it pretty much falls out of steam in the last act. Despite falling out of steam near the end, the chemistry between Pam Grier and Markov is evident however if a more proficient like Jack Hill was behind the lens it could have been a real classic. Sid Haig shows up as the stereotypical redneck who is hired to chase down the two woman and is clearly relishing the role. Haig made many films in the Philippines and at one point considered moving there because he did so many films there in a row.

It might not be the bona-fide cult classic WIP film like The Big Doll House (which also starred Grier and Haig) but it’s certainly an entertaining film and at 85 minutes its hard for it to outstay it’s welcome. The new transfer from Arrow is clean and crisp but retains the low-budget look of the original negative. The disc is relatively low on the standards of Arrow Video but it contains a fun interview with Haig who talks about his time in the Philippines. Margaret Markov is also interviewed and a vintage interview with Eddie Romero is also included. Andrew Leavold provides a commentary and some image galleries of promotional materials round the disc off.


Ian Schultz

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