Black Mama, White Mama (1973) / Action-Drama
aka Women in Chains
MPAA Rated: R for nudity, sexual situations, violence, and language
Running Time: 87 min.
Cast: Pam Grier, Margaret Markov, Sid Haig, Laurie Burton, Lynn Borden, Zaldy Zschornack, Eddie Garcia
Director: Eddie Romero
Screenplay: H.R. Christian
Review published January 13, 2003
With a movie named Black Mama, White Mama, the question is not so much, "Is it good?", as it is "Is it bad enough to invite my buddies over for some brews and b-movie badness?" The answer to this second question is a resounding, "Oh yeah!"
Long before Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) was a respected director, he spent several years penning notorious exploitation flicks, like the MST3k staple, Hell Cats, and hit first directorial stint, the late night Skinemax classic, Caged Heat. Demme didn't actually write BMWM, but he did co-write the idea for the story, and with writing this bad, I probably wouldn't want to take full credit for it either. The actual screenwriter is H.R. Christian, in his first attempt at a big screen motion picture. One would think that a travesty of poor dialogue such as this would have been enough of a showcase for Christian to go back to whatever his day job was, but apparently someone out there thought he had a good eye for exploitation, as he would follow this up with 1974's intriguingly titled film, Rape Squad.
Blaxploitation queen Pam Grier and Hungarian honey Markov end up in a prison in the Philippines (oops, I mean "South America"), where they are subjected to exploitation at the hands of an aggressive lesbian matron. The two happen to be chained together when Markov's rebel brethren spring her out of the prison bus, but the two ladies are sought after by the local authorities, the biggest cathouse owner on the island, and the rebellion. Although they don't see eye-to-eye, the two different ladies must join forces to survive.
Black Mama, White Mama is one third women-in-prison movie, one third remake of The Defiant Ones, and one third action-war flick. It's hard to really determine which third is the worst of the three, but suffice it to say, they are all deserving of the title. Viewers looking to see a bad exploitation film will love the first half hour, as there's plenty of tit-illation to be had with lesbian wardens, gratuitous nudity and a good dose of female wrestling. After the break-out, it devolves into a protracted chase vehicle, mostly monotonous, with only the occasional spark of interest coming from the comic relief of b-movie baddie, Sid Haig, as Ruben the redneck.
Of course the film is atrocious, but as long as you know that going in, there's definitely lots to laugh at, provided you have plenty of liquor on hand. Forget the neighborhood deli, head down to the local video store if you're in the mood for a lot of cheese. Take a strong whiff...you won't find many that smell quite as bad as Black Mama, White Mama. Only Pam Grier nuts and exploitation aficionados (who usually go hand-in-hand) need apply.
©2003 Vince Leo