Director: Eddie Romero
Screenplay: H. R. Christian
Starring: Pam Grier. Margaret Markov, Sid Haig
Duration: 87 mins
BBFC Certification: 15
With Pam Grier’s first starring role, Black Mama White Mama, is a fun women in prison film with plenty to keep any fan of exploitation cinema happy. Nudity, violence, lesbian prison guards, cowboy bounty hunters, sleazy drug lords – what more could you want?
Grier plays Lee, a convicted prostitute, who is sent to a prison camp on a Filipino island. Immediately, she clashes with fellow newbie, Karen (Margaret Marko), who has been imprisoned after running guns with local revolutionaries. The two are punished by spending time in the “oven”, basically a metal cabinet kept out in sun, and when this fails to break them, they are transferred to a maximum security prison. En route to the prison, the bus is attacked by Karen’s revolutionary comrades, and in the ensuing gunfight with local police, the two women escape chained together. Cue much arguing and fighting as they make it across the island to recover the money Lee stole from her pimp, so she can leave. Hot on their trail are the police, the revolutionaries and a cowboy bounty hunter (Sid Haig) and his gang.
Despite it’s B-movie origins, Black Mama White Mama is a well made film. Director, Eddie Romero, captures the Filipino countryside beautifully and utilises some interesting blocking shots. The two leads have a great chemistry and both have a strong screen presence. One of the most fun sequences with Grier and Marko, is when they are hitchhiking disguised as nuns. However, the real star of the film is cult legend Sid Haig. As bounty hunter, Reuben, he chews the scenery and provides the film’s comedy element.
The Blu-ray transfer is excellent and there has obviously been a lot of time spent on cleaning each frame, as there is no noticeable degradation between scenes. This is very impressive considering the age of the source material. The sound, although in mono, is well balanced and very clear.
Arrow Films are distributing Black Mama White Mama on Blu-ray. The extras include:
Audio commentary with filmmaker Andrew Leavold, director of The Search for Weng Weng
White Mama Unchained: An interview with star Margaret Markov
Sid Haig’s Filipino Adventure: An interview with star Sid Haig
The Mad Director of Blood Island: A previously unseen archive interview with director Eddie Romero
Gallery featuring promotional images and the original press book