Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WIP Wednesday: Black Mama, White Mama (Eddie Romero, 1973)

Friends, I have many flaws. Many, many flaws, depending on who you ask. Possibly my great blogging flaw is enthusiasm and/or hyperbole. As I was beginning this particular review I had to ask myself, "how many WIP films have I said were the greatest ever made?" Fortunately, I believe only once with Reform School Girls, and I stand by that statement. I must tell you though, Black Mama, White Mama is a damn fine competitor. Oddly, there is very little actual prison action in this one.

Lee Daniels (Pam Grier) was a drug dealer's girlfriend who was arrested on a bit of a frame job. Karen Brent (Margaret Markov) is an American debutante who came to the Philippines to fight for the revolution, of which her boyfriend is the leader. The two take an instant disliking to each other, and guess what? That's right, the two cannot avoid each other, particularly after being handcuffed together.

As for the standard WIP elements, despite the short time dealing with actual prison surroundings, the film crams them in nice and tight. The prisoners wear the obligatory smock, panties, and flip-flops. The female guards all wear hot-pants, which is somewhat non-standard. They are the worst sort too. Brutal, salivating peepers, made all the worse by being, in general, very attractive. You don't mind hating the mannish, wart-nosed guard with the Judge Judy haircut, but when she's a hottie you want to like her. It's like there are a handful of Ilsa juniors running around. Matron Densmore (Lynn Borden) is a salacious drunk who demands sex from new inmates, though she will happily beat a prisoner who refuses. Her alcoholism is so out of hand that the guards save Pam Grier from her post-advance fisticuffs.

The plot is loosely based on The Defiant Ones staring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis (Stanley Kramer, 1958). When being transferred to maximum security at another facility, Margaret Markov's boyfriend attempts an attack on the convoy. They succeed to a point. Grier and Markov escape, but are separated from the revolutionaries. Grier wants to get off the island, and Markov wants to get back to her cause. Fortunately for us, they are still handcuffed together.

For the Filipino WIP films of the day, this is a really good one. Sid Haig plays another of his wacko characters. The story is fairly complex. Shower scenes and cafeteria brawls, fire fights, dirty pimps and drug lords. It has a bit of everything. Hell, they even dress Grier and Markov as nuns for a while to add a touch of WIP's sister genre, Nunsploitation, to the mix. Highly watchable, and I think a must-see for exploitation fans of all stripes.


Tommy Salami said...

Note: it was partly written by Jonathan Demme, of all people, and is featured in a drive-in in John Sayles' movie Lone Star.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Yeah, this must be from Roger Corman's AIP days. Corman really was the Judd Apatow of his day. He seemed to use the same talent in most of his films. Of course, his movies are actually enjoyable.

j/k ;-)

dfordoom said...

I need to get this one. I've liked Pam Grier in everything I've seen her in, apart from Jackie Brown.

Kal said...

I have to say that I don't think I have watched a WIP prison movie straight through but I admire your committment to the genre. I learn a little more about these movies each time you review them. Too bad we lost our Drive-in Classics channel because they would run these types of movies all the time. I didn't know what I had until I lost it. I think they went out of business but that was a good channel for trashy TV.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@DfD - You don't like Jackie Brown :-( I like a lot of her older films best. My least favorite used to be Sheba Baby, but I like it better now.

@Kal - I enjoy the strange. Pam Grier is mostly responsible for my love of the genre. She is in some real classics.

jimbo97 said...

Lynn Borden is HOT as the perverted peeper dyke guard! Too bad she dies at the escape, half way thru the movie.

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