Review by Leslie Byron [email protected]
Very much a cult curiosity, Black Mama White Mama condenses a truck load of plotting into what is effectively an exploitation chase flick. The results vary. While it’s fun to see a film which heavily influenced Quentin Tarantino, the film is so interested in stuffing itself with mobsters, corrupt cops and revolutionaries that the more interesting elements sometimes get lost.
Set in an unknown exotic location (the film was shot in the Philippines), Pam Grier plays a former prostitute. Margaret Markov is a rich girl cum revolutionary. Both are jailed in a women’s prison. Chained together and soon to be extradited for “safekeeping”, the two manage to escape their captors and set off through the wilderness, while trying to set aside the differences they hold between them. They soon find themselves getting chased and tracked by various shady individuals, including a mad cowboy cum bounty hunter played by Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects). The two’s exploits acuminates to an explosive climax.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Much of Black Mama White Mama is a chance to ogle bound, young ladies wearing skimpy outfits, fighting or showering with each other. From a titillation angle, the film doesn’t disappoint. That said; Eddie Romero’s 1973 feature should also be marvelled for its technical proficiency. The visuals (remastered for Blu-ray) are clean and efficient, while Romero is an eye for interesting blocking (give or take some dated aspects). To add to this, Black Mama White Mama makes sure that despite its exploitation elements, its lead characters are never without agency. The film is at its best when we see Grier and Markov driving the film forward. Their chemistry and presence is never in question.
Watching these two women fight against sweaty corrupt men (and female prison guards) for their own goals and desires, creates an interesting dynamic, particularly as in this day and age which such a diversely casted feature would be considered “tricky” to accomplish. If the film was less crowded in terms of its dense plot the film would perhaps feel less of a cult oddity. This shouldn’t stop Black Mama White Mama from being discovered and enjoyed as the winking piece of enjoyable trash that its makers clearly wish it to be.
Extras: The Blu-Ray Disc features three fun interviews from Sid Haig, Margaret Markov and Eddie Romero. The original trailer and a gallery of the film’s original poster artwork. There’s also an illuminating commentary from film historian Andrew Leavold.
Black Mama White Mama is released on Blu-ray on 4 April