Monday, January 27, 2014

Movie Monday: Black Mama, White Mama

Watch out for...Black Mama, White Mama!
A bunch of years ago, thanks to the fine folks from Exhumed Films, I got a chance to see a little masterpiece called The Twilight People, an ultra-low-budget version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, with a bunch of other weird 70s stuff thrown into the mix. Done with seemingly no budget but lots of cocaine, it instantly became one of my all-time favorite schlocky, grade-Z horror movies.

The film was made by one Eddie Romero, who didn't seem to let a lack of talent get in the way of being a movie director: From 1947 all the way to 1982, he cranked out essentially a film a year(!), some with titles like Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Blood Devils, and Bride of Blood. I think you can see a theme here.

I wanted to find another Romero Joint to talk about for Movie Monday, but unfortunately they're very hard to find for rent or streaming, so I was forced to go "uptown":
Black Mama, White Mama features a genuine movie star, Pam Grier, as well as a relatively decent-sized budget. Featuring Grier and Margaret Markov as Lee and Karen, two comely women headed off to prison in an unnamed tropical country.

It takes Black Mama, White Mama all of ten minutes before we're treated to a scene of a sadistic female guard spying on the girls as they shower and taking things into her own hands, as the topless girls frolic, giggle, and goof around for approximately fifteen minutes. You'd never guess they're locked up!
Shortly thereafter, the aforementioned sadistic guard drags Grier out of her cell and starts slapping her around with a black leather glove. This is stopped by the warden, who knows of her employee's proclivities all too well.

After Lee and Karen get into a fight--leading them to spend a night in the sweatbox (topless, 'natch)--they are some of the others are carted off on a work detail when their bus is attacked by revolutionaries, led by Ernesto (played by the wonderfully named Zaldy Zschormack), who are there to grab Karen.

This leads to the girls escaping, borrowing liberally from The Defiant Ones, but with more nudity. At one point the girls dress up as nuns, making the movie feel like an R-rated episode of Laverne & Shirley. You see, Lee is also wanted; she was a prostitute who has managed to hide $40,00 of her pimp's money. We're treated to all sort of unsavory characters trying to find the girls, like this charming gentleman:
Things get even more complicated when the head of the local law enforcement, Captain Cruz, hires Ruben (the great Sid Haig), who is the boss of a rival gang, to try and stop the other gang from finding Lee and Karen:
Sid Haig, as Ruben, gets a lot of screen time once he shows up. It's almost as if Eddie Romero and his screenwriters(?) fell so in love with the character that they just turned the movie over to him. There's a long sequence of Ruben bedding down the two daughters of one of his goons (making for the one of least erotic threesomes ever committed to film), and another scene of Ruben confronting two of the rival gang and demanding they drop their pants at gunpoint.

Finally, the two gangs find the girls, leading to an all-out bloody gun battle that ends with a surprisingly downbeat (yet still goofy) ending. The End.

As you might guess, Black Mama, White Mama is total trash: it wallows in filth, sweat, and dirt, where no one looks like they've showered in quite a while. But worse than that, is that the movie loses its focus on the girls! It spends so much time with the revolutionaries, the police, gang members, and Sid Haig that by the time Lee and Karen show up at the end, they kinda seem like bystanders in their own movie. Frankly, I wanted to see more of the mamas.

While Black Mama, White Mama doesn't achieve the level of imaginative depravity found in The Twilight People, it was still fun enough that it makes me want to keep trying to find more of Eddie Romero's films. Hmm, maybe something with "blood" in the title...

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