Nothing we like more than a Pam Grier Blaxploitation movie with a well-funky soundtrack. But this soundtrack isn’t that funky. It’s a bit dull actually. Now we think about it, Ms. Grier is practically the only black actor here and we’re in the Philippines rather than a New York ghetto. So not actually Blaxploitation at all then? Ah, we’re in a women’s prison with extended shower scenes. “Women in prison film” it is then. Oh, they’ve escaped at the 20-minute mark. Must be Sexploitation then. Not enough nudity? OK, this is definitely some kind of exploitation flick, even if we’re not sure what it is. It matters not.
The feisty Lee (Grier) and statuesque Karen (Markov) are the titular women prisoners, who arrive at a nameless tropical all-women jail run by sadistic Densmore (Borden) and much more sensible Logan (Burton). Lee is in for some kind of drug dealing and Karen is a somewhat unlikely revolutionary. Densmore spies on the inmates in the showers while she masturbates; Logan tells her off and it turns out the two jailers are having a lesbian relationship themselves. Densmore tries it on with both Lee and Karen and manages to smack Lee in the face while doing so (and anyone who does that to Pam Grier is almost certainly not going to make it to the closing credits). So with all this set up, they get transferred to another prison but make a break for it when Karen’s revolutionary chums attack the bus and both Densmore and Logan get killed in the fight. So much for the very-nearly-intriguing set-up.
Lee and Karen then challenge the continuity editor by making their escape across the island chained together while fighting, arguing and occasionally disguising themselves as implausible nuns. Meanwhile, Lee’s old boss is after her (as she’s got forty grand of his cash) and Karen’s rebels want her back so she can do whatever it was she used to do for them. The police chief gets a cowboy criminal involved (Sid Haig – Hooray!) and at some point Pam Grier gets to deliver the immortal line: “Some jive-ass revolution don’t mean shit to me.” We love you Pam.
Without any spoilers, that’s about it. Total nonsense and politically incorrect nonsense at that. However, there is something compellingly entertaining about it all, largely thanks to the charisma of Grier and the always-watchable Haig, even if they don’t share any scenes. In fact, Grier and Markov don’t really share many scenes with the other main players at all after the prison opening. There is definitely a sense that they started to make one film and then it sort of accidentally blundered into several others but who cares? This is long before Pam started appearing in award nominated fare. You already know if this one’s your cup of tea.
Incidentally, does anyone know how tall Margaret Markov is? We like to research these things but we drew a blank. We’re plumping for “very”.
Special Features: Audio commentary with filmmaker Andrew Leavold / 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 / trailer / gallery featuring promotional images and the original press book
BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA (1973) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: EDDIE ROMERO / SCREENPLAY: H. R. CHRISTIAN / STARRING: PAM GRIER, MARGARET MARKOV, SID HAIG, LYNN BORDEN, LAURIE BURTON, ZALDY ZSCHORNACK, EDDIE GARCIA, ALONA ALGRE, DONDO FERNANCO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW