Black Mama, White Mama (1973)

Let’s be honest, seeing a bunch of sexy women rip each other’s clothes off behind bars certainly has its appeals but it only gets you so far. Nevertheless, Black Mama, White Mama contains some of my favourite things in movies; Pam Grier, Sid Haig, a Roger Corman aesthetic, badass women and to top it all off you’ve even got a young Jonathan Demme with a “Story by” credit. Still, this is minor grindhouse, minor American International, minor everything.

The totally-female cast is an appealing conceit but, as ever with this kind of movie, it’s at the cost of them being infinitely sexualised and objectified. However, an actress like Pam Grier manages to rise above all that. This is pre-Coffy Grier but even here she masters The Pam Grier Glare and is capable of melting hearts, weakening knees and icing over volcanos. Grier is paired up with statuesque blonde Margaret Markov and the central hook – take a strong black woman and a strong white woman, both convicts, and handcuff them together to see what ensues – is ripe for so much potential that the movie only half-assedly takes advantage of. At best, it’s a 90 minute romp, a lark, a caper; at worst it’s just forgettable. I’d happily watch Pam Grier sit still and blink for two hours though so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Watched on Arrow blu-ray

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