Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Black Mama, White Mama Review: Revolution, and the Women Who Struggle

If you're looking for a mild version of exploitation to get a feel for the genre of general schlock cinema, while having it not make you feel too awkward, then Black Mama, White Mama is the film that you're looking for. This is tagged as a WIP (women in prison) movie, but in reality, less than 20 minutes of this movie actually takes place in a prison, and it ends up being a women in fields movie as they run across the countryside trying to escape. We do get a shower scene, and some chick fights, but I wouldn't really consider it a WIP movie.

I've also heard this referred to as a blaxploitation film. It really isn't because there is one black character in the movie (Pam Grier), and she isn't trying to "stick it to the man." She just wants to take her money and leave the island. So, I wouldn't really consider this a blaxploitation movie either. If you want a Pam Grier blaxploitation movie, then look for Coffy or Foxy Brown.

Let's take a look at Black Mama, White Mama.

People to Know
Pam Grier - Defying the
man since 1949
Lee Daniels - The black mama. She's a hooker with a heart of gold, that just wants to escape from the island with the money that she stole from her pimp. She don't talk no jive.

Karen Brent - The white mama. She has revolution in her blood, and will stop at nothing to achieve whatever vague goal she has.

Ruben - He's a cowboy just trying to get by in whatever country they are all in. He's a pimp, a dealer, and a general badass. Ruben runs the vice in his portion of the island, and he is arch enemies with Vic.

Vic - A big boss, pimp, and dealer on the island, who electrocutes his hos when they try to run. Lee stole $40000 from him, and is trying to escape with it. Vic is out to let her know that he ain't no punk.

Matron Densmore - She's a strict no-nonsense guard, who has a thing for nearly all of her prisoners. Lee ain't havin that!

Captain Cruz - Semi-bumbling police captain that is trying to track down Daniels and Brent. He enlists the help of Ruben.

Enesto - Gee, could he be the leader of the revolutionaries?

And the Story Goes...
We begin our cautionary tale with our two leads being bussed in to join the dance squad at their new home...a Filipino prison! (at least it might be a Filipino prison. We never know where the movie takes place.) They're both lean, mean, authority fighting mamas who I know won't take no crap from the Warden. Oh dear, the anticipation of their interactions with each other while in prison is almost too much to bear.
Prison for women is fun. I can't wait for the pillow fight! 

After a fight or two between the mamas, the women end up in the oven without shirts. For those of you who don't know, "the oven" is a large steel box that is barely large enough for two people, and the mamas are placed in solitary confinement together in this box to help them work out their issues. It's slightly less cruel and unusual than forcing level-headed people listen to Bill O'Reilly for hours on end. The Matron has enough of the feisty gals after one unsuccessful attempt sex with Lee, and a possible successful attempt with Karen. Since the Matron isn't getting laid, her and the Worden decide that it might be time for transfer.

During our transit to the big city, Lee's freedom loving revolutionaries attack the convoy in an effort to rescue the young vixen. They ultimately fail, because if they didn't the movie would probably end. Though, our heroines are able to escape during the madness, and run off. The mamas decide that yet another unproductive chick fight is necessary before they make the decision to work together and escape.

The Matron likes to watch young girls shower
more than Hillary Clinton.
So, after obstacles, mishaps, and topless Asian girls giving pedicures, our heroines are forced into one final confrontation with everybody in order to achieve their goals of obtaining freedom.

All-in-all, this is a fairly entertaining movie, and the mamas are very creative when it comes to the use of costumes and seduction throughout their odyssey of escape. Norwegian scholars have concluded that nun costumes are the perfect outfits for escaped convicts, and the mamas must be privy to this analysis. Personally, I didn't find Black Mama, White Mama to be that slow, but I have a pretty high tolerance to slow paced film (compared to most film-goers these days).

Sid Haig was especially funny playing Ruben the cowboy gang leader. I have no idea where this movie is supposed to take place, and he seems so culturally out of place in his bright blue cowboy outfit, and always blaring country music.

The mamas are both good in playing their roles, and I thought that they played off of each other well. The black person and white person being forced to overcome their differences is nothing new to cinema, but I didn't think that it felt stale in Black Mama, White Mama. This movie doesn't come across as preachy, which is good, and is pretty much just an action film.

Sid Haig -  Checkin' peckers since 1939
If you're looking for pure exploitation, this isn't it. I guess it could technically be called a WIP movie, but I wouldn't consider it so because only a fraction of the film takes place in prison. It's a fun movie though, and I would recommend if you like Fred Olen Ray type pointless nudity and action.

Things Learned

  • Women's prison is much different from men's prisons. Shower time isn't scary for them!
  • Female prisoners have to wear short pink and yellow dresses in prison.
  • Louis takes what he want, when he wants.
  • If you are following a cowboy and he notices, then he will force you pull your pants down so he can check you business. 
  • Ladies of the night consider themselves to be revolutionists. 
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