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The Independent Critic

Pam Grier, Margaret Markov, Sid Haig
Eddie Romero
H.R. Christian (Screenplay), Joe Viola (Story), Jonathan Demme (Story)
Rated R
87 Mins.
Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

 "Black Mama, White Mama" Hits Blu-ray with Arrow Video 

A weaving together of "women in prison" films with an early Blaxploitation film, Eddie Romero's Black Mama, White Mama stars Pam Grier and Margaret Markov as Lee and Karen, a tough prostitute and a revolutionary, respectively. The two clash, of course, and that clash gets magnified when the bus they're being transported on to a maximum security prison is ambushed by Karen's guerilla friends. The two escape into the Filipino jungle, though bound together and with very different ideas of which direction they want to go, their conflicts amp up in intensity as do the obstacles they will face if they want to get out alive.

Black Mama, White Mama has also been released under the titles Women in Chains and Hot, Hard & Mean, though most know it under this title that also hints at the racial tension that does exist within the film. The film is filled to the brim with action, nudity, humor and a weird, semi-effective mixture of feminism meets exploitation. You might even be able to say there are hints of Thelma & Louise as the film moves along.

The film also features a terrific performance from indie icon Sid Haig as a cowboy bounty hunter along with a script from relative newcomer Jonathan Demme. If the Harry Betts original music sounds familiar, that could be because Tarantino sampled the music in his film Kill Bill.

Black Mama, White Mama isn't a flawless film. In particular, Margaret Markov's Karen is under-developed when compared to Grier's far more complex and emotionally authentic Lee. It's not that Markov is weak here. She's not. She's just given an awful lot less to work with in the film.

The film's extras are a tad slight when compared to most Arrow Blu-ray packages and include -

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono PCM audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with filmmaker Andrew Leavold, director of The Search for Weng Weng
  • 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
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips

It's not a weak package. After all, how often do you get extras at all when it comes to these indie cult films. So, one has to give massive kudos to the folks at Arrow for putting obvious effort into it all. It's also vastly superior to another recent Grier starrer released by Arrow called Sheba, Baby.

Grier is terrific here in what was one of her earlier performances. She's gritty, fun and completely badass. If you're a fan of Grier, and you should be, you're likely going to love Arrow's complete package for Black Mama, White Mama. With kickass action and an abundance of humor, this is certainly one of the most satisfying of the "women in prison" films and a definite "must see" for Grier's fans or, for that matter, fans who want to see Sid Haig at the top of his game.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic