Black Mama, White Mama begins in a women’s prison where the warden, Logan (Laurie Burton), just happens to be a lesbian, and so is her underling, Densmore (Lynn Borden), who have both even created a spy-hole in the shower room!
A to-do or two between them and, individually, their new residents, hooker Lee Daniels (Pam Grier) and terrorist Karen Brent (Margaret Markov), followed by our two heroines having a (clothed) scrap in the canteen puts them in the hot box outside, both topless, where the soaring sun will be tough to bear… especially when bare.
Before long, the pair (F’nar! F’nar!) are transferred to a maximum security prison but now they’re outside, they want to break free. It’s thirteen years before Queen could write a song about it, so they accost some women of the faith and steal their habits. Yes, they are nuns on the run. And about as valid as Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane would become, seventeen years later.
Now, if I was thrown into a prison full of hot women, mostly Asian, I’d never leave, but sadly, it wouldn’t further the plot on, so off they escape.
The premise is that hate each other, yet they have to rely on each other. It’s a well-worn idea, albeit obviously less so back in 1973. Brent’s terrorist friends, led by Ernesto (Zaldy Zshornack), are trying to get to her and pick her up, while a bunch of bounty hunters, led by Ruben (Sid Haig) are trying to stop them, no doubt for the financial reward.
Shot in the Philippines, Black Mama, White Mama, takes in corrupt officials, the women getting one over a moronic man who refers to himself in the third person, and the blood spilt in their world is bright red. However, they never really seem to get anywhere and you don’t get that sense of panic as they run off.
The film makes for a passable 90 minutes, but better on-the-run films have been made and the chase runs out of steam soon after they leave the prison.
The film is presented in the original 1.85 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and most of the time it’s perfectly fine with a sharp image, but it does suffer early on , during the opening credits where the original print leaves a lot to be desired as there’s a bit of shimmering in the first couple of minutes and some haziness that continues for a while.
Quite why this is the case, I don’t know, but it’s not the first movie of this age I’ve seen that happen to, nor from Arrow. I presume the studios just don’t take as much care as they should do over the years and the start of the first reel cops for it. I’m watching on my Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Playstation 4.
When it comes to the audio, the film was originally shot in mono, and so groove on down in mono!
Taken from the Collector’s booklet about the video and audio transfer:
- “Black Mama, White Mama is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 withmono audio. The transfer was made from a new 35mm Interpositive and an original 35mm mono DME printmaster mag. The HD transfer was completed on a Spirit DataCine at Deluxe Media in Burbank, and the colourist was Tess Walsh. Gary Teetzel managed the project on behalf of MGM.”
The extras are as follows:
- White Mama Unchained (14:01): A brand new interview shot for Arrow, in September 2015, featuring Margaret Markov, still looking great as she was about to turn 67. She talks about the films she’s made, although she only made a handful, up to There Is No 13 in 1974, before she started a family.
- Sid Haig’s Filipino Adventures (15:51): The actor, who played Ruben in the movie, talks about making films in the Philippines, some of which were written specifically for him. He also references the films where he also starred alongside Pam Grier again including The Big Bird Cage and Jackie Brown.
- The Mad Director of Blood Island (14:38): A previously-unseen archive interview with Eddie Romero, presented in 4:3, although it’s set within a 16:9 ratio so images can be overlaid during it.
- Trailer (1:54): Presented in 4:3.
- Gallery: 25 images including posters and various press cuttings.
- Collector’s Booklet: A 20-page booklet containing new writing on the film from film producer Chris Poggiali, plus lots of poster and set photos.
- Reversible sleeve: Featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips.
- Audio commentary: with filmmaker Andrew Leavold, director of The Search for Weng Weng.
Subtitles are in English, the main menu features clips from the film set to theme music, and there are a bog-standard 12 chapters to the film.
Black Mama, White Mama is out now on Blu-ray/DVD Double Pack Limited Edition and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: April 4th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio (Mono)
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (35mm)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Eddie Romero
Producers: John Ashley and Eddie Romero
Screenplay: HR Christian (based on the story by Joseph Viola and Jonathan Demme)
Music: Harry Betts
Lee Daniels: Pam Grier
Karen Brent: Margaret Markov
Ernesto: Zaldy Zshornack
Ruben: Sid Haig
Matron Densmore: Lynn Borden
Warden Logan: Laurie Burton
Capt. Cruz: Eddie Garcia
Juana: Alona Alegre
Rocco: Dondo Fernanco
Vic Cheng: Vic Diaz
Ronda: Wendy Green
Jeanette: Lotis M Key
Galindo: Alfonso Carvajal
Truck Driver: Bruno Punzalah
Luis: Ricardo Herrero
Alfredo: Jess Ramos
Lupe: Carpi Asturias
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.