Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 27th, 2016
BluRay released: March 22nd, 2016 (USA) / April 4th, 2016 (UK)
Approximate running time: 87 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95 (USA) / £15.99 (UK)
Black Mama, White Mama was directed by Eddie Romero, a prolific filmmaker whose most notable films include, Beast of the Yellow Night, The Woman Hunt and Savage Sisters. Key collaborators on Black Mama, White Mama include, screenwriter Jonathan Demme (Crazy Mama, The Silence of the Lambs) and composer Harry Betts (Little Cigars). Black Mama, White Mama was originally titled Women in Chains.
The premise for this film is simple. Take two clashing personalities who are chained together and their eventual freedom all relies on how well they can work together. And given such circumstances one would assume that working together for the greater good would be at the top of their lists. Of course this is not the case and at first these two characters’ clash over how they want to handle their new found freedom.
Content wise, this film is a melting pot of genres and its main premise was reportedly lifted wholesale from The Defiant Ones. With a slight change of scenery, instead of a chain gang the opening moments take place in a women’s prison.
This WIP section of the film takes up the bulk of the opening act and anyone remotely familiar with this genre knows what to expect. Catfights, lesbians and a perverse guard who use her potion of authority to gain sexual favors from the inmates. Tone wise this is also bleakest section of the film and outside of a few moments later on in the film. The bulk of the film post the prison scenes has a much lighter tone too it.
And nowhere is this shift in tone more evident than during the moments when the two women try get the chain the binds them removed. Other moments related to humor include, a scene where the two main characters’ attack two nuns and take their clothes. And a scene local gangster gets the two cops who have been following him to drop their pants and show him their penises.
From a production stand point there are no many areas where this film does not deliver and then some. This film’s visuals take full advantage of the location’s featured in the film and when it comes to the female cast members this film does not waste an opportunity to expose some flesh. Also the narrative is well constructed and there are no issues when it comes to pacing.
A lot this film’s appeal comes right back to its two leading ladies, Pam Grier (Coffy, Foxy Brown) in the role Lee Daniels, a prostitute who stole a large sum of money from her former employer and Margaret Markov (Pretty Maids All in a Row) in the role of revolutionary named Karen Brent. Also this is just not a case of finding two actresses that fit the roles physically. They have a tremendous amount of chemistry. Another performance of note is Sid Haig (Spider Baby, Pit Stop) in the role of Ruben, a locale gangster the police employee to help track down the two missing female prisoners. Ultimately Black Mama, White Mama is textbook example of how to make an exploitation film.
Black Mama, White Mama comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The sources used for this transfer is in great shape. Colors look accurate, black levels and shadow detail remain strong throughout and details always look crisp. Also grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix English. The audio sounds, clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, an image gallery, a trailer for the film (1 minute 54 seconds), three interviews; the first interview titled ‘White Mama Unchained’ is with actress Margaret Markov (14 minutes 1 second), the second interview titled ‘Sid Haig’s Filipino Adventure’ is with actor Sid Haig (15 minutes 51 seconds), the third interview titled ‘The Mad Director of Blood Island’ is an archive interview with director Eddie Romero (14 minutes 38 seconds) and an informative audio commentary with filmmaker Andrew Leavold, director of The Search for Weng Weng.
Topics discussed in the interview with Margaret Markov include, how she got into acting, she discusses all the film’s that she appeared, working with Roger Corman, Jonathan Demme and Steve Carver, she reminisces about Rock Hudson, Sid Haig and Pam Grier and why she left acting.
Topics discussed in the interview with Sid Haig include, how there are elements of himself in every character that he portrays, Pam Grier and the various films they worked on together, making film’s in the Philippines, working with Eddie Romero and his thoughts about Black Mama, White Mama.
The interview with Eddie Romero is a well-rounded overview of his career as a filmmaker.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twenty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film titled ‘One of the Great Ones – ‘70’s Style’ written by Chris Poggiali, press book reproduction and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Arrow Video gives Black Mama, White Mama an exceptional release.