Sheba, Baby

Sheba, Baby

Sheba, Baby

directed by William Girdler

starring Pam Grier, Rudy Challenger and Austin Stoker

American International Pictures, MVD Visuals

This was Pam Grier’s fourth and final starring role in the genre of Blaxploitation. She still has the good looks, high cheekbones and fabulous wigs; they almost compensate for the hackney script and stilted acting of her co-stars. Her daddy Andy Shayne (Challenger) isn’t terribly dynamic, but then they didn’t give him many lines worth memorizing. His sidekick is Brick (Stoker), he plays Grier’s male lead although that never seems much of a plot driver nor do they experience anything more than a perfunctory chemistry. Daddy doesn’t want to accept help, Brick doesn’t want to accept a female sidekick, and Grier keeps all her clothes on leaving us with only the snappy patter of the streets. I’ll save you the trouble of fast forwarding: “You’ll be pushing up black daisies” and “We got tough people in the black community. They expect us to take their money.” A film is never any better than the villain; here that’s the tacky yet evil Pilot (D’Urville Martin) who attempts to kill Ms. Grier in the Ohio River with scuba gear. No underwater scenes here; the Ohio was and still is polluted and silty. Maybe next film, although at this point that seems unlikely.

The highlight of the film is an all-too-short appearances by Christopher Joy as Walker, the local pimp and loan shark. His black and white hound’s tooth Super Fly drag complete with foot-wide lapels truly need to be in the Smithsonian, and the scene where Grier tortures him for information with threat of hot wax in a car wash is priceless. He fights back with “Do I look like the colored Bureau of Information?” and yes, that’s exactly what he is. The other noteworthy cinematic event is a battle fought in the midst of a carnival midway: as Grier and Stoker chase and get chased gap-mouthed local whites stare in wonderment as black people with guns make a movie. But beyond that all we have is large cars with poor suspension, Grier seeking cover behind parking meters, endless driving on the mean streets of Louisville, and the sad image of a single small Eastern Airlines jet landing in the grassy field at the World War 2 vintage Standiford Field (SDF). I won’t say this is BAD Blaxploitation movie; it does have a few great scenes, but just like the Kentucky countryside, there are vast passages of empty space filled with only pastures and meadows.

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