Screen Reviews

Black Mama, White Mama

Pam Grier escapes a prison chained to a white girl revolutionary in Black Mama, White Mama.

Black Mama, White Mama

directed by Eddie Romero

starring Pam Grier, Lotus Kee, Margaret Markov

MVD Visuals, AIP, Arrow

While Pam Grier is best known for her powerful black heroine roles in Foxy Brown and Coffey; this might be her best known role. Black Mama, White Mama is a combination “Women in Prison” movie complete with an extensive shower scene, and chase picture with Mr. Grier chained onto Margaret Markov as they flee a third world revolution. We begin with a bus full of female prisoners arriving at a secret jungle jail. The location is never mentioned but its all shot in the Philippines, and the scenery is about the lush jungle you can imagine. The prisoners are all lush as well. Well-dressed and healthy; their jail duds are color-coordinated salmon and yellow outfits. Their crimes remain unstated, but the dramatic purpose is abundantly clear: get them naked and let them wrestle in the shower. Soon Grier and Markov are on a bus in transit to another facility; the bus is attacked by rebels, and the girls escape. Chained together; they have to settle their differences because they can’t even break their physical bonds in a blacksmith’s shop with big power tools. Their disguises are clever; they dress as nuns to hide the chains then hijack a truck and drive to the big shoot out.

Chaos. Guns. Naked women. Lesbian prison guards. Sid Haig in a loud cowboy outfit. Sexually suggestive furniture. Naked women. Oh, I mentioned that. Sorry. While the plot is contrived, the action is exciting complete with real suspense. There’s plenty of snappy dialog, and Sid Haig continues to provide some of the best character actor work in all exploitation cinema. The girl’s even wear symbolically color-coded panties that gives a perfect excuse of looking for post-modernist symbolism in this sexy action adventure epic. Like all MVD releases, there’s an excellent commentary track, video that sharper than it ever was in initial theatrical release, and plenty of high grade film analysis. Enjoy!

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