• Black Mama, White Mama

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: March 22nd, 2016.
    Director: Eddie Romero
    Cast: Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Vic Diaz
    Year: 1972
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Eddie Romero and starring Pam Grier and Margaret Markov, 1972’s Black Mama, White Mama was a savvy enough picture to blend two popular seventies genres (women in prison films and Blaxploitation films) into one seriously bad ass picture.

    When the movie begins, a tough talking black mama named Lee (Grier) is tossed into a woman’s penitentiary having been arrested for prostitution. Here she meets a white mama named Karen (Markov), a revolutionary with ties to a guerilla force currently trying to overthrow the government. At first, things don’t seem too bad – there’s weed to be found if you know where to look and highjinks in the shower seem like fun, even if the pervy lesbian warden (Lynn Borden) is watching from behind a hole in the wall. But once Lee and Karen get in bad with said warden, they’re locked up in the oven, chained together in a sweltering sweat box! It’s then that they decide they’ve each got a reason to get out of this place. See, Lee has been stashing money away, taken from her drug dealer boyfriend Vic (Vic Diaz) and she’s now got enough to sail away and live the good life. Karen? She just wants to get back to her people, back to her cause.

    When the warden ships them off to a maximum security prison for safer keeping, the rebels Karen’s affiliated with attack the transport and try to spring her. Most of the rebels and the guards are killed in the bloody firefight that ensues, leaving our two mama’s literally on the run and chained together at the wrist! If that weren’t bad enough, Vic finds out what’s going on and wants it dealt with. So too do the cops, who make a deal with a gun toting whackjob named Ruben (Sig Haig), who really seems to enjoy his work.

    Co-written by Jonathan Demme, this is fast paced, unapologetic trash in the tradition of earlier WIP moves lensed in The Philippines like The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House. It isn’t but a few minutes after the movie starts that we get our requisite shower scene, a masturbating lesbian warden and a beautifully seedy vibe. As things are set in motion the T&A gives way to violence aplenty but even as the movie shifts gears and heads into chase movie/action film territory, nudity is never too far away. if you’ve ever wondered what it looked like when a naked woman licked Vic Diaz, or how a three way with Sig Haig in tightie-whities might play out, this is the movie for you! On top of the naked ladies and the squibs, however, there’s also some genuinely nice scenery and, well, a scene where Sid Haig make two guys drop their pants at gunpoint to compare penis size. That happens too. Really, this movie has it all and more.

    Maybe even more important than the film’s salaciousness, however, are the two female leads. Haig and Diaz are as reliably awesome as ever (really, both men are in fine form and they definitely have a commanding presence) in this film but it’s Pam Grier and Margaret Markov who do almost all of the heavy lifting in front of the camera. At her tough talkingly sassiest, Grier throws her weight around and she looks great doing it. She makes it clear to her partner in crime that nothing’s going to stop her from getting what she wants and when she says it, you believe her. Markov’s character is maybe a little softer but not much. When these gals go at it, watch out!


    Black Mama, White Mama looks great on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. This is a very colorful movie, very heavy on green with so much of it taking place outdoors in the Filipino locations, and those colors pop nicely on this disc. Black levels are rock solid and detail is typically very strong, as is texture, and there’s a good amount of depth to the image. Typically this is a very strong presentation that offers a very serious upgrade over the previous DVD release from the MGM that came out years ago. It’s very clean, there’s not much in the way of actual print damage to note, while grain is as prominent as it should be without ever becoming distracting.

    The English language LPCM Mono track sounds very good. The track provides clear dialogue without any noticeable background hiss or noise at all. The score is reproduced very nicely here too, with good range and fidelity. The levels are well balanced, and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary by Andrew Leavold, the director of The Search for Weng Weng, that does a pretty solid job of explaining the backstory behind this movie. Leavold knows a lot about both Filipino cinema and Filipino culture and as such he’s able to not only talk about the different actors that show up in the movie and about Eddie Romero’s career in film but also about the locations, little cultural details like the vehicles used in the film, and other interesting bits and pieces like that. It’s a nicely paced track with some good information – definitely worth a listen.

    From there we move onto the featurettes, starting with White Mama Unchained which is an interview with actress Margaret Markov that clocks in at just under fourteen minutes. This is less a piece specifically about the feature than it is a career overview and as such, Markov talks not only about working in this particular film but about how she got her start, some of the different directors she’s worked with over the years, working on major studio productions and low budget pictures like this and more. The second featurette is a seventeen minute piece called Sid’s Filipino Adventure in which actor Sid Haig talks about the different movies that he made in the Philippines around the time that Black Mama, White Mama was shot. He speaks quite candidly about some of the culture shock he initially experienced with the working conditions that he and the others that worked on these movies were subjected to. He also shares some stories about director Romero and the film’s two lovely leading ladies. An archival interview with Romero himself is included here as well. Entitled The Mad Director of Blood Island

    Also found on the disc is a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Menus and chapter stops are also included and as this is a combo pack release, there’s also a DVD version of the movie with identical supplements included in the clear Blu-ray case. This release comes packaged with some reversible sleeve art featuring original poster art on one side and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips on the reverse. Also tucked away inside the, for the first pressing, is a booklet of liner notes and a collection of vintage pressbook clippings and archival promotional material.

    The Final Word:

    Black Mama, White Mama holds up well as an enjoyably sleazy chicks in chains picture with plenty of local flavor and all the violence, nudity and trash talking you could want. Romero paces the film at a great clip and Markov, Grier and Haig all deliver fantastically memorable performances. Arrow have done an excellent job bringing the film to Blu-ray with a fine A/V presentation and some nice extras as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!