Big Bad Mama
Roger Corman for New World
directed by Steve Carver
starring Angie Dickinson, William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Susan Sennett, Robbie Lee, Noble Willingham, Dick Miller, Tom Signorelli, Joan Prather, Royal Dano, William O'Connell, John Wheeler, Ralph James, Sally Kirkland, Wally K.Berns, Shannon Christie, Charles Pinney, Rob Berger, Jay Brooks, Paul Linke, Georgia Lee, Mickey Fox, William F.Engle
written by William W.Norton, Frances Doel, music by David Grisman, second unit director: Paul Bartel
Somewhere in rural South Texas, circa 1920's, Angie Dickinson prevents the wedding of her daughter
Robbie Lee literally at the last moment, fleeing with her, her other
daughter Susan Sennett and their alcohol-smuggling uncle from a crazed
backwoods-mob. The uncle is shot though, leaving Dickinson &
the girls in charge of alcohol-smuggling, which they do quite
successfully until they have a run-in with the law - they buy their way
out of it of course, but lose all their money in the process.
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then decides on an easier way to get to riches - robbery. The concept of
mother & daughters works out, & soon they take up robber Tom
Skerritt as their helping hand - both in their hold-ups & in Mama's
bed -, & later also con-man William Shatner - only for Mama's bed, he
doesn't prove all that skillful in robbing -, relegating Skerritt to do
some work on the daughters (Angie Dickinson, Robbie Lee & Susan
Sennett all do nude scenes, in case you wondered).
Of course 2 men in a mixed
group spell trouble, & that Skerritt impregnates Robbie Lee is just
the tip of the iceberg, with inner group-tensions growing by
the minute. The hold-up business of the gang runs successfully, though,
with them soon mingling with high society to get to the real
money, & they even start branching out into kidnapping - not a good
idea, since Shatner soon loses his nerves, flees the gang & squeals
to the cops (led by all-time favourite Dick Miller). In the final
shoot-out everyone but the 2 girls die.
One of these rural gangster movies that, after the success of Bonnie
& Clyde, were hugely popular in the late 60's/early 70's, this
one actually based on the success of producer Corman's self-directed Bloody
Mama. Big Bad Mama doesn't live up to the standards of
that movie though, missing much of its grittiness & roughness, in
many a scene director Steve Carver seems indecisive in which direction
to take his movie, throwing in comic scenes rather at random (often at
the least fitting moment), or building up strong psychodrama only to
take the film in a whole different (even contradictory) direction only
one scene later, thus leaving many loose ends untied in the end.
Shatner, who in his post-Star Trek-era only rarely gave inspired
performances, is great in this one though as the slimey but cowardly
con-man, which is more than a little reminiscent of his great
performance in Intruder.