Print A Roger Corman production now available in a definitive new DVD edition, Big Bad Mama is infamous for its topless and even full-frontal unveiling of fortysomething Angie Dickinson, who apparently was a fan of the idea that if you got it, flaunt it, even if flaunting it means romping on a bed with a similarly undraped if somewhat less fit William Shatner. In fact, all the significant women characters in Big Bad Mama disrobe, as do many of the female stars in the rest of the Corman lady-gangster pictures of the s and beyond.
But even as they entertained drive-in audiences, these movies exposed more than skin: They essentially pantsed Uncle Sam, organized religion, law enforcement, big business, and patriarchal society in general. These were exploitation movies about exploitation, with strong, self-made heroines driven to drop their drawers and pick up a gun in reaction to a harsh economy and the heartless men who controlled it.
The tension between the noble character motivation of the script and the sleazy requirements of the exploitation marketplace resulted in productions that remain lively, surprising, and provocative. Not to mention historical: The films exposed moviegoers for almost the first time to the talents of screenwriter John Sayles, director Jonathan Demme, and composer James Horner. Some of the best of these movies are now available in new, bonus-packed DVD editions on the Shout! Factory label, as part of the company's ongoing — and beautifully produced — Roger Corman's Cult Classics collection.
These period crime-spree pictures were inspired by the success of Bonnie and Clyde and Bloody Mama , which was one of the last films directed by Corman, who became less an auteur and more a mini-mogul in the s when he founded New World Pictures as an exploitation rival to his old employer, American-International Pictures. Whether the emphasis was horror Piranha , science fiction Death Race , action Eat My Dust , or sex The Student Nurse , a New World release typically was as comic as it was risque or violent; social satire and a celebration of kitschy Americana were as likely to be in the mix as car crashes, bullet squibs, and bare breasts.
The irreverent attitude and freewheeling freshness compensated for the low budgets. The Big Bad Mama films find Dickinson's character and her sexy young daughters embarking on a life of crime in response to the economic hardships of the Depression.
Crazy Mama — released almost 20 years before Demme won his Oscar for directing The Silence of the Lambs — begins in , but quickly jumps to the s, adopting a rock and roll, Mad-magazine vibe as Cloris Leachman's character — another victim of economic circumstances — leads a makeshift gang of lawbreakers across the Southwest. A beautifully written blast, the movie offers a preview in genre disguise of the type of progressive movies Sayles would make on his own as one of America's most influential indie writer-directors of the past 30 years.
Click to comment Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement , are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.
Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem? Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet.