"BIG BAD MAMA"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Angie Dickinson as WILMA MCCLATCHIE
William Shatner as WILLIAM J. BAXTER
Tom Skerritt as FRED DILLER
Susan Sennett as BILLY JEAN
Robbie Lee as POLLY
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Directed by: Steve Carver
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When it comes to films, I can be a fancy gourmet or Oscar the Grouch. I can like fine pieces of art, and I can like trash. But in both categories, there can be some bad films.
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You can pretty much guess that with Roger Corman’s name attached, the project won’t be considered a fine work of art, so it’s safe to assume that “Big Bad Mama” is a piece of trash. And it’s not even a good one.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released a batch of early Roger Corman films – “Death Race 2000,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” and “Big Bad Mama.” They’re all trash, but “Big Bad Mama” is the chicken bone you can choke on.
The story follows Wilma McClatchie (Angie Dickinson), who goes on a crime spree with her two daughters. They amble through the south and west, running moonshine, exotic dancing and robbing banks. Along the way, they meet partners in crime. Two of them are rival outlaws – played by Tom Skerritt and William Shatner – who are vying for Wilma’s attention. Of course, when she’s tied up with one, the other goes after the slutty young daughters.
Overall, this film is a mess with godawful dialogue and really, really, really bad acting. I mean really bad acting – unlike anything you’ve seen in a Corman movie. I can excuse Tom Skerritt because he was just a working actor at the time. But Shatner? Come on, Bill! This is your follow up to the “Star Trek” series? Remember, this was back when he considered himself a serious actor. My only theory is that he needed the paycheck and hoped that no one would see this flick past the drive-in.
This film is a period piece, taking place in the 1930s. In some ways, the production reflects that with the cars and some architecture. However, other times it breaks down when characters show up in 70s-style clothes and hair-dos.
I know, I know. It’s just a Roger Corman film. Am I expecting Oscar-winning costume design? Well, no. But I’ve seen Corman westerns that were more continuous. I just think that with “Big Bad Mama,” the filmmakers got lazy – big surprise for a crummy Corman flick.
Yes, Angie Dickinson is a sexy woman, even in her 40s when she did this film. And yes, the girls who play her daughters are cute enough. All three of them get naked at some point in the film (as well as a frightening turn with William Shatner in the buff), and the girls look almost too young to do it. But aside from the T&A factor permeating this film from the 70s that looks like it’s from the 60s, there’s not much to look at.
The DVD is slim compared to some of the other early Corman re-releases. This has an audio commentary with Corman and Dickinson as well as a “Mama Knows Best” retrospective. The commentary is far more entertaining than the film itself, actually. Dickinson gives Corman some good-natured ribbing throughout, and we are also able to hear her squirm when it comes time for her nude scenes.
“Big Bad Mama” may have broken some new ground, but looking back, it was just big and bad.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.