From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Movie Retrospectives: Chicks Kick Ass
Big Bad Mama

Producer/Director Roger Corman has a long and well established track record as a purveyor of trashy cinema. Yet his history as a director who works fast and cheap hasn't kept him from drawing a long list of current Hollywood a-list talent who got their first opportunities in filmmaking through Corman. The big names he helped on the way to stardom includes Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Peter Bogdanovich, and Joe Dante. Big Bad Mama keeps with Corman's cinematic values. The movie is trashy, lurid, and in a very campy way a fair amount of fun.

Angie Dickinson stars as Wilma McClatchie, a poor single mother of two daughters in Prohibition era Texas. She starts the film by stealing her daughter Billie Jean away from the church where Billie Jean was about to get married to poor boy of limited means. Wilma doesn't want either of her daughters to have to scrap and struggle for anything they might have in life. So she, her other daughter Polly, and her bootlegging brother Barney break up the wedding, and make a break for it. Barney gets killed in the escape by federal agents who are trying to stop his bootlegging.

After putting him in the ground, Wilma realizes that bootlegging might be the means by which she can give her daughters a better life. She and her girls embark on an escalating crime spree that moves from running liquor, to bank robbery, to kidnapping. Along the way they evade the law at every opportunity, and add a couple more unscrupulous characters to their "gang". Fred Diller (a very young Tom Skerritt) is the man who puts the McClatchie's onto bank robbing, and William J Baxter (William Shatner) is smooth talking conman from Kentucky who takes to robbery pretty well.

Their criminal activities become more complicated as the relationships between the various members of the gang develop. Diller and Wilma couple early on, but once Baxter comes into the fold, Wilma finds him much more appealing. Diller doesn't mourn long as he winds up in bed with young Polly. Billie Jean doesn't get left out, as the more worldly Polly generously "shares" Diller with her inexperienced sister (and yes, it is every bit the "ewww"moment you might be imagining). In the end, Wilma gets an idea for one last big score that will allow them to retire. But will the romantic entanglements that have developed stand in the way of the job's success?

Dickinson is never going to win any Oscars for her acting. That having been said, she does a decent job of spreading the cheese around in this little adventure. She's very much the tough minded independent woman trying to the best she can by her two daughters. Unlike the other movies I've looked at this week, this movie is never going to be the subject of feminist debate. But in her own way, Dickinson does portray a strong minded, strong willed woman who's not afraid to take the initiative. And I think it speaks fairly well for her confidence to do the love scenes she does at her age (she was 43 when the film was made). She has a good body, and isn't afraid to show it off.

Is this a great movie? No. But it's a good cheesy late night romp that would be right at home with some beers, friends, and a fair amount of derisive comments hurled at the screen. And Wilma is pretty handy with Tommy gun. Any woman who knows how to handle her firearms, you don't mess with lightly. If you have a craving for some good 70s trash, you could do a lot worse.

Next week's theme: Machines Gone Bad.