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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangster > Great Depression > Crazy Mama/The Lady In Red + Big Bad Mama/Big Bad Mama II (Roger Corman/Shout! Factory DVD Double Feature sets)

Crazy Mama/The Lady In Red + Big Bad Mama/Big Bad Mama II (Roger Corman/Shout! Factory DVD Double Feature sets)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Films: C+

 

 

In real life, there was once a dangerous gangster named Ma Barker and she was one of the most famous criminals during The Great Depression.  As the counterculture revisited her in the media of the 1970s and 1970s, her legend led to some great roles for some name actresses.  Shelley Winters played a variant of her with much vim and vigor on the Adam West Batman series, but Roger Corman was determined to do even more.  Three of four films in two Double Feature DVDs from Shout! Factory offer his best attempts and another related gem.

 

First we get Crazy Mama, as played by the great Cloris Leachman in 1975, already riding a wave of success that included The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Last Picture Show.  She has a mother (Ann Southern) and daughter (Linda Purl) who are one happy family… until their beauty shop is repossessed and hell hath no fury like women who have their beauty means taken away.  Their solution is to go on a robbery spree and the authorities eventually have to go and stop them.  Jonathan Demme (The Silence Of The Lambs) directed and the good supporting cast includes Donnie Most (Purl’s future co-star on Happy Days and a better actor than he ever got credit for), Stuart Whitman and Jim Backus.  This is a fun film that has been saved and preserved, looking better than any footage I have ever seen of it before.

 

Also added is The Lady In Red (1979), an interesting, underrated version of the rise and fall of John Dillinger (Robert Conrad of Wild, Wild West an unusual choice that works more than you would expect) as the title refers to the woman (Pamela Sue Martin of Dynasty and the most successful Nancy Drew yet) who eventually gave him up, Polly Franklin.  Polly goes from crime to a wacky prison stint to potential hooker to his woman during (yup) The Great Depression.  Louise Fletcher and Christopher Lloyd are among the decent supporting cast and despite aging oddly, this is one of Corman’s best.

 

We next look at the two films with Angie Dickinson that also trades off on the legend.  Big Bad Mama (1976) and the belated-but-not-bad Big Bad Mama II (1987) in which she plays Wilma McClatchie, who moves from bootlegging while the country is still dry to bank robbing.  Steve Carver directed the first film with William Shatner, Sally Kirkland, Dick Miller and Tom Skerritt.  It has energy, attitude and is fun.  The second film was helmed by Jim Wynorski and has Robert Culp, Bruce Glover, Ebbe Roe Smith, Danielle Brisebois, Jeff Yagher and Julie McCullough with some highlights, but seems a little more closed off and less effective than the original.  Still, it is amusing at times just the same.

 

They are all worth a look and these new editions have been upgraded to include extras, better sound and better picture.  All are featured in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 transfers and have never looked better outside of theaters, though there are still detail limits and the age of the prints.  All also have Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, save the barely stereophonic Mama II, but they all also have distortion and show their age.

 

Extras on all films include audio commentary tracks and theatrical trailers.  Crazy adds TV Spots and on-camera interviews on the film with Demme and Corman.  Lady adds a second commentary track with Producer Julie Corman and Writer John Sayles, joining the first with Director Lewis Teague and Actor Robert Forster.   Mama adds TV Spots, Leonard Maltin interviewing Corman, on-camera interviews with Corman, Director Steve Carver, Dickinson and Writer Frances Doel.  Mama II adds another Maltin/Corman interview and new interview with Glover.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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