Black Mama, White Mama (1973)
Does the appearance of Pam Grier make this women in prison flick blaxploitation? Perhaps. But it squarely falls into the exploitation market under the guise of producer John Ashley and his business pal and director Eddie Romero.
Pam finds herself on board a bus heading to a women’s rehabilitation center with fellow inmate Margaret Markov (White Mama I suppose). Pam is a convicted lady of the night with ties to a local island drug king and Markov is a revolutionary. Fate just might find them as a seventies gender swap version of The Defiant Ones.
Pam steps off the bus in a clinging red dress with ample skin on display catching the eye of one of our lady guards. Cue the sexual content when our new shipment of inmates frolic in the showers with plenty of topless footage. All of this while sadistic guard Lynn Borden has her eye glued to a peephole. Cuing the all male target audience!
When Pam rejects the sexual advances of Borden she finds herself marked as a trouble maker. At the same time she doesn’t hit it off too well with revolutionary Markov and a cafeteria tussle finds them spending a topless night in the sweat box. Shades of Cool Hand Luke. Fortunes are about to change for the argumentative duo when they are transferred by bus for further questioning.
A roadside ambush by guerrilla forces leaves the two ladies chained and on the run just like Curtis and Poitier. They bicker, tumble and fight there way across the unnamed island the film takes place on. The movie was one of many actor/producer Ashley was associated with that were filmed in the Philippines.
The local drug lord Vic Diaz wants Pam brought before him and the police want Markov to quell the uprising of the island revolutionaries. Pam wants to take her hidden drug money and flee the island while Markov wants to rejoin her gang of freedom fighters.
Into the mix comes the film’s highlight. It’s Sid Haig himself! Haig is plenty of fun as a misplaced country hick. He dabbles in drugs and prostitutes on the island with more then one cop in his pocket. He’s out to collect a bounty on the women looking every inch the cowboy in his dude ranch outfit. He has two six shooters strapped to his legs, a cowboy hat, dangling cigar, bushy mustache and a fancy western shirt on his back.
The shootouts commence and the blood begins to flow freely when all the different factions converge with the women as the prize.
This was released following Pam’s other prison flicks, The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House. She’d soon be seen back in the U.S. kicking the hell out of any crime figure in her way in a succession of films capitalizing on both her beauty and screen presence. Influential films that would lead to her great return in Jackie Brown. For more on Pam’s seventies flicks, just click here.
Pam and co-star Markov would face off again in 1974’s The Arena. A role reversal in the Spartacus mold where sexy women are the gladiators. Why not?
Sid Haig found himself in a number of Pam’s films. He was in all three prison films mentioned and turned up in Coffy and Foxy Brown as well. Even Haig makes a cameo appearance in Jackie Brown for an inside joke from master film historian Quentin Tarantino.
Picked up for distribution by AIP the films original story is credited to Silence of the Lamb’s, Jonathan Demme.
Frankie Avalon’s nemesis for Annette’s hand, John Ashley produced and starred in a succession of films made in the Philippines with Eddie Romero. Wonderful exploitation fodder with titles ranging from Brides of Blood, Beast of the Yellow Night and The Twilight People. The third film actually had Pam as The Panther Woman.
Considering a revolution is part of the plot line, by today’s standards these early “Pam in Prison” flicks might be politically incorrect. I prefer to look at them as time capsules to another day and time when plenty of crazy B’s were coming from the Philippines by Ashley and company.