Big Bad Mama

2 ratings (2 Epinions reviews)
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Big Bad Mama: Guns, Nudity, And A Whole Lotta Lovin'

Feb 23, 2005
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

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Pros:Humor, campiness, female nudity for the male audience

Cons:It ain't for serious folk! Tragic ending, William Shatner naked

The Bottom Line: Big Bad Mama is a movie from the King of Drive-In Movies, Roger Corman that delivers as promised: a loud, raucous, low budget camp classic.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Big Bad Mama is a fun exploitation movie, that immediately jumps right into the story without so much as a bottle of whiskey. The premise is pretty straightforward, about a jezebel named Wilma McClatchie (Angie Dickinson), a hot single mom of two teenage girls who goes on a cross country crime spree, picking up strangers, robbing banks, and getting a whole lotta lovin' on the way over. The penultimate dream is to end up in California to buy a beach house and start life fresh, completely anew from their life of near poverty in the south where teenagers get married too early too often (which jump starts the plot when Wilma objects to her daughter's marriage), and men run everything.

I will say this: Big Bad Mama really is big bad fun. It's such a guilty pleasure to watch Wilma evade the law in duplicitous ways, while saying "Can't you see we're havin' a picnic here?" The way Angie Dickinson brings out here character's confidence as a brash heroine and force to be reckoned with, is a real hoot. There's nothing you don't know about Wilma that you don't see on screen. She's a very sexually liberated human being and independent minded, someone who dedicated their entire lives to raising their children but still maintained their identity. In the process of the endless love she provides for her kids, she' still the authority figure but doesn't throw her weight around. The opening scene features Wilma immediately objecting to her daughter's marriage, and the way she turns the ceremony into a fiasco is big, broad fun, much a trademark of producer Roger Corman's philosophy. Dickinson is an inspired choice to play the part, and she makes Wilma a veritable force of nature and fire, someone you can't keep your eyes off because she'll do something completely whacky.

But aside from analyzing characters, Big Bad Mama is a big bad movie. Anyone looking to watch a Fellini or Bergman movie may just wanted to watch their Criterion DVD's, because Big Bad Mama is cut from a completely different fiber. In addition to the gratuitous nudity of Wilma and her nubile daughters, there's plenty of cartoonish violence to go around. Midway through the film, accomplice Fred Diller (Tom Skerritt) shoots up a bank in a semi-successful holdup. He gets shot right in the leg while jumping on Wilma's car. Now, for some mysterious reason that can only be called a continuity error, Fred's leg is suddenly better and then it's suddenly bad. As if to say that when he limps, he does it occasionally and then not at all. As said, Big Bad Mama is a movie chockful of outrageous stuff that you could only see in the movies and not in real life.

The performances are somewhat over the top and then restrained. Angie Dickinson doesn't really ham up her character, but plays her as a cussin', above the law rebel who can be calm and collected once, and then a complete explosion of rage the next. The actress plays her much like a femme fatale who will trample over anyone and anybody in her way, which even includes kidnapping and murder. As for William Shatner, he plays best at being, well, William Shatner and he's a real hoot here. The way his amoral and cowardly William vents his frustrations at Fred is one of the best scenes. Paraphrasing a quote, William says "Let's go at it right now." as he holds up his dukes in a hamfisted way, which Fred cleverly replies back with aiming his gun. It's very cartoonish to watch in such a bad but fun movie way, that you really can't help but laugh.

On a sidenote, maybe it's the nudity in this film that is almost kind of innocent. Director Steve Carver portrays the female nudity in an almost artful way, depending on the circumstance, while at others times showing it in a completely softcore porn matter. For instance, when Wilma shacks up with her gentlemen suitors, Carver uses just the right amount of lighting and absence of sound that it looks like a beautiful sequence cut together. How Wilma glides up to her men is done tastefully with such construction, that Carver never exploits it. However, the same can't be said for Wilma's daughters (Susan Sennett and Robbie Lee), whom Carver definitely fulfills the gratuitous quota. In one of the film's campy car chases, one daughter's dress has a penchant for falling over her shoulder and her breast, giving just the right amount of imagery for the male audience. As said, Carver will definitely make the male population happy in this instance.

So to call Big Bad Mama a terribly bad movie would be right. It is a bad movie that doesn't restrain itself from campy fun. Seriously, it's from Roger Corman, king of B-movies who has his trademark all over here. If anything, Big Bad Mama is part of the heyday of Roger Corman's film company, when people like Martin Scorcese, Jack Nicholson, and Jonathan Demme were just getting their feet wet in the movie business. As for the DVD itself, it's a transfer better than most movies arriving out on DVD. If you were to look for a New World picture from Roger Corman, only the cult classics like this one end up on a much more special inception, than say something like The Terror or Attack of the Crab Monsters. There's a nice feature for cast and crew biographies with each person usually having two pages that's nothing more than just a biographical sketch. There's a really good interview segment with film critic Leonard Maltin interviewing Corman about the making of the movie, which Corman reveals some informative tidbits about what made the movie a success. The scene selections menu is a bit of a drawback, which requires an extra menu to sort through before going to the scene selections. So if you wanted to see the layout for scenes 1-4, you'd have to pick "scenes 1-4" before actually seeing the layout. There are no subtitles and there's only one English audio track.

But all things considered, Big Bad Mama is a movie you have to know what you're getting into. It's not heavyhanded at all since it's such a big, fun movie, that's also a child of the 70's, since the end is much like other 70's mainstream successes like The French Connection or The Godfather, ending on an ambiguous note where you're not sure if it ended happily or miserably, but it just ended and that's it. However, before all that, it's just a nice, brainless little cult movie that will either be disliked or liked by the general public.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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