Thursday, July 27, 2006

Big Bad Mama


I watched Big Bad Mama last night. Oddly, I rented it Monday afternoon, then read Marty McKee's blog entry on Evil Andy, in which briefly references it.

I must say, I didn't enjoy it as much as I did in the past. The tone is terribly uneven.

I'd like to put the blame on director Steve Carver, who was coming off The Arena, a movie Martin Scorsese says he was offered as his follow-up to Boxcar Bertha. Unfortunately, I think the blame goes on producer and my idol (evidenced by my tribute, Roger Corman, my idol).

There's a story I believe I heard Joe Dante tell, but I could be mistaken on that detail. In it, Paul Bartel delivered an hilarious first cut of Death Race 2000 that Corman cut to the still hilarious, but more action-oriented version we all know and love, or at least I do. I've always wanted to see that original cut, though.

Big Bad Mama seems very much to suffer the opposite treatment. Obviously inspired by the success of movies such as Corman's Bloody Mama and Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha, this seems to have been shot with the intention of being a fun but basically grounded action movie, even character study, and having been cut and scored to have more of a wild comedic romp feeling.

The performances are mostly excellent. Stars Angie Dickinson and William Shatner give excellent performances that would probably be more often recognized if the film as a whole were stronger. Robbie Lee is more stilted than preferable as Dickinson's slow daughter Polly, but she has such a charming energy, it's more than a little forgivable. Tom Skerritt, however, seems to sleepwalk aimlessly through the movie, and the nearly always reliable Dick Miller just seems out of place somehow, like his part was just tacked on in editing, although it's a little too integral for that to seem plausible.

There is a way to take that balance between fun and serious, but this doesn't achieve it. It seems like the two sides are at odds or, at least, unaware of one another.

In the interview with Leonard Maltin on the DVD, Corman acknowledges that Carver went on to make one more movie with New World, but can't recall which - it was Capone - and some success within the studio system - quite a few minor films, my favorite of which would be Lone Wolf McQuade, although nothing that makes it unforgivable that Corman can't himself remember. It is odd that Maltin makes note of his "research" in regard to the year Big Bad Mama II was released, but can't despite making a point of asking, point out any of Carver's films himself.

I've given an usual amount of technical and background information here, which, I guess, relates to the fact that this is exactly the kind of I should love. Dickinson and Shatner, Dick Miller, tommy guns, a hot chick whose boobs keep accidentally falling out, a mother/daughter/daughter love... uh... pentagon, I suppose. But instead of loving it, I find it merely passable and vaguely boring, which was disappointing.

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