Big Bad Mama

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“Doesn’t live up to its reputation as a cult classic, beyond Dickinson’s charisma.”

With B-movie entrepreneur Roger Corman getting honoured at the Oscars earlier this month, it seems appropriate to pop on one of his classic productions, starring Dickinson, who was just about to become a star in one of the first shows with a female law-enforcement lead, Police Woman. The truth is, however, that this doesn’t have much more to offer beyond Dickinson: while she holds the film together with her steely resolve, and proves that sexy doesn’t stop at 40, the rest of it offers nothing as substantial. It’s a basic enough plot: she plays Wilma McClatchie, a single mom bringing up her two teenage daughters in Depression-era rural America. They fall into a life of crime, in part because they happen to be trying to cash a fraudulent check in a bank when it gets robbed by Fred Diller (Skerritt). They also team up with gentleman con-artist William Baxter (Shatner), but things go awry when they pull of their last big heist, kidnapping the daughter of a millionaire.

However, it just doesn’t really feature much development, of storyline or characters, and there’s never much tension or interest generated by proceedings. The approach seems to be to get the actresses to take their clothes off in lieu of the movie developing, and there’s a fair bit of nudity, not least from Wilma’s daughters. That’s a bit uncomfortable, since neither look old enough to be smoking, never mind stripping – but I’m pleased to report, both were of age during filming. While there’s no doubt that Dickinson is impressive when cutting loose with a submachine-gun or blazin’ away at the cops in the final showdown (pausing only to dress, in the movie’s most infamous scene), it’s no Bonnie and Clyde. It’s probably not even a Bloody Mama, made by Corman at the start of the decade. Much like the sequel, which we covered back in 2006, Dickinson is largely the sole point of (non-exploitative) interest; whether that’s enough to sustain your attention, is something only you will know. It fell fractionally short of enough for me.

Dir: Steve Carver
Star: Angie Dickinson, Tom Skerritt, William Shatner, Susan Sennett

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