Big Bad Mama (1974)

Steve Carver originally intended to be get invovled in the worlds of cartooning, commercial art and animation before becoming a cameraman for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, shooting St. Louis Cardinals baseball games before he made thirty documentaries while teaching college at the same time.

One of those documentaries got him into the American Film Institute, where he studied under George Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck, as wel as the opportunity to be the assistant director on Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun.

Carver’s final AFI project was a short based on Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, which brought him to the attention of Roger Corman. He edited 150 trailers for the producer and directed The Arena — which has Joe D’Amoto as director of cinematography — before this film. He’d go on to make two Chuck Norris films, Lone Wolf McQuade and An Eye for An Eye before leaving film for the world of photography, pining for the more fun days of working with Corman.

Texas, 1932. Wilma McClatchie (Angie Dickinson) has taken over her dead man’s bootlegging still, but gets caught by the law. Forced to hand over all her money and even her wedding ring to the sheriff, she decides that she and her daughters Polly (Robbie Lee, Lace from Switchblade Sisters and eventually the voice of Twink on Rainbow Brite; she’s also the goddaughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans) and Billy Jean (Susan Sennett, The Candy Snatchers and wife of Graham Nash) are going to live a life of crime. 

While Wilma is at a bank trying to pass a fake check, the girls end up helping Fred Diller (Tom Skerritt) as he knocks over the joint. He and Wilma soon become lovers, but that doesn’t last long before she’s bedding gambler William J. Baxter (William Shatner) and he starts sleeping with both of her daughters, sometimes at the same time because Roger Corman produced this. 

After kidnapping and ransoming the daughter of a millionaire, federal agents and the police finally track down the gang. Baxter gets cuffed and the girls escape while Diller defends them with a hail of Thompson submachine gun fire. But as they drive away, Wilma dies, her bloody arm dragging against the left side of the car as it speeds away. 

Well, or so you’d think, as there was a sequel. And of course, we’ll be covering that soon.

I learned so much about so-called bad movies from the Medved brothers. In their 1986 tome Son of the Golden Turkey Awards, they nominated Dickinson’s role in this film as “The Most Embarrassing Nude Scene in Hollywood History.” Now that I’m older and wiser, I can say that these guys must have been embarrassed themselves as they actually enjoyed this trash. I hate the idea of guilty pleasures; just like what you like.

Oddly enough, Jerry Garcia performed most of the guitar and banjo music in the movie. And if you’re looking for fun actors, Sally Kirkland, Dick Miller and Royal Dano all show up. It’s not the best movie you’ve ever seen, but it’s filled with sin, skin and bullets. What else were you hoping for?

You can watch this on Tubi and Amazon Prime.

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