APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Bloody Mama (1970)

April 5: Roger Corman’s birthday — Whether he produced or directed the movie, share a movie for Corman’s birthday.

PS: Thanks to Joe Sherlock for pointing out that — like always — I confused Bloody Mama with Crazy Mama.

Gene Siskel gave Bloody Mama 1 star and said that it was “92 minutes of sado-masochism, incest, satyrism and voyeurism woven into a disgraceful screenplay. In fact, the whole treatment might be called embarrassed Bonnie and Clyde.”


As far as a hero in this movie, I guess it would be Ma Barker (Shelley Winters), a woman so damaged by the constant assaults of her brothers and father that she’s emerged as a woman constantly in demand of new lovers and attacking everyone around her. She leaves her husband George (Alex Nicol) and takes her sons Lloyd (Robert De Niro), Arthur (Clint Kimbrough), Herman (Don Stroud) and Fred (Robert Walden) on a murder-filled crime spree across America.

Herman and Fred get busted, so the gang adds gunman — and new lover for Ma — Kevin Dirkman (Bruce Dern) and prostitute Mona Gibson (Diane Varsi). But Kevin and Fred were once in a prison relationship, so this makes him resent his mom. Lloyd starts feeling the same way after a girl he’s fallen for — and by fallen for, I mean raped several times — named Rembrandt (Pamela Dunlap) gets drowned in a tub by Ma. Things get even worse when the boys see Sam Pendlebury (Pat Hingle) — a millionaire they’ve kidnapped — as their father figure and when they release him, Herman takes over, punching Ma in the face.

Stroud punched Winters so hard that he put her in the hospital for a day.

As the family makes its way to the Everglades, Lloyd overdoses, Mona runs and the remaining gang shoot an alligator with a tommy gun, which brings everyone and anyone the law has their way. Spoiler. No gang member makes it out alive, with Herman horrifyingly blowing his brains out with a machine gun and Ma dying on the porch, screaming and shooting and taking as many cops with her as she can.

The credits say that any similarity to anyone living or dead is coincidental, but the final title says that any similarity to Kate Barker is intentional. Was Ma Barker really in charge of her gang? J. Edgar Hoover stated that she was “the most vicious, dangerous, and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.” Others claim that he said that because his agents went wild when capturing the gang and killed them all, even their innocent mother.

In the book John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920–1936, it’s stated that “Her age and apparent respectability permitted the gang to hide out disguised as a family. As Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Anderson, she rented houses, paid bills, shopped and did household errands. Alvin Karpis was probably the real leader of the gang, and he later said that Ma was just “an old-fashioned homebody from the Ozarks.” She was superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law-abiding.”

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