Until its unexpectedly sombre and embittered finale, American International’s outrageously funny Black Mama White Mama really is one of those films that is so bad it’s good.
Laced with raunchy dialogue and a certain amount of boisterous sex and casual above-the-waist nudity, this fast-moving, action-filled production begins like any other made-in-the-Philippines-women-in-prison picture.
Black, voluptuous Pam Grier is fiery hooker Lee Daniels, and blonde, lissome Margaret Markov is rich revolutionary Karen Brent. The pair are amongst the latest arrivals at a detention camp in an unnamed Latin island nation.
They both catch the attention of a demented lesbian matron (Lynn Borden) who likes to spy on her inmates while they’re in the shower.
Happily, Black Mama White Mama quickly departs from its burgeoning sadistic sexploitation plot when the two girls – who have no love for each other – escape while handcuffed together just like Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958).
Hot in pursuit are the henchmen of a vice lord from whom Miss Daniels absconded and hid $400,000; Miss Brent’s guerilla friends; agents of the island’s despotic government, and a colourful bounty hunter called Ruben (Sid Haig).
Lee and Karen scamper about the countryside in decidedly skimpy attire, bound together by hatred and stumbling and cat-fighting their way through the wilderness.
All these elements – and more – collide with a hilarity that at times rivals the better moments of Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971).
Subas Herrero (as Ricardo Herrero)