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Film / Black Mama, White Mama

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Please notice who gets top-billed in the credit block.

Black Mama, White Mama is a 1973 Exploitation Film from American International Pictures, starting as a Girls Behind Bars film and then following the escape of two prisoners and the ensuing womanhunt. It stars Pam Grier as Lee Daniels and Margaret Markov as Karen Brent. Lee robs Vic, her big shot drug dealer/pimp/boyfriend, and ends up in jail. Meanwhile, revolutionary Karen is arrested for smuggling weapons for the guerilla. The pair escape and don't get along at first (especially since they are chained together but want to go in opposite directions). Later they do.

While the movie has a classic plot about hunted fugitives being hunted by corrupt officials and various criminals, and has plenty of action scenes, it also excels in various kinds of Fanservice, with lots of nudity.

Pam Grier and Margaret Markov teamed up again in the following year's The Arena (for New World Pictures), which also involved action, fanservice and breaking out of captivity.

The story was co-written by a young Roger Corman protege named Jonathan Demme.

This film contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Both Lee and Karen show quite a lot of fighting skills during their escape.
  • Affably Evil
    • Local crime lord Ruben, who is promised a reward by the officials to capture Karen, presents the image of a jovial, country music loving cowboy. He is clearly supposed to be way past the Moral Event Horizon, but actor Sid Haig is obviously having way too much fun to be truly hate-worthy.
    • Vic, drug kingpin, pimp, as well as Lee's former boyfriend, is soft-spoken and treats his subordinates nicely enough - once he's done torturing them.
    • Matron Densmore, who is initially shown as being an abusive tyrant towards the prisoners, becomes this when trying to trade preferential treatment for sexual favours from Lee (which Lee refuses).
  • Anyone Can Die: In the climactic shoot-out between the guerillas and Vic's goons, Karen is shot in the chest and killed.
  • Bad Habits: After escaping from a convict transport, Lee and Karen waylay a pair of nuns, rob them of their habits, and put them on on top of their bright-yellow prison clothes.
  • Cat Fight: While in prison, Lee and Karen get into several cat fights with each other and their inmates. After their escape, they fall out and exchange some catty blows, but soon have to concentrate on survival (and the fights they get into after that are of a much deadlier nature).
  • Chained Heat: Lee and Karen are handcuffed together when they are transported to a different prison. They manage to escape, but are still chained together, which complicates matters since they not only can't stand each other, but want to go in opposite directions.
  • Electric Torture: Vic subjects one of his prostitutes to this to extract information about where Lee is heading. Par for the course in this movie, the girl's stripped down to the waist and the electrodes are placed just below her breasts. Somewhat surprisingly for the genre, she actually manages to convince Vic that she doesn't know anything and he lets her go.
  • Exploitation Film: The movie is an action movie about escaping from prison and the following womanhunt, but the directors took every chance they got of showing naked or topless women - and there were plenty of those.
  • Fanservice Extra: Obviously, one of the selling points of the movie. Numerous minor female characters get fully or partly naked, plus in titillating situations.
    • One of the first scenes in prison is a long shower scene ("Okay, strip 'em and get 'em wet!") where we get a lot of close-ups of the prisoner's breasts. Some of the women even play with a water hose in the shower.
    • Most of the prison scenes are of the male fantasy variety, with scantily-clad inmates, lots of lesbian innuendo between said inmates, and blatantly lesbian domination from Matron Densmore.
    • Throughout the movie, there are many shots of naked and topless women, and braless breasts under thin shirts, as well as panty shots.
    • Drug lord Ruben gets into a (non-explicit) threesome with two sisters, who are both quite attractive and shown in only underwear at length.
  • Girls Behind Bars: The depiction of the women's prison is a classic male fantasy, with beautiful, scantily-clad inmates, lots of Les Yay, and openly lesbian, sadistic staff.
  • Jiggle Show: The many scenes with topless and braless women provide ample examples of bouncing breasts, especially with the well-endowed Pam Grier. Even in the scenes where she is wearing a bra, it's loose enough to allow her breasts to jiggle independently of each other, in a way that's usually only seen in certain types of animated movies.
  • Jive Turkey: Lee, to some extent (it is a 1970s exploitation movie, after all), but rather toned down.
  • Lady in Red: The red dress Lee wears in the beginning of the film (before she changes into prison garb) has both a plunging neckline and a bare back.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The lead female characters Lee and Karen both provide lots of fanservice. Both of them are very good-looking, appear bare-breasted, and spend nearly the entire film in very skimpy prison wear which makes it clear Karen doesn't wear a bra, along with panty shots whenever they bend.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted, with many topless scenes. There is no attempt to avoid showing women's nipples. Well, this is an exploitation movie.
  • The Peeping Tom: Matron Densmore is shown to have a peep hole which lets her look into the prison shower, which she does while the prisoners are playfully horsing around naked, masturbating while watching them.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Matron Densmore appears to be not quite mentally stable, switching between abusive behavior towards the prisoners, masturbating while spying on them in the shower, and attempting to seduce them. All this despite apparently being in a relationship with her colleague.
  • Punishment Box: As a punishment for getting into a fight during dinner, Lee and Karen are stripped to the waist and put into a metal box in the prison yard.
  • Rebellious Princess: Karen Brent. She says to Lee that she's always had plenty of money, but it never did anything for her. Now she's working with the guerillas to liberate the island.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The Defiant Ones WITH WOMEN! Except one of them evades capture, while the other... doesn't.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The guerillas Karen are helping are portrayed as good guys, but it is never shown what exactly they are fighting for or against. They are just generic revolutionaries, with a Che Guevara-like leader.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Lee has a lot of attitude, takes no disrespect from anybody, and talks back a lot.
  • Shower Scene: After arriving in prison, the new inmates are stripped and made to shower. The scene is shot with loving attention to detail and a notable absence of SceneryCensors.
  • Skinship Grope: Some of the prisoners engage in some playful wrestling in the shower. The scene of naked women groping each other is of course played for Fanservice.
  • Stripperiffic: The prison uniforms basically consist of oversized T-shirts and underwear. This leads to frequent panty shots and makes Karen's lack of a bra very obvious.
  • Tap on the Head: When the truck driver that Lee and Karen are getting a lift from gets suspicious, they hit him on the head with a bottle, dump him out of the truck, and drive on. He comes to a few seconds later, seemingly no worse from the experience.
  • Threeway Sex: Ruben, a drug lord, has sex with two sisters (without any explicit stuff).
  • Vapor Wear:
    • Karen is very obviously braless under her thin prison outfit. Then she sacrifices her panties to create a false track for the dogs used to find her and Lee...
    • The cut of the red dress Lee is wearing at the beginning of the film makes it impossible for her to wear a bra.
  • Vulnerable Convoy: The convoy transporting Lee and Karen to a different prison is attacked by Karen's guerilla group. The attack is repulsed when reinforcements arrive, but Lee and Karen manage to escape during the gunfight.
  • You Are Number 6: The newly arrived prisoners are given numbered tags and told that "these numbers are your new names. Make sure you don't lose them". The numbers are never mentioned again, however, and the prisoners are addressed by surnames by the guards.