Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Unseen #20: Bloody Mama

Why’d I Buy It?: Came in the Roger Corman boxset. I picked up.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Well here’s the thing, I hate Shelley Winters. I mean I really hate Shelley Winters. I’ve never been one to shy away from Kitsch, but God damn, something about that braying queen bothers me. Like a proto Juliet Lewis, she infects movies I love. I have to flinch through the opening twenty of Night Of The Hunter, and Harper. She’s the reason Lolita is my least favorite Kubrick Movie.

Since Bloody Mama is a Shelley Winter’s vehicle this poses something of a problem. But at the same time I was curious. Its one of De Niro’s first movies, even predating Hi Mom (Though not Greetings). It’s a twenties Gangster movie, AND a Southern one, both subgenre’s I have an affection for. And it’s the Cinematic Paterfamilis of the far superior Boxcar Bertha. So I couldn’t help but be curious.

How Was It?: Bloody Mama gets to a pretty fucked up start with an old man raping his grade school aged daughter. Which even by exploitation film standard is a pretty inauspicious start. This for some reason inspires her to start a big family, one CW song later and we have Shelley Winters in all her drag queen glory lording over a gaggle of Rednecks including a young Robert DeNiro.

Before you can say naked Bathtub wash, Winters is defending her boys against a true accusation of Gang Rape. Now look I liked a fucked up exploitation movie as much as the next guy, Hell I praised the trailer for The Rape Killer, I liked the Candy Snatchers, in a kind of slack jawed stunned way, fer Christ sakes. But man Bloody Mama’s got one pretty fucked up Moral Compass. I suppose its supposed to be somewhat ironic, there’s a scene where Winter’s praises The KKK’s infamous march on Washington. But still the movie feels genuinely dirty. As an exploitation movie should I suppose. And that’s before prison rape.

The movie doesn’t have so much of a plot as it does a bunch of shit that happened.

Still despite Winter’s cawing at the center of nearly every scene (And voiceover too Jesus Christ) there is a lot to recommend Bloody Mama. Despite the fact that it was obviously done as cheap as it could possibly be, there’s a lot of fun period detail to the film. And though Corman’s better known as a producer as a director, there’s a certain something to work behind the lens. Though Corman has films where he can be accused of lazy direction, when he gave a fuck he was an energetic and innovative director. He showcases it here, splitting the difference between Altmanesque intimacy in some scenes and out and out exploitation in others. Sometimes like in a conversation carried out during a sex scene in a moving car he combines both.

Look Bloody Mama’s not perfect, its not even good. But if you want a genuinely corrupt exploitation experience there’s nothing that fits the bill better.


MrJeffery said...

wow. sounds interesting. that poster is bananas.

Bryce Wilson said...

Bananas sums it up perfectly.