A movie about a mother and her two daughters who take up bank robbing during the depression sounds like it might potentially be fun. Such a movie produced by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures sounds even more promising. And when I tell you that Big Bad Mama stars Angie Dickinson and William Shatner I can tell that you’re getting excited. And did I mention that the two stars take their clothes off?
In a dirt-poor hick town Wilma McClatchie’s daughter Polly is about to get married. At the last moment Wilma realises she cannot allow the wedding to go ahead. If Polly marries one of the local redneck hillbillies her life will be ruined forever. So Wilma grabs her two daughters and runs out of the church and takes off with local bootlegger Barney. Unfortunately Barney gets himself shot by the law in an ambush soon afterwards. Wilma decides to take over his bootlegging run. It’s the beginning of a colourful criminal career.
Wilma and her two girls soon decide bank robbing is more to their taste. Their introduction to this pastime comes when they rob another bank robber of his loot. Fred Diller (Tom Skerritt) manages to climb aboard their car as they escape and persuades Wilma that he will be a useful partner. She’s not entirely convinced of his skills as a bank robber but she’s quite impressed by his prowess in the bedroom. This causes some tension since her elder daughter Billy Jean is also attracted to Fred.
A racetrack encounter with a penniless but charming southern con-man named William J. Baxter (William Shatner) changes the dynamics of the gang somewhat. Baxter takes Fred’s place in Wilma’s bed but Fred isn’t overly disadvantaged by this since both daughters are only too happy to share his bed. In between their sexual adventures they find time to pull off some spectacular heists and Wilma’s ambitions continue to grow until she decides it’s time for one last spectacular coup.
There’s plenty of action and plenty of fun. Its certainly not a movie that takes itself the least bit seriously. It’s essentially a fast-paced romp with lots of mayhem and an extraordinary number of car crashes.
There’s also a great deal of cheerfully exuberant sleaze.
Tom Skerritt is a likeable bank robber. Shatner is good although less over-the-top than usual in a role that is somewhat unusual for him - Baxter is a reluctant and very gun-shy bank robber and one assumes he sticks with the gang mostly in order to enjoy Angie Dickinson’s sexual favours (and one can hardly blame him for that). Susan Sennett and Robbie Lee are amusingly amoral as Wilma’s sexually enthusiastic daughters.
The movie belongs to Angie Dickinson though. She’s fabulous. She’s funny, she’s wicked, she’s smart and determined and she’s extremely sexy.
The only slight fault I find with the film was the incessant hillbilly banjo music. It was fine for the first ten minutes but it wore out its welcome very quickly. Of course if you actually like hillbilly banjo music then you might not find this to be a problem.
Being from the Corman stable it’s a very low-budget film but the paucity of the budget doesn’t really show. The stunts are reasonably impressive, and the 1930s costumes, settings and cars look terrific.
The Region 2 DVD from In2film is lacking in extras but it’s extraordinarily cheap and it looks good so it’s difficult to find any cause for complaint there.
This is the type of sleazy fun B-movie that New World Pictures could always be relied upon for. And did I mention that Angie Dickinson and William Shatner get naked a lot?