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Bloody Mama (1970) - Blu-ray Review

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Bloody Mama - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Holy Shit, Mr. Roger Corman.  Holee Shite.  You are a God among mere mortal men.  Seriously.  Bloody Mama, starring Shelly Winters, would have been your masterpiece if your filmography and genre-hopping wasn’t so vast and extreme, changing with almost every other movie.  As it is, the 1970 film – now available on blu-ray courtesy of Kino-Lorber - is a classic of the gangster genre.  No one is claiming that the film is perfect but, damn it, Corman makes perfectly imperfect pictures and, in a career as long as his continues to be, sometimes imperfection is a very beautiful thing.

After a relatively brutal and incestual upbringing, Kate “Ma” Barker (Winters), and her four sons - Herman (Don Stroud), Fred (Robert Walden), Lloyd (Robert De Niro), and Arthur (Clint Kimbrough) – take the law into their own hands as they terrorize the south with their crime-spree and seriously deranged attitudes.  Filmed free of the studio lot and, specifically, on location in Arkansas, the authenticity of Bloody Mama’s shoot extends to its cast, which includes, among its many method actors, Alex Nicol, Pat Hingle, and Scatman Crothers.  

Corman, who selected the script as his next movie for American International Pictures upon completion of 1969’s Target: Harry, names this picture as his favorite and it’s not hard to see why.  Bloody Mama is everything Corman wants his pictures to be: gritty, violent, perverse, and highly watchable.  If there is a staple to which all Corman films could and should be measured against, it is here inside the 90 minutes that make up Bloody Mama’s thrill ride through the country.

Based on the historical exploits of Ma Barker, Bloody Mama spawned its own genre of blood-thirsty women, most of them helmed in some way by Corman himself.  “You never could make a decent living.  You never did mount me proper,” she says to her husband upon walking out with her four, grown boys.  Scandalous, right?  And, oh so clever.  It’s this rather uncivilized approach to these backwoods hillbillies that keeps Bloody Mama so incredibly focused on the bizarre.  She might rule her boys with loving sponge baths and “extra” attention but civilization will have its say when she takes it to task and kidnaps and kills without regard.

Winters, tackling the brazen role of the powerful matriarch at odds with every living thing around her (including alligators), is in BEAST mode throughout much of Bloody Mama, never giving in to ANY situation she and her brood face. She’s dynamic and, in what amounts to the final violation of innocence, actually earns our affectations as her family makes its final stand against civilization.    Meshing his frame of filmic reference with actual newsreels from the era, Corman matches her talents by cementing the picture in era-specific information. 

Historically, shoot-outs, especially the one in Bloody Mama, were known to draw large crowds of spectators.  Corman – who was all of ten years when the real Ma Barker made national news - lets the bullets and blood fly throughout the picture and, as evident with Kino-Lorber’s handling of the film, continues to deliver the exploitation of decency as the family that slays together stays together.

Bloody Mama - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
90 mins
Director
: Roger Corman
Writer:
Robert Thom
Cast:
Shelley Winters, Robert DeNiro, Pat Hingle
Genre
: Crime | Drama
Tagline:
The family that stays together slays together!
Memorable Movie Quote: "If it wasn't for the fact that they've got your blood in their veins, I would've killed you a long time ago."
Distributor:
American International Pictures (AIP)
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 24, 1970
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 23, 2014
Synopsis: A psychological gangster film based on fact. Machine gun totin' Ma Barker lead her family gang (her sons) on a crime spree in the Depression era. Her loyal brood have every perversion imaginable. The sadistic Herman sleeps with his Ma. When Fred Barker is released from prison, he brings home his cell mate/lover Kevin Dirkman, who also sleeps with Ma, much to Fred's chagrin. Lloyd Barker is a spaced-out drug addict who sniffs glue if nothing better is around. Ma kidnaps happy-go-lucky millionaire Sam Adams Pendlebury and holds him for ransom. Arthur Barker - Ma's wallflower son - and Herman's hooker lady friend Mona Gibson also figure in the story. The bloody finale is virtually choreographed and a visual stunner. Filmed in the Ozarks.

Bloody Mama - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 23, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation of Kino-Lorber’s film is full of great detail.  Close-ups are solid and the surroundings, with fertile greens and level black colors, are supple with texture. Minor print damage, at the beginning of the film, settles down after a bit.  The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix is merely adequate for this release.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Full of great anecdotes, the on-camera interview with Corman about the making of the movie is a must-see.

  • Roger Corman Interview (16 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

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