Sheba, Baby (1975)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 10, 2009  | 
DVD
MGM (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. English, French, Spanish Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: William Girdler
Starring: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D'Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger
Screenplay: William Girdler,
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
I love blaxploitation films! I don't care if my affection can be twisted into some strange form of positive discrimination, what with me being a white, middle aged, middle class honky, but there is so much that is inherently cool about them: the music, the crazy 70s fashions, the tough guys, the tough, sexy girls, the pimps, the brilliant cars... the list could go on and on. To sum it up in one word, what makes these films so cool is their 'flava'.

What? I shouldn't use 'flava'? OK.... so should I dump the rap from the end of this review?

OK, Sheba, Baby was written (with David Sheldon) and directed by William Girdler, who was also responsible for The Manitou and Three On A Meathook, and is one of the last blaxploitation films that Coffy and Foxy Brown star Pam Grier did, the others being Friday Foster and Buck.

Andy Shayne (Rudy Challenger) and Brick Williams (Austin Stoker) own a loans business in Louisville, Kentucky which is being threatened by a less than legitimate businessman. One night while working late he interrupts some scumbags messing up his place, and as a reward he receives a beating.

Next we meet his daughter, Chicago Private Investigator and ex-cop Sheba Shayne (Pam Grier), who upon returning from a three day holiday, is informed by her useless partner Racker (Edward Reece) of her father's plight. She, of course, immediately gets on a flight to be by her father's side.

She is in Louisville barely a day before a car bomb almost kills her, and she decides to take matters into her own hands. After shaking down the only man she knows capable of making a bomb, her and Brick, with whom she seems to have a past relationship with, meetsa couple of hoods and beat three different types of crap out of them.

Of course this infuriates the mob boss who hires some goons from outside of town to shoot up the loans office. During the brouhaha, Andy is shot and killed, and this leads to Sheba going on a not-so-bloody revenge, not just against the local mob boss Pilot (D'Urville Martin), but also against his boss Shark (Dick Merrifield) as she uncovers a conspiracy that shakes local business in Louisville to its very core! OK, maybe it's not that bad.

My main problem with this film is it just seems so tired. All the clichés seem to be there to perform their role, which would be OK if the actors didn't seem like they were there for the same reason. No one really seems interested in what they are doing, and unfortunately I must speak ill of the dead; William Girdler's direction is well below par.

Now, that is not to say this film isn't entertaining: there are very few revenge flicks that you can laugh all the way through. Some favourites of mine were:  the guy who is knocked unconscious by a punch to the stomach, this marvellous piece of dialogue, written by Girdler, ' Ain't gonna be a safe place to SHIT in this town, let alone LIVE.' and Pilot's two main goons, one of whom looked like he was perpetually stoned, and the other, who really didn't have much more dialogue than to say, while in extreme close up, 'That's right!' every time Pilot said something.

One strange point I found about this movie was the 'sea' motif. The main bad guy, Shark, just happens to live on a boat, and his black minion, Pilot, has a name indicating that he is like a Pilot fish on a shark, cleaning and scouting for him. That would be OK, but the rest of the hired goons are named things like Hammerhead, Whale, Fin and Tank. Why an aquatic motif, I am not sure, but it certainly made it seem that Girdler was trying to do a proper blaxploitation response to Live and Let Die, but didn't have a big enough budget to explore that idea properly! Besides, the bad guys were a hell of a lot more stupid than your average Bond villain, what with leaving knives around for prisoners to find, and not tying them up either.

This was a hard film to like as it just went soft on everything. When I see Pam Grier in a blaxploitation flick, I want guns blazin', titties flyin' and ass whuppin', and this just didn't fulfil my needs, even the typical Grier 'girl fight' was booby free, though Grier does try to pull off the white girls top during it, but nothing pops out!!
Video
This film is presented in 16:9 widescreen, and while it is a very artefact-y image, the scenes are still clear enough.
Audio
It's mono, it's crap...nuff said!!
Extra Features
Just a trailer whose image is even worse than the feature.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It is a PG rated blaxploitation film, which means punches are pulled, nudity is nixed and violence is much less vile. This film is definitely for the blaxploitation complete-ist only! Giving a Pam Grier film only one star severely goes against the grain, but there it is... sorry Pam!

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