Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Margaret Markov !! BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA 1973

Shackled together Margaret and Pam kick and claw their way
thru the Filipino jungles in this sweaty 70's drive-in classic !

"Chicks in chains...on the lam from a prison hell - 
manacled together by hate and the strange ideas 
a woman gets after 1000 nights without a man !!"

"Nothing behind but prison bars....Nothing ahead but trouble !"

    Featuring two of the most beautiful women ever to flicker across a drive-in screen and one of the true highlights of the Filipino exploitation genre this low budget homage to Stanley Kramer's 1958 classic THE DEFIANT ONES was directed by the ubiquitous Eddie Romero and produced by John Ashley who was both behind many films from the "wild east". Released by A.I.P., who were venturing into Roger Corman's New World milieu, it was based upon a story by Jonathan (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) Demme who would later work for New World as a writer and/or director on ANGELS HARD AS THEY COME (1971), THE HOT BOX (1972 - also with Margaret), CAGED HEAT (1974), CRAZY MAMA (1975) and FIGHTING MAD (1975).
    Most often lumped in with the blacksploitation genre (MGM released it on DVD as part of their "Soul Cinema" line), BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA is more closely aligned with the woman in prison (WIP) flicks that New World was cranking out at the time. Starring both Margaret and Pam Grier as a pair of mismatched inmates who find themselves shackled together and on the run through the usual nameless New World-type tropical hellhole (i.e. The Philippines). All the while they're being perused by various pimps, drug dealers and revolutionaries along with other assorted bad-asses including grungy rapists and a sadistic prison matron played by the wonderful Lynn Borden from FROGS and DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY.
    Clocking in at 87 minutes and containing what would seem to be a much too convoluted plot BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA literally packs every woman behind bars cliche into its first 20 minutes of running time and sets up a large cast of intertwined characters and their minions (which after a while you just give up trying to sort out).

    Opening with a pair of new inmates at women's prison (or as its called here "Women's Rehabilitation Center") we're introduced to Karen Brent (Margaret) a political prisoner who's closely aligned with a ragtag group of militants looking to overthrow the government and Lee Daniels (Pam) a prostitute and drug runner for big-time baddie Vic Ching (the ever-present Vic Diaz). Sent immediately to the showers (!!), the prisoners are overseen by Matron Densmore (Lynn Borden) who enjoys inviting the girls up to her office for some sexual favors and spying on them through a peephole as they wash down.
   Lee wants nothing to do with her, but Karen cozies up to her, which causes a rift between the two inmates which later cumulates in a fight during mealtime. The two are manacled together and thrown in the hotbox and later while being transferred to a maximum-security prison an attack by some of Karen's brothers in arms allows the pair to escape, Unfortunately, they become separated from the rebels during the battle and still manacled together attempt their escape cross country.

   Immediately finding themselves at odds on their destination with Karen wanting to go to a prearranged meeting with some gun runners to purchase arms for the revolution while Lee has designs on heading to a boat where she has $40,000 waiting for her that she absconded from Vic. They stop long enough for a most excellent catfight and later appropriate some nun outfits as a disguise while along the way coming across a veritable who's who list of Filipino character actors.
   The police captain perusing them (Eddie Garcia from The Blood Island movies) hires local bandit and fashion nightmare Ruben (a typically deranged Sid Haig from THE BIG DOLLHOUSE - whose look here ranges from psychedelic pimp to urban cowboy) to capture the pair. Garcia is more interested in Karen for her rebel connections while at the same time you have rotund pimp/drug dealer (and nude massage & pedicure fetish fan) Vic Diaz chasing Lee for the theft of his money and thirdly there's the rebel leader tracking the duo and hoping to catch up with Karen.

     One of the more entertaining entries in the Filipino exploitation genre BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA delivers what you'd expect with gusto serving up heaps of nudity and a satisfyingly bloody and downbeat ending. Margaret and Pam have wonderful chemistry together and watching them run up & down hills, roll around in the dirt while kicking & clawing, beating the crap out of and/or killing various lowlifes and authority figures is a highlight of 70's drive-in cinema (and what better way to celebrate Margaret's birthday !)
     Born in 1948 in Stockton, Ca. Margaret Markov with her long blonde hair and legs that seem to go on forever was a striking figure in 70's exploitation cinema. She appeared in only a handful of films and few TV appearances but made a lasting impression in all of her roles.
     Along with BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA, she also appeared in the Filipino lensed THE HOT BOX along with the quirky PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW, the biker flick RUN ANGEL RUN (1969) and New World's WIP motif transferred to ancient Rome THE ARENA from 1974 (with Rosalba Neri and Pam Grier !!).
    On the set of THE ARENA she met producer Mark Damon (THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT) and they were later married (and remain so to this day). Her last acting appearance was a small part in an episode of DAYS OF OUR LIVES in 1997. She showed up in interview footage in the documentary MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED where she now sports short hair (and still looks very beautiful).



  1. This was my very first women in prisonish movie! I had seen and really liked Pam in Jackie Brown and was quite curious about her other work.

    I also quite enjoyed MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED. I've watched it several times. I was amazed by that story about Pam loosing her sight for a short time because of the conditions in the jungles.

    1. Thanks Rob. This is one of my favorites. I agree, the MACHETE MAIDENS doc is really good and it worked well because they tracked down all those actresses (and they're the ones that have all the great stories !).