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Big Bad Mama (1974)


William Shatner and Tom Skerritt would probably rather you forget about the infamous Big Bad Mama, one of the best-known exploitation films ever made. Thanks begin with Shatner and Skerritt, both starring as pervy hangers-on to the film’s star — and the reason why Mama is so widely seen — Angie Dickinson, a 43-year-old bombshell who turns to crime in order to keep her two trollop daughters clothed. Barely.

Using Bonnie & Clyde as its obvious base, producer Roger Corman and director Steve Carver add in a second Clyde, plus a little extra skin in the form of two teenage daughters who always seem to be falling out of their slips. Holding this clan together is Wilma McClatchie (Dickinson), who almost accidentally launches on a career of crime — robbery, bank heists, and kidnapping, with an unknown goal in sight.

It goes without saying that the plot and dialogue are neither very fleshy, serving as a method for connecting action sequences and love scenes (with just about every possible boy-girl pair of the five players being realized by the end) — and let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed William Shatner sweating over Dickinson’s naked body.

Mama is a sight better than most of its cheapie brethren, though, because Corman somehow convinced real actors to appear in the movie. These guys really do give it their all, almost oblivious to the schlock they’re appearing in, which really camps up the production in ways you can’t quite explain. Shatner alone is already starting at a super-camp level. To see him vamping in a white suit in Big Bad Mama is simply classic.

The new DVD includes a commentary track and retrospective about the film. (Rest assured, Skerritt and Shatner are no-shows.)