Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sheba, Baby (1975)

Director: William Girdler
Notable Cast: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D’Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger, Dick Merrifield, Christopher Joy, Charles Kissinger

As I mentioned in some previous reviews, 2016 is the year that I start to explore some of the genres that I haven’t explored in more expansive ways. For an example, I’ve never been the expert in blaxploitation here at the site, but the cult appeal of this robust genre has always interested me. Luckily, Arrow Video just released a very slick new version of the Pam Grier film Sheba, Baby and considering my new resolution for the year it seemed like a good match. Well, perhaps it's not so great as Sheba, Baby seems to be a fairly awkward film overall. The release is great, the high definition transfer looks phenomenal and the special features are impressive for collectors of the genre, but the film itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Sheba Shayne (Grier) is a feisty private eye living in Chicago, but when she receives word from an old friend Brick (Stoker) that her father’s loan business is under attack from a rival loan company she heads down to Louisville to investigate. Once there she uncovers an entire conspiracy that she’s going to need all of her gusto to unravel.

Almost every scene showcases a Pam Grier who doesn't look like she wants to be there.
Friends of mine who are blaxploitation fans all declared how rather toothless Sheba, Baby is as a film especially when compared to other Pam Grier efforts like Coffy and Foxy Brown. Now I’ve never seen either of those films (forgive me cult cinema gods for I have spited you), so I tried to go into Sheba, Baby with clean and fresh intent. However, it’s true – this film is rather toothless for what I expected from it. Instead of hard hitting action, we’re given some oddly choreographed fights that feature some silly moments like when Grier knocks out a guy by hitting him in the gut. Instead of a thought provoking narrative about corporate greed and racism, Sheba, Baby stumbles to even find a flow and eventually just caves into its own awkwardness. Instead of an iconic character, Pam Grier seems to sleep walk through the film on autopilot. If anything, Sheba, Baby simply feels uninspired and safe as a film and just runs through the motions.

Occasionally there are moments that are fun in the movie. Trying to count how many 70s high style outfits that Pam Grier wears is silly and the songs that are written for the film are fun and over the top. The film tries to be dynamic with its twists and turns and the two main villains of the film are delightfully cheesy at times, so there are fun pieces here and there in the film that fans might dig into. There is one sequence that really did work and that’s the mid-film chase sequence that ends up at the fair. There is a very slick car stunt to kick it off and the humor of the bumbling henchmen actually works in the scene’s favor, not to mention the use of the fair as a back drop is much more interesting than the finale that ends with a boat chase. However, the rest of the film is something of a chore to work through as it haphazardly bounds around.

Going to the car do do.
Now I’m not an expert in blaxploitation as I mentioned in the opening and perhaps for fans of the genre there are reasons to purchase this latest release of the film (which includes some very informative interviews and two audio commentaries), but the film is not nearly as slick, effective, or entertaining as I was hoping it would be. Truly, Sheba, Baby is an awkward kind of 70s action film and one that is hard to recommend outside of genre fans and collectors. 


• Audio commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson
• Audio commentary with Patty Breen
• Sheldon: Baby - a brand new interview with David Sheldon (15:16)
• Pam Grier: The AIP Years - a look over the wonder years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali (11:54)
• Trailer (1:54)
• Gallery featuring rare publicity images and Lobby Cards (18)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
• Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of, illustrated with archive stills and posters

Written By Matt Reifschneider

No comments:

Post a Comment