When I watch Blaxploitation flicks, I want to be completely, morally destroyed inside for at least part of the movie while I try to pick up the pieces from the “exploitation” angle that accompanies some of the more positive attributes of this genre. Blax movies feel bad before they feel good, but when they feel good, they get inside you and make you identify with great characters, want revenge or justice and ultimately get it. Sheba Baby is a new release from Arrow Video that doesn’t quite give us the grime before offering up the redemption or the good. Instead we have a picture that feels very light and fluffy. Blax-lite is how I think of it.
The movie itself is considered by many to be one of Pam Grier’s finest efforts. The production looks great, and it really is a more positive story. The problem with my enjoyment of this picture is me; it’s my negative expectation for the film and what it means for a film of this subgenre to succeed (redemption or revenge). Grier’s performance is always on point, though I think her challenge and struggle is muted in juxtaposition to her previous works with Jack Hill. It’s a more classic detective story.
It’s great to see Austin Stoker in another picture outside of Assault on Precinct 13.
The disc looks gorgeous with a beautiful transfer that has accompanied all of the Arrow releases featuring Grier. In typical Arrow fashion the disc includes booklet and reversible, traditional artwork. The extras on the disc are strong, my favorite is the AIP Years featurette that focuses in on Pam Grier.
This is a great release of what I deem a lesser Blaxploitation film solely based on its lack of edge. This continues the efforts of Arrow to put out the Grier collection and celebrates the subgenre by providing historical context and a standard setting release for all movies of this subgenre.
You can order Sheba Baby now:
Fresh off her career defining roles for Jack Hill in Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier continued her domination of the Blaxploitation genre, in cult filmmaker William Girdler's (The Manitou, Abby) 'Sheba, Baby'...
Grier plays Sheba Shayne, a private eye based in Chicago who is called to her hometown to stop the local mob boss (played by "that bad D'Urville Martin", Black Caesar, Dolemite) from moving in on her father's loan business. Aided by her father's partner, Brick Williams (Austin Stoker, Assault on Precinct 13, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), Sheba finds out that the violent thugs aren't going go away without a fight. Car bombs, gun fights and boat chases ensue whilst armed with her curves, street smarts and a .44, Sheba is in for a bloodbath!
Grier would appear in three Blaxploitation classics in 1975 (the others were Bucktown and Friday Foster), where she was at the top of her game and genre, with the Los Angeles Times calling her "cool, tough and glamorous - a female fantasy Wonder Woman", further cementing her status as the first female action star.
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
* Audio commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson
* Sheldon: Baby - a brand new interview with David Sheldon
* Pam Grier: The AIP Years - a look over the wonder years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali
* Gallery featuring rare publicity images and Lobby Cards
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
* Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of WilliamGirdler.com, illustrated with archive stills and posters