Bloody Mama Reviews
In 1929 a depression is sweeping the country causing people to survive by any means necessary. Ma Barker and her group of inbred sons travel the country robbing banks, homes, and holding rich men hostage. How long can the Barker family keep their crime spree alive?
"The rich men were jumping out the windows; and as usual, they were landing on the poor."
Roger Corman, director of Frankenstein Unbound, The Trip, The Secret Invasion, The Raven, The Terror, Pit and the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, House of Usher, Little Shop of Horrors, and Machine Gun Kelly, delivers Bloody Mama. The storyline for this picture is interesting and a unique take on the gangster genre. The story combines a unique blend of red neck drama and gangster behaviors. The acting is solid and the cast includes Robert De Niro, Shelley Winters, Pat Hingle, Bruce Dern, Pamela Dunlap, and Robert Walden.
"You just rob banks and stay out of trouble."
The MGM channel showcased Roger Corman in March and when I saw a preview for this movie, as one of Corman and De Niro's first films, I had to see this picture. I did find this movie interesting and a blend of Wrong Turn and Public Enemy. The movie is definitely unique and depicts a story that unfolds masterfully. I do recommend seeing this picture.
"Blood, Kate, is thicker than water."
Grade: C+/B- (6.5)
'The family that stays together slays together!'
Roger Corman movie featuring a very young Robert De Niro and Bruce Dern
The story centers more on the sexual and violent exploration of Ma Barker and her four boys, concentrating in particular on one kidnap story that introduces us to all the characters involved, including the two 'outsiders' travelling with the gang. The oldest (portrayed by a most and forever convincing Don Stroud) took his girl-friend and later wife along that did not exactly please mommy and the gay son found himself a playmate during a stint in prison, while the other two boys turned to alcohol and glue sniffing although the youngest may have escalated to harder drugs later on. History tells that they went out in a blaze of glory - one major last shootout - though whether it occurred the way it was portrayed in this movie is very unlikely, particularly the close contact of an extensive audience not far away. Yes, I know, times change but I am pretty sure that even in those days people did not get quite as close 'to the action' as it was shown ... but that is a detail, albeit one that put me off somewhat.
The overall performances - as expected with the likes of Shelley Winters, Pat Hingle, Don Stroud and a very young Robert De Niro - were excellent despite a bit of a mediocre script and one-sided storyline, the gist of the family way of life did come across loud and clear and the audience did get a chance to get to know the various characters and what they were all about. I don't really know much about director Roger Corman to comment whether it was his doing or simply the acting of the impressive cast that made this movie an enjoyable view but that is beside the point, really. The feature was entertaining and got across the essence of Ma Barker and her boys - yet another piece of history well worth seeing.
The dialogue feels very authentic, and the characters suffer just the right amount of sexual and developmental confusion to make them empathetic if perturbed killers. The Herman character is perhaps the most compelling and developed of the sons. The ending is directly alluded to in the beginning of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects".
Don't skip this if you want to see Depression era criminals, Corman exploitation, or Winters playing psychologically deranged.
"So Fucked Up" highlight: Mama keeps a boy in her bed every night
Good performances and interesting psychological character-driven script (takes Bonnie and Clyde's whole Freudian phallic symbolism to new heights by just having every character be blatant sexual deviants - the boys sleep with their mother, the mother sleeps with her boy's homosexual lover, one brother screws the other brothers fiancee in front of him. Hell, the opening scene is a teen-age Kate Barker being held down by her brothers and raped by her father!), but a bit too scattered and light on the action. For a damn good AIP gangster picture watch John Milius' Dillinger, released three years later.