Cleaning Out the DVR #16: Keep Calm and Watch Movies!

cracked rear viewer

All last week, I was laid up with sciatic nerve pain, which begins in the back and shoots down my left leg. Anyone who has suffered from this knows how  excruciating it can be! Thanks to inversion therapy, where I hang upside down three times a day on a table like one of Bela Lugosi’s pets in THE DEVIL BAT , I’m feeling much better, though not yet 100%.

Fortunately, I had a ton of movies to watch. My DVR was getting pretty full anyway, so I figured since I could barely move, I’d try to make a dent in the plethora of films I’ve recorded.., going all the way back to last April! However, since I decided to go back to work today, I realize I won’t have time to give them all the full review treatment… and so it’s time for the first Cleaning Out the DVR post…

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Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #24: Bloody Mama (dir by Roger Corman)

(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)


The 24th film on my DVR was the 1970 Roger Corman-directed gangster film, Bloody Mama.  I recorded it off of TCM on May 27th.

Bloody Mama opens with a cheerful song that goes, “Maaaaaama…Bloody maaaaama….” and it’s such an unapolegetically over the top song that it perfectly sets the tone for what’s to follow.  Bloody Mama is violent, occasionally perverse, and totally unashamed.  It doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t.  It’s bloody and it’s about a mother and, in the best Corman tradition, it makes no apologies!

The film tells the heavily fictionalized story of the Barkers, a group of brothers who robbed banks and killed people in the 1920s and 30s.  The majority of them were killed in a gunfight with the FBI.  Also killed in the gunfight was their mother, Kate Barker.  Always aware of the danger of bad publicity, the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, announced that Ma Barker was actually the mastermind of the Barker gang and that she was even more dangerous than her sons.  Ever since, historians have debated whether Ma Barker was the criminal mastermind described by Hoover or if she was just the innocent woman described by … well, by everyone who actually knew her.

Bloody Mama, of course, leaves no doubt.  From the minute that we discover that Shelley Winters will be playing Ma Barker, we know that she’s the most dangerous woman alive.  As played by Winters, Ma Barker is a ruthless bank robber, one who has no fear of gunning down innocent bystanders and who never lets her love for her sons get in the way of ordering them to kill a witness.  As opposed to a lot of gangster films made in the late 60s and early 70s, the film never attempts to portray its title character as being a heroic or particularly sympathetic character.  Instead, what makes the character compelling is just how thoroughly Winters commits to the role.  It doesn’t matter what Ma Barker is doing or saying, Shelley Winters totally sells it.  When the gang is cornered by the police and one associate makes the mistake of yelling that he’s not a Barker, Ma reacts by gunning him down herself and you can’t help but appreciate the lengths that Ma will go to defend her family’s name.

As for her sons, they are an interesting group of perverts and drug addicts and they’re played some of the best character actors of the 1970s.

Herman Barker (Don Stroud) is a sadist but he’s also one of Ma’s favorites.  He travels with a prostitute (played by Diane Varsi), who quickly tires of the Barkers’s violent way of life.

Arthur Barker (Clint Kimbrough) is the most practical of the Barkers and therefore, he’s also the least interesting.

Fred Barker (Robert Walden) is bisexual, which is a fact that the film handles with all the sensitivity that we’ve come to expect from a film made in 1970 (which is to say, not much at all).  Fortunately, Fred’s lover is Kevin and Kevin is played by Bruce Dern and Bruce Dern is always a lot of fun to watch, especially when he’s appearing in a Corman film.

And then there’s Lloyd who sniffs glue and shoots heroin and who is played by an obscure young actor named Robert De Niro and … wait, Robert De Niro!  That’s right!  One of the pleasures of Bloody Mama is getting to see De Niro at the start of his career.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t really get to do much, though he does occasionally flash the same unhinged smile that would later show up in Taxi Driver.

Roger Corman has repeatedly cited Bloody Mama as being one of his favorites of the many movies that he directed over the course of his long career.  I don’t blame him.  It’s a thoroughly shameless and totally entertaining film!

Keep an eye out for Bloody Mama!

Just remember, the real-life Ma Barker was probably innocent.

Lisa Marie Has Returned With 6 More Trailers

 When last I posted, I was snowed in and I was still dealing with the trauma of seeing the Super Bowl half-time show.  Well, a week has passed.  The snow has melted, the half-time show has faded from memory, and I’m ready to start posting again.  And what better way to prove it than with a new edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers?

1) The Streetfighter

Earlier today, when I was talking about which trailers I was thinking of including in this edition, Jeff asked me if I had included any Sonny Chiba trailers.  The way he asked the question seemed to indicate that it was the most important thing he had ever asked so, understandably, I was a little nervous when I answered, “N-no, I don’t think so.”

Well, apparently, that wasn’t the right answer because Jeff’s eyes just about popped out of his head and he’s lucky that he’s s0 cute because I might otherwise have taken his reaction personally.  Instead of taking offense, I’m going to start this edition off with Sonny Chiba in The Streetfighter.

2) House of Whipcord

This one is from one of the great, unacknowledged directors of British cinema, Peter Walker.  I think it’s always strange for Americans to hear grindhouse dialogue being delivered in an English accent.

3) Witchery

This is a trailer for an Italian film that is also known as “House 4,” “Witchcraft,” “Ghost House,” and “Demons 5.”  In Italy, it was promoted as a sequel to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2. For all I know, they may have tried to sell this as an installment in the Zombi series as well.  I saw this film a few years ago when I was first starting to explore the world of Italian horror and oh my God, it gave me nightmares.  Seriously, don’t let the presence of David Hasselhoff fool you.  This is a disturbing movie that was produced (and some day actually directed) by the infamous Joe D’Amato.

Apparently, the trailer is disturbing as well as I tried to show it to my sister Erin earlier and she asked me stop it around the time the gentleman with the weird mouth showed up. 

4) Fighting Mad

“Even a peaceful man…can get fighting mad!”  Peter Fonda looked good playing archer.  This is an early film from Jonathan Demme who directed one of my favorite films ever, Rachel Getting Married.

5) Rollercoaster

I’m scared to death of rollercoasters so I probably won’t be seeing this film anytime soon.  Still this film has a surprisingly good cast — George Segal, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda — for a movie about a rollercoaster.

6) Big Bad Mama

Not to be confused with Crazy Mama or Bloody Mama, Big Bad Mama features Angie Dickinson, Tom Skerritt, William Shatner, and a lot of tommy guns.  It’s not a great film but it is a lot more fun than Public Enemies.