Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sheba, Baby (1975)

Produced at the tail end of the blaxploitation boom—and in the waning days of leading lady Pam Grier’s initial popularity—this lackluster action flick is quite a comedown after the funky heights of previous Grier joints including Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Pam plays Sheba Shayne, a Chicago-based private investigator who returns to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, when she gets word that her dad is being hassled by local gangsters. Before long, Sheba’s dad falls victim to gun-toting thugs, so Sheba—with a little help from her pop’s business partner, Brick Williams (Austin Stoker)—unloads you-messed-with-the-wrong-mama vengeance on crime boss Pilot (D’Urville Martin) and his associates. Grier spends Sheba, Baby talking tough while looking great (her knockout figure is on ample display in costumes like the wetsuit she wears for the movie’s last half-hour), but Sheba, Baby is unmistakably second-rate. The dialogue is trite, the production values are mediocre, and the supporting performances are awful. Even the requisite funk/soul soundtrack, often a saving grace for shaky blaxploitation movies, is uninspired. Grier’s nomrally forceful acting falls victim to the general crappiness, because she often seems as if she’s delivering lines she’s just learned—it almost feels as if the movie comprises rehearsals instead of takes. Director/co-writer William Girdler was far more comfortable with in the horror genre, and after making this picture, he banged out a trio of demented creature features (from the campy 1976 gorefest Grizzly to the wigged-out 1978 supernatural flick The Manitou). For Sheba, Baby, he’s unable to conjure the needed vibe of frenetic violence and urban grime—the picture moves too slowly, the textures all feel phony—and it doesn’t help that Sheba, Baby is rated PG instead of R. Really, what’s the point of trafficking in a sleazy genre if not to present sleaze?

Sheba, Baby: LAME

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