Pam Grier classic SHEBA, BABY comes to Blu-ray.
To say that indie genre filmmaker William (GRIZZLY, THE MANITOU) Girdler’s 1975 “Griersploitation” gem SHEBA, BABY is one of its star Pam Grier‘s worst films is odd and yet many fans do just that. Sure, Girdler aint Jack Hill and SHEBA, BABY lacks the caustic edge of Hill’s groundbreaking urban action roughie’s COFFY and FOXY BROWN. But, hey, it’s a 70’s Pam Grier flick. And to deride any Pam Grier vehicle of that period is like a teenage male saying that a certain sexual encounter was bad. Good sex, bad sex, to a hormonal lad, any and all consensual sex is pretty awesome.
And so it goes with Grier…
No, SHEBA, BABY‘s greatest crime is that, unlike the Hill films that made her a household name, studio AIP opted to water this one down to get a PG rating, much like the pre-COFFY Blaxploitation hit CLEOPATRA JONES was. That means that we don’t get to see Pammy topless (always a treat), the cussing is culled back and the bullet hits are relatively bloodless.
But once you swallow that sorta-bitter pill, SHEBA, BABY rocks pretty hard.
In it, Grier stars as Sheba Shayne, a glam, street smart Chicago Private Dick who hightails it back to the mean streets of her birth to stop the arsehole mobsters who are using violence and intimidation to run her dad out of town and take over his modest payday loan business. Dad refuses to play ball and keeps resisting the thugs…until it’s too late.
Sheba loses her cool and dives in, strutting around in wild costumes, talking tough, looking hot and infiltrating the mob on every level. And while you don’t get to see Grier in her natural costume, she does don a pretty snug wet suit at one point and it’s an alarmingly fetching visual.
Grier was/is effortlessly engaging. She got better as an actress as she aged (see her magnificent turn in Quentin Tarantino’s unsung masterpiece JACKIE BROWN), but here she’s in the prime of youth’s bloom: sexy, smart, totally together and confident. Seeing her attack full force like some sort of concrete super-heroine is near mythical, the screen’s first female action hero and perhaps the best.
Arrow certainly takes SHEBA, BABY seriously enough to give it the royal 1080p treatment and God bless them for it. It looks beautiful. On the back end of the Blu/DVD combo, you’ll find a wealth of fun supplements, chief among them a wild-eyed, rambling mini-masterclass on Pam Grier’s work with AIP spit out by film historian Chris Poggiali, a brief and cool chat with co-writer/producer David Sheldon and two commentaries, one with Sheldon and a really interesting one with Patty Breen, the webmaster of www.WilliamGirdler.com.
SHEBA, BABY is a fine and fun 70s action film, a prime piece of evidence as to why Grier is held in such high regard and supported by a killer soundtrack by Monk Higgins and Alex Brown.
Pick it up, sucka!