Sheba, Baby (Girdler, 1975) – Blu-Ray Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Sheba, Baby (Girdler, 1975) - Blu-Ray Review

By Last Caress.

(She’s a dangerous lady)
And she’s well put together,
(She’s a dangerous lady)
Who can change like the weather,
(She’s a dangerous lady)
You don’t wanna know her better,
(She’s a dangerous lady)
Sheba!
Sheba, Baby
Sheba!
Sheba, Baby

Andy Shayne (Rudy Challenger) and Brick Williams (Austin Stoker) run Shayne Loan Co., the last honest loan company in downtown Louisville, KY. All the others have been either run out of business or bought up by local villain Pilot (D’Urville Martin), and Pilot’s been squeezing Andy and Brick, to take their business away too. Brick’s scared and wants to talk to Pilot, see if there’s a way he and Andy can at least escape with their lives. Andy wants no part of that, but after the Shayne Loan is broken into and Andy beaten up, Brick sends an urgent telegram to Andy’s daughter Sheba (Pam Grier), a former Louisville cop now working as a P.I. in Chicago, pleading with her to ask her daddy to see sense before he’s really hurt, or worse. Sheba travels down to Kentucky and talks to Andy but, just as it looks as though he might parlay with the bad guys, a bomb in Andy’s car convinces Sheba that things have gone too far for talking, and it’s now time for her to start kickin’ ass and takin’ names as she works her way up the crime ladder to Pilot and his boss, Shark (Dick Merrifield).



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In 1972 Lawrence Gordon, head of development at exploitation cinema specialists American International Pictures, was looking for a project which would present as something akin to Cleopatra Jones (Starrett, 1973), a movie being made at that point by Warner Bros and upon which Gordon had erroneously passed. What he had immediately to hand was an early treatment called Honor by David Sheldon which he kicked to director Jack Hill, to see what he could do with it. Hill thought he had an actress to compete with Cleopatra Jones‘ Tamara Dobson – a woman he’d worked with a couple of times previously in the last year by the name of Pam Grier – but he wanted to run with a script of his own. The movie he made in the end – Coffy (1973) – was more edgy and violent than Cleopatra Jones but it made more money with a fraction of the budget, and made a genuine leading lady out of Ms. Grier. Honor was shelved for the time being.

By 1975, Pam Grier had become reluctant to make any more pictures which involved baring her flesh unnecessarily, something which had been a prevalent feature of her movies up to that point. There was still a deal in place for her to make one more picture for AIP but thanks to the success of Coffy and Foxy Brown (Hill, 1974) in particular, Ms. Grier was now calling the shots. What could they give her? Well, David Sheldon still had his Honor treatment and, along with Kentucky filmmaker William Girdler with whom he’d wanted to work, set about re-jigging Honor into something specifically for Pam Grier; an action-filled Blaxploitation pic as one would expect, but a considerably more tasteful one in its approach. One late late name-change later, and the result was Sheba, Baby, directed by William Girdler in his hometown of Louisville, released to cinemas in 1975 and released on blu-ray by Arrow Video this week. 

So, is it any good? Well, yes, it is. For this reviewer’s tastes it’s not quite as essential as either Coffy or Foxy Brown but it’s an easier piece of Blaxploitation cinema than either of those. Action-packed but light and friendly for the most part, and often funny without ever being silly, Sheba, Baby‘s simple-as-you-like revenge plot – ne’er-do-wells try to bully the little guy until an unlikely hero stands up to them – wouldn’t look entirely out of place in an episode of The A-Team or The Equalizer. Pam Grier is a good actress, a dynamite action star and you’d have to be blind, insane or both not to find her easy on the eye, and whilst the rest of the ensemble here – mostly locally-sourced Kentucky actors – simply aren’t in her league, they all do enough to keep things jogging along briskly (interestingly, one of the smaller “henchman” roles was filled by Maurice Downs, a Kentucky gangster who was killed several years later in Los Angeles).

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As usual, Arrow Video have done a fantastic job with Sheba, Baby as they continue their quest to bring Ms. Grier’s greatest hits to blu-ray, having already released Coffy and Foxy Brown in fine blu-ray packages. The picture is as sharp as a tack, and the original mono soundtrack came through my sound bar with crystal clarity, particularly highlighting the rare groove score. The extras include two commentaries, the first by writer David Sheldon and the second by Patty Breen, webmaster at WilliamGirdler.com. Both are light, enjoyable and informative although Mr. Sheldon’s is more anecdotal and less concerned with what’s happening on-screen at the time; a couple of featurettes: “Sheldon, Baby”, a 15-minute interview with Mr. Sheldon about his work on Sheba, Baby, with AIP in general and with director William Girdler with whom he collaborated several times prior to Mr. Girdler’s untimely death in 1978, and “Pam Grier: The AIP Years”, a 12-minute look by film historian Chris Poggiali at Ms. Grier’s movies for AIP; a trailer for the movie; and a small gallery of stills and posters. The whole thing is packaged inside one of Arrow’s now-customary reversible sleeves featuring classic and original artwork.

All in all then, Sheba, Baby is not as wild as many of its peers but Arrow Video’s Blu-ray comes recommended to fans of the movie and to fans of Blaxploitation cinema in general.

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[big_title2]Arrow Video’s blu-ray presentation of Sheba, Baby is out now.[/big_title2]


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3 COMMENTS
  • Simon Gelten 11th February 2016

    Interesting read. I haven’t seen the movie, Actually I had never heard of it. I only recently ‘discovered’ blaxploitation (the only movies I was familiar with, were the obvious classics like Shaft or – indeed – Coffy). Yes, she’s easy on the eye and yes, she’s a good actress, I noticed it when I saw her in Foxy, sorry: Jackie Brown.

    • last.caress 11th February 2016

      Thank-you, sir! Like you, I’m familiar enough with a few of the Blaxploitation big guns (Foxy Brown, Coffy, Cleopatra Jones, Super Fly, Shaft, Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream, etc. etc.) and I had seen Sheba, Baby prior to this review many years ago but there are plenty of other pics in that area I’m keen to chase down. It’s a terrific genre, a lot of fun, and like Giallo it’s still a relatively undiscovered country for me.

    • battleroyalewithcheese 12th February 2016

      GREAT WORK!

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