Monday, February 8, 2016

SHEBA, BABY (1975) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

SHEBA, BABY (1975)
Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: Region FREE
Duration: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: English LPCM Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: William Girdler
Cast: Pam Grier, D’Urville Martin, Austin Stoker

No woman was more badass in the '70s than Pam Grier, a fierce black woman who dripped sensuality and kicked some major baddie-ass. She started off in a string of AIP women-in-prison flicks with director Jack Hill before becoming the AIP action-queen in a series of sweet blaxploitation movies which are still adored by cult-cinema lovers. Unfortunately Pam never did attain the leading lady status she deserved outside of the American International Pictures b-movie grinder, it wouldn't be until her turn in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown that she received the proper leading role deserved by someone of her caliber, but her seventies movies with AIP as an ass-kicking woman of the '70s were pretty badass and are a blast to re-visit. Even some of the lesser entries manage to entertain despite weak material - the lady had class, charisma and was drop-dead gorgeous.

Sheba, Baby is one of the lesser entries, it stars Grier as a Chicago private eye returning home to Louisville, KY to help defend her father's loan business against a group of low down racketeers who are trying to force him to sell. The story is hackneyed, and it does not help that the movie lacks style and substance. However, Pam Grier is always magnetic and she does her best to carry it through to the end, and for me that's enough to keep me plugged, though the prohibitive PG-rating means it lacks a visceral edge to the violence and no there's an absence nudity.

Like the story the cast of characters are cookie cutter and somewhat stereotypical, we get a selection of roughies and hustlers, including the main villain, a comical D'Urville Martin who is working for a white-devil in the neighborhood. All the baddies just seem silly, each having their asses handed to them by our woman Sheba. Classing up the movie to a degree is the appearance of Austin Stoker from John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 as Brick, the good-guy business partner of Sheba's father. Stoker has some real presence and provides a love interest for Sheba, both he and Grier deserved a better movie. 

There are some decent action sequences, including a car-bombing at the start of the movie and a speed boat chase finale that has an alright harpooning, but the staging of the action is pedestrian and poorly assembled, making this a decent watch for fans of '70s black action cinema, but on the lower-end of the spectrum.

Audio/Video: Sheba, Baby arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Arrow Video in 1080p HD looking very nice, framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. The source was in good shape, a few white specks here and there but otherwise no print damage. There's a nicely managed layer of fine film grain, some modest depth and decent clarity to the image. The Mono LPCM audio is clean and crisp, the funky score sounds nice, and there are optional English subtitles included. 

Onto the extras we start with two audio commentaries, the first from producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson from Mondo Digital, plus a second one from Patty Breen, the webmaster of 

Arrow Video have also included a pair featurettes, beginning with "Sheldon: Baby" a new interview with David Sheldon, who is always a great interview, and he's no different here. The producer speaks about the genesis of the project, the original working titles, his split from AIP and the dissolution of his partnership with director William Girdler following the release of Sheba, Baby. The second is "Pam Grier: The AIP Years" with film historian Chris Poggiali who walks us through the AIP years of Grier. Additionally we have a image gallery, theatrical trailer for the movie, and a booklet  new writing on the film by Patty Breen, illustrated with archive stills and posters. While I don't think that Sheba Baby is a top tier Pam Grier movie I do love all the work that Arrow Video have put into each of the Grier movies they've brought to Blu-ray these past few years, collectors and fans need this one in their collection.

 Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson 

- Audio commentary with Patty Breen, webmaster of
 - Sheldon: Baby – a brand new interview with David Sheldon (15 Mins) HD
- Pam Grier: The AIP Years – a look over the wonder years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali (12 Mins) HD
- Trailer (2 Mins) HD
- Gallery featuring rare publicity images and Lobby Cards (18 Images) HD
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
- Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of, illustrated with archive stills and posters 

A hackneyed story and lack of style do hurt Sheba, Baby (1975), and while it might be on the lower end of Pam Grier's filmography for me this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video is top-notch with a great selection of bonus content, and well-worth the upgrade.