Friday, June 24, 2022

CRAZY MAMA (1975) (101 Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: 101 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert. 15
Duration: 80 Minutes
Audio: Uncompressed English PCM 2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Jonathan Demme 
Cast: Cloris Leachman, Ann Sothern, Linda Purl, Donny Most, Jim Backus, Stuart Whitman

Jonathan Demme's second directorial effort Crazy Mama (1974) stars the late Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein) as hair-dresser turned outlaw Melba Stokes. The film starts off in the 30's and we see adolescent Melba's father being killed in an armed standoff during an eviction gone wrong in Arkansas. Thirty years later we catch up with her running a California beauty parlor along with her mother Sheba (Ann Sothern, The Manitou) and teenage daughter Cheryl (Linda Purl, Visiting House). Her father's bad luck has seemingly rubbed off as her shop is unceremoniously repossessed by their fez-wearing landlord (Jim Backus, Zotz!). Undeterred the spunky ladies steal his car, with the help of Chery's surfer-beau Shawn (Donny Most, Ralph "The Mouth" from TV's Happy Days), and embark on a crime-riddled road trip from California headed toward their family's former home in Arkansas to reclaim their land. Along the way they stop off in Las Vegas for some gambling fun and pick-up a vacationing sheriff named Jim Bob (Stuart Whitman, Night of the Lepus), who despite already being married, ends up marrying Melba. They also pick-up a cantankerous old lady named Bertha (Merie Earle, TV's The Waltonswho has escaped from a nursing home. That's not all though, the pregnant Cheryl picks up a new greaser biker boyfriend named Snake (Sothern's son Bryan Englund, The Prowler) much to the chagrin of her surfer dude boyfriend.

Together this motley crew leave Vegas continuing to Arkansas, along the way committing a series of robberies, including knocking over a racetrack, a resort hotel, and a grocery store; even pretending to kidnap Joe Bob in order to extort money from his wealthy first wife (Sally Kirkland, Two Evil Eyes). Its a fast-paced and chaotic flick with plenty of madcap hijinks, at just 80-minutes it flies by thanks to the the comic stylings of the incomparable Leachman, who was still cutting quite figure in skin tight clothes here in her 50's, and Sothern who is a friggin' hoot. It's a bit of hot mess but a hell of a fun hot mess it is with plenty of a screwball action and madcap laughs, plus some cool crash 'em up car chases and a Bertha getting gunned down by a cop played by the late-great Dick Miller (Gremlins). 

Audio/Video: Crazy Mama (1975) arrives on region B Blu-ray from 101 Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. This is licensed from Shout! Factory and looks quite nice, the 1080p bump easily advances over the standard definition DVD in my collection with tighter grain, solid color reproduction and is mostly clean and free of blemish with a few minor exceptions such as white speckling. Audio comes by way of uncompressed English PCM dual-mono with optional English subtitles. Depth and fidelity are fine with occasional moments of action and gunfire holding it's own, it's not gonna give your surround a workout but the score from Snotty Scotty and The Hankies plus tunes from Santo & Johnny's Sleepwalk and The Chordettes, among other 50's rockers, sound just fine.

Archival extras include the Audio Commentary with director Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman, in which they discuss the phenomenal cast (including a young Dennis Quaid making an appearance as a bellhop and a cameo from John Millius), Whitman anachronistic hairstyle, the stunt work, the fantastic music selections and how much that same selection of songs might cost today, plus locations a. We also get a 15-min Interview with Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman, topics discussed are how Demme came to work for Corman, what Corman saw in Demme early on, whatever happened to Corman's unmade Robert E. Lee picture, and touching on why Corman stopped directing films to produce. The disc is buttoned-up with the 3-min Theatrical Trailer and a minute's worth of TV Spots. The single-disc release arrives in a Criterion-style Scanavo keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring the original illustrated artwork. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman
- Interview with Jonathan Demme and Roger Corman (15 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min)
-  TV Spots (1 min)

Screenshots from the 101 Films Blu-ray: