The late seventies were the heyday for the genre of film known as Blaxploitation. Action films that offered starring roles to black actors with stories urban audiences could relate to were made by low budget studies at first but once they showed they could draw an audience the larger studios jumped on the bandwagon.
While male stars like Bernie Casey, James Brown and Richard Roundtree were topping the box office there was one female star that burst upon the scene as well. That she could continue to make a name for herself in more mainstream released from then until now speaks volumes about her abilities. But back then it was a combination of her sexuality and no nonsense characters that got her roles. By the time SHEBA BABY arrived Pam Grier had shone in both COFFY and FOXY BROWN. This time she toned things down enough for a PG rating but the box office still followed.
Grier stars as the title character, Sheba Shayne, a top private investigator in Chicago who returns to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, when the mob tries to muscle in on her father's loan business. Apparently they weren't aware of who they were dealing with as Sheba deals out swift retribution for the attack on her father. Justice is dealt out street wise with little assistance from the local police and plenty from Sheba's old flame Brick (Austin Stoker).
There's no need for more details than that. The genre was filled with cardboard cutout bad guys and street smart heroes that took no guff from both the police and the mob. Instead they sought to handle things on their own and did so quite well. While the films were not an attack on the established law enforcement they played up a sense of pride in community and being able to take care of oneself when it came to criminals. Characters like Sheba were defenders of all with a strong moral compass when it came to right and wrong crime wise. Grier's characters were a positive role model even if they meted out justice on their own.
Many have faulted SHEBA BABY as the worst film Grier offered at the time but it holds up still and isn't near as bad as the naysayers claim. The problem is after such strong performances and stories as found in her two prior films this one isn't quite up to that standard she set. It remains a good film though.
As with all Arrow Film releases, of which I am a solid fan, this one does what they do best. It offers the cleanest, sharpest and best looking rendition of the film with enough extras to keep fans entertained. Included in this release are: -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 -Sheldon: Baby - a brand new interview with David Sheldon -Pam Grier: The AIP Years - a look over the wonder years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali -Trailer -Gallery featuring rare publicity images and Lobby Cards -Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips -Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of WilliamGirdler.com, illustrated with archive stills and posters
Fans of Grier and the genre will want to add this one to their collection to make it complete. If you've never exposed yourself to the genre then Grier's film are a good way to start. Perhaps one day the genre will make a comeback. Until then we have Arrow providing the best offerings of the past.
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Sheba Shayne (Pam Grier) returns to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to help her father. A proud businessman, he refuses to be intimidated by thugs attempting to run him out of business. While Sheba looks for the men (and the organization) supporting the thugs, she also finds a sinister motive behind their actions. Sheba's former flame Brick (Austin Stoker) adds some muscle to her mission.
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February 13, 2016 at 03:19 AM