The Film (3/5)
After her father is roughed up by some gangsters who are trying to force him out of business, private eye Sheba (Pam Grier) rolls into town (exotic Louisville, Kentucky!) to take on the baddies and set things right. Director William Girdler (Abby, The Manitou) is at the helm of this blaxploitation flick which has a much worse reputation than it actually deserves. When compared to Pam Grier’s work from the early 1970s, Sheba, Baby does slip a little in quality but fans of the genre should check this one out or give it a redemptive second look.
The cheesy acting, toe-tapping soundtrack by Alex Brown and Monk Higgins (and that wonderful Sheba theme song with vocals by Barbara Mason, woo!), and exploitive elements are all in place but they’re definitely toned down here. The logic of the story is totally baffling and yet, everything is super predictable. There’s a hilarious cigar-chomping black villain who, not surprisingly, is just a pawn in the schemes of an evil white dude. Oh and you can totally set your watch to the 11th hour catfight that has no relevance to the story or consequences for the parties involved. The whole film ends in machine guns and speedboats so who cares?
Sheba, Baby looks great! The film is presented in 1.85:1 in 1080p and the picture just looks really impressive throughout the running time. The sound mix is really, really good so throw this one on and CRANK IT UP to get all the funky music your heart desires!
I was hoping against hope that Pam Grier would be on this disc for an interview but sadly, she’s not. Screenwriter David Sheldon is interviewed and discusses how he got involved with AIP pictures and his work with William Girdler. The interview is really informative but starts to meander towards the end as Sheldon somehow forgets how to tell a cohesive story.
Next is up is a feature about Pam Grier’s work with AIP Pictures with film historian Chris Poggiali. There’s a lot of info in this extra that was very interesting. There are also two audio commentaries on the disc (one with David Sheldon and the other with Patty Breen of WilliamGirdler.com) as well as a theatrical trailer for Sheba, Baby. The whole package comes with a DVD version of the film and a booklet with an essay by Patty Breen.
While Sheba, Baby is a weaker film than Grier’s true classics like Coffy and Foxy Brown, it’s a delicious mess that is quirky and a lot of fun. The fact that this film isn’t as extreme (long sex scenes are nowhere to be found and bloody squibs are kept to a minimum) is where I think its poor reputation stems from. All in all, I got a huge kick out of this film and I’ve always felt that any star vehicle for Pam Grier is worth a look. (She has ten wardrobe changes, by the way, but no nude scenes, you dang perverts.)