Both of the Big Bad Mama films have been on DVD before, with each release having its ups and downs. The first film has been previously released twice, on New Concorde and Buena Vista, and the latter release had a commentary track with Roger Corman and Angie Dickinson as well as a retrospective featurette. Big Bad Mama II was released on disc by New Concorde back in the day and featured a Jim Wynorski commentary. Unfortunately, all of these releases used old, VHS-era full frame transfers that didn’t do justice to the visuals of either film.
Thankfully, fans have finally gotten a square deal via a new double-feature release from Shout! Factory. Not only do fans get both films on one disc, they are also treated to new transfers and a slew of extras that collect all the old bonus features while throwing in a few new ones. The end result delivers as much value as the MGM “Midnite Movies” two-fers from the first half of the 2000’s.
The new transfers are substantial upgrades on past versions, offering anamorphic widescreen transfers that offer plenty of clarity and vivid hues. They look like they might have come from print sources rather than negatives so the results aren’t pristine but they are still a dramatic improvement upon past versions. Of the two films, Big Bad Mama looks a little better. Both films retain their original soundtrack mixes and each sounds nice and crisp.
The disc also offers a “Grindhouse Experience” choice which allows the viewer to watch both film back to back with two trailers before each film, vintage title cards and a classic “go to the snack bar” ad between the movies. It’s a nice retro touch and the fact that the trailers offer previews for Shout! Factory releases past and future makes it all the sweeter.
The disc also boasts an impressive amount of extras for a two-fer release. With Big Bad Mama, you get the original Corman/Dickinson commentary plus a newly-recorded track featured director Steve Carver and cinematographer Bruce Logan. The Corman/Dickinson track is a relaxed affair where the two banter about the onscreen goings-on while offering up the occasional bit of trivia. The result isn’t super-informative but it’s fun to listen two because the two have a nice rapport (they’re particularly funny when they discuss Dickinson’s nude scenes).
The Carver/Logan commentary is moderated by Walter Olson and is the more information-intensive of the two tracks. Carver has a pretty sharp memory regarding his dealings with Corman (the two scouted locations for the film together) and doles out all manner of interesting factoids, like how they shot 61 locations in 21 days and a discussion of the tensions between Tom Skerritt and William Shatner. Logan backs up his memories nicely and also offers many interesting anecdotes about how he achieved the look of various scenes in the film. Olson is not as obtrusive as he was on the commentary track for The Evil but tends to ask questions that don’t really stimulate the discussion in a meaningful way. Still, there is plenty of good info for fans to glean from this track.
The “Mama Knows Best” featurette from the Buena Vista release of Big Bad Mama is also included here and offers a fast-paced recounting (about 15 minutes) of the production which includes input from Corman, Dickinson and Carver as well as William Shatner and writers William Norton and Frances Doel. It’s fast, funny and offers up plenty of fun stories on the shoot, particularly when they discuss the challenges of shooting the nude scenes. Also retained from the New Concorde Big Bad Mama disc is a short Corman interview conducted by Leonard Maltin — it’s very brief but a fun listen.
As for Big Bad Mama II, the Wynorski commentary is carried over from its original DVD. It’s not that heavy on content or stories but Wynorski is an amusing host and his stream of consciousness thoughts are fun enough for a b-movie fan to listen to at least once. There are a few interesting bits for the patient listener here, like how an early scene was shot on a leftover set from Extreme Prejudice and Wynorski pointing out the particular sequences that Linda Shayne helmed as his second-unit director. There’s also a new video interview with Bruce Glover: he’s always a good interview subject and he discusses the film as well as the beginnings of his career and his thoughts on acting as a profession. The package is rounded out by trailers and still galleries for each film.
In short, this is another Corman-centric winner from Shout! Factory. Their double-feature program has quickly developed into one of the best current values for exploitation film buffs and this Big Bad Mama double feature is a great example of why this is so.