Tuesday, December 20, 2016


If Steve Carver’s ‘Big Bad Mama’ is an example of anti-narrative, semi-narrative or shit-we’d-better-pay-lip-service-to-narrative (depending on how eleventh hour the deadline and how frenetic the scriptwriter’s typing skills), then by comparison Jim Wynorski’s ‘Big Bad Mama II’ demonstrates the single-minded narrative focus, uncluttered by subplot, of Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’.

The story, in all its streamlined glory, is thus: Wilma McClatchie (Angie Dickinson) and her husband Aaron (John Dresden) are working a dirt farm and raising their already very comely daughters, Billie Jean (Danielle Brisebois) and Polly (Julie McCullough), when –

But but but but but …

Wait a minute. Let me finish.

But in the first film –

Dagnabbit, boy, I said quit talkin’ and let me finish this here plot synopsis.

[sullen mumbling]

– when the sheriff and his boys, in the service of landowner and gubernatorial campaigner Morgan Crawford (Bruce Glover) come calling. Aaron doesn’t take too kindly to the foreclosure on the farm and in the ensuing gunplay he’s fatally wounded. Wilma swears revenge. Deciding that death is too good for Crawford, she decides to deep-six his political aspirations by kidnapping his son Jordan (Jeff Yagher) and using journalist Daryl Pearson (Robert Culp) to portray the lad as a willing participant in the McClatchie family’s fast-livin’, tyre-screechin’, tommy-gun-firin’ way of life. Smitten with Polly, Jordan is more than happy to go along with it.

That’s pretty much everything that happens in the 84-minute running time. To go into any more detail would be to give away a little too much about the siege that ends the film (and which includes a magnificently cheeky steal from ‘Foreign Correspondent’).

All right, then: get it off your chest.

But but but but but … in the first film Wilma ain’t got no husband, least not one that appears in the goshdarn movie, and she gets into a life of crime because of a bootlegger who’s kind of an uncle to her girls and one of them girls was a brunette in the first film and at the end it’s heavily implied that Wilma gets –

Whoa there! Keep it spoiler-free, boy.

But ain’t you gonna question them continuity errors, Mr Agitation, you bein’ the big-shot movie critic ‘n’ all? Or are you gonna let it slide on account of the fast cars, shoot-outs and boobies?

Boy, you know me well.

But now that the elephant has been revealed to the occupants of the room, let’s address the issue. ‘Big Bad Mama II’, made thirteen years after the original, exists in the same fictive space as the original due to the same actress playing the same protagonist, the dustbowl/depression era/setting being replicated, and Wilma having two daughters called Billie-Jean and Polly (even though Billie-Jean’s name is spelled differently in the credits to the Wynorski film: she’s Billy-Jean is Carver’s). But is it a sequel, prequel, reboot or the entirely original work of an auteur who only put up with the ‘II’ in the title because the producer insisted on it?

Well, it certainly acknowledges the original: carefully chosen clips from Carver’s film (i.e. not featuring Susan Sennet or Robbie Lee) are included in a mid-film montage sequence that depicts Wilma’s escalating crime spree. But it can’t be a prequel because Billie-Jean and Polly are depicted as, if anything, a year or two older than they were in the first film (speaking of which, Brisebois here plays the older sister to McCullough despite McCullough being four years her senior). And it can’t be a sequel since there isn’t a damned thing that makes sense continuity-wise if it is. And it’s a strange kind of reboot that hitches its wagon so explicitly to the original, right down to casting the same lead.

Whichever way you look at it, ‘Big Bad Mama II’ is odd. I mean, what in tarnation do you call a film that exists in the same fictive space as the original, needs a slightly different timeline in order to justify itself, and yet comes across in the final analysis as basically the edited highlights of its predecessor – a cinematic “greatest hits” package that requires the audience to do nothing more than stump up their hard-earned, put their brain in neutral and keep their mouths shut? What do you call a film like that?

Oh, yes – ‘The Force Awakens’.

So there you have it. ‘Big Bad Mama II’ is ‘The Force Awakens’ but with tommy guns and boobies and a notable absence of spaceships.

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