Black Mama White Mama

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Black Mama White Mama
Black Mama White Mama.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Eddie Romero
Produced by Four Associates Ltd.
executive producer
David J. Cohen
produced by John Ashley
and Eddie Romero
Written by screenplay by
H. R. Christian
from an original story by Joseph Viola
and Jonathan Demme
Starring Pam Grier
Margaret Markov
Music by composed and conducted by Harry Betts
Cinematography Justo Paulino
Edited by Asagani V. Pastor
Distributed by American International
Release dates
January 19, 1973
Running time
87 minutes
Language English
Box office $1 million (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Black Mama White Mama is a 1973 women in prison film with elements of blaxploitation, starring Pam Grier and Margaret Markov, and directed by Eddie Romero.[2] The film is also known as Women in Chains, Chained Women and Hot, Hard and Mean.


Brought to a women's prison in a tropical country which resembles the film's Philippines-set location, Lee (Pam Grier) and Karen (Margaret Markov) encounter sadistic matron Densmore (Lynn Borden) who voyeuristically observes through a peephole as the inmates take a shower.

Prone to emotional outbursts, she orders a guard to escort Lee to her private room, puts on a black glove and strikes Lee across the face, but is almost immediately restrained when the level-headed warden Logan (Laurie Burton), with whom she has a lesbian relationship, forcibly enters the room and orders Lee's return to the prisoners' area.

Following a fight in the prisoners' meal hall between Lee and Karen, which spreads into a free-for-all, the two are punished by lockup inside a metal box, nicknamed "the oven" and exposed to the broiling tropical sun, with only enough space to stand back-to-back.

Upon their release from the box, the two are immediately scheduled for transfer to a maximum security prison. However, as the lightly escorted bus traverses a country road close to the jungle, the convoy is attacked by revolutionaries, led by Ernesto (Zaldy Zschornack), bent on rescuing his companion, Karen, a key member of the group. In the ensuing battle, Lee and Karen, who are chained to each other, strangle matron Densmore with their chain, while warden Logan is fatally shot by the rebels.

At that point, army reinforcements led by Captain Cruz (Eddie Garcia) arrive on the scene, the rebels retreat and Lee and Karen run into the woods. They subsequently force a couple of nuns to give them their habits, then travel on a bus in this disguise and, later, after getting a ride from a truck driver (Bruno Punzalah), throw him out of the truck and drive off.

Before being sentenced on a drug charge, Lee was a prostitute for the region's most prominent pimp and drug dealer Vic Cheng (Vic Diaz), whose $40,000 of ill-gotten profits she managed to hide and, as a result, is now being hunted by him and his henchmen. Captain Cruz, pressured for results by his superior, Galindo (Alfonso Carvajal), visits the pool hall frequented by Ruben (Sid Haig), the cowboy-styled leader of a rival criminal gang and offers him the opportunity of a substantial financial gain in exchange for interrupting the activities of his rival, Vic Cheng, as well as the revolutionaries' gun-running. However, when Cruz, with Galindo in the back seat with an attractive young female companion, attempts to follow Ruben by driving at a distance behind his vehicle, Ruben doubles back, forces Cruz to stop, makes Cruz and Galindo drop their pants at gunpoint, and announces that, based on Cruz's and Galindo's respective sizes, he intends to castrate them with a gunshot, and then fires, deliberately aiming at a tire of their car. He then drives off with members of his gang, taking Galindo's woman with him.

Ruben subsequently visits the house of one of his subservient associates and immediately takes the man's all-too-willing two adult daughters into the bedroom, locking the door. After several minutes pass, the concerned and discomfited associate knocks on the door, informing Ruben that Ernesto and his revolutionaries are nearby, having taken possession of the tracking dogs which Ruben has been using to search for Lee and Karen. The ensuing shootout with Ernesto's men results in death for Ruben and all members of his gang.

Ultimately, Karen is reunited with Ernesto who, with a single shot, severs the chain linking her to Lee. Later on the docks, in another shootout and explosion between Vic Cheng's henchmen and Ernesto's revolutionaries, almost everyone is killed, including Karen, while wounded Ernesto manages to get away with three of his men. Lee, helped by an older, armed friend (unbilled Andy Centenera) with a sail-propelled motorboat, also survives and leaves the island, as Captain Cruz arrives on the scene and oversees the inspection and identification of at least ten blood-spattered corpses laid out in a line upon the docks. Stopping at Karen's body, he looks at her and comments to a subordinate, "...twelve years a captain… I'll be a major before dinner." The subordinate responds, "congratulations, sir, it's long overdue" and Cruz ruefully asks, "it's better to win, isn't it?"



  • Several Volkswagen Country Buggies are used in the film; these were based on the VW Beetle chassis originally for the Australian market. The Country Buggy was locally produced in the Philippines as the Sakbayan using VW powerplants sourced from either Brazil or Mexico.
  • Part of the story involves a prison break with Grier and Markov escaping while chained together. This is partly an homage to the 1958 classic The Defiant Ones, which structured the same type of situation for its leading characters, played by Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier.
  • An advertisement for the film included the tagline, "Chicks in chains... and nothing in common but the hunger of 1,000 nights without a man!"[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 60
  2. ^ Black Mama White Mama review at DVD Talk
  3. ^ "Black Mama White Mama". The Baltimore Afro-American (Baltimore, Maryland). UPI. May 26, 1973. p. 18. 

External links[edit]