Stars Pam Grier and Margaret Markov team up in this Women In Prison Flick

Before she would become a major Blaxploitation star, Pam Grier starred in Black Mama, White Mama. The exploitation movie is a fun piece of low-budget filmmaking from the early Seventies. Women in prison were a popular sub-genre in exploitation and this movie revels in its cliches. Two female prisoners are chained together and on the run, a sleazier spin on Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones.

Black Mama, White Mama works mostly due to its two stars, Pam Grier and Margaret Markov. The two exploitation actresses work well together as two hostile prisoners in the Philippines. Lee Daniels (Pam Grier) and Karen (Margaret Markov) are inmates in a prison for women, staffed by lesbian guards that like taking advantage of their female inmates. The movie in best exploitation fashion makes sure to use that salacious scenario with an extended shower scene.

It’s a fun, action-packed movie with bullets and babes.

Lee is the former girlfriend of a drug dealer, while Karen is some kind of revolutionary guerrilla looking to overthrow the corrupt regime in charge. Long story short, the two women escape after being chained together in a transfer to another prison. Can the two women get over their differences on the run from multiple groups, including a gang of criminals led by Sid Haig as a cowboy bounty hunter?

Everything about Black Mama, White Mama reminds the viewer they are watching a cheap exploitation film from the Seventies. That can be a positive or negative, depending on one’s view of the era. Filipino director Eddie Romero uses the Philippines and its landscape to full effect, as the ladies are on the run through its countryside and jungles. That marks the film as a b-movie that stands out with a more interesting setting and background cast than normal. Excellent pacing and lively action scenes help keep the movie from getting dull.

If you want to see Pam Grier and Margaret Markov on the run in chains as sexy heroines, this is the movie for you. It’s a fun, action-packed movie with bullets and babes. Black Mama, White Mama delivers what its fans are looking for in spades.

Black Mama, White Mama Blu-ray screen shot 14


Arrow Video licenses the exploitation film from MGM. This is a serviceable Hi-Def presentation from decent film elements. Some minor ringing and slightly erratic focus in the cinematography take away some of its impact in 1080P resolution.

The 86-minute main feature is encoded in a sound AVC video encode without artifacts. The movie is shown at its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Grain reproduction and color fidelity are fairly solid, held back only by the older film scan.

While lacking the definition and superior detail of the newest 2K film scans, fans should be happy by the appreciable increase in video quality from DVD.


The film’s mono soundtrack comes in fine 1.0 PCM form. This is solid, robust sound for a cheap exploitation film this old. Intelligible dialogue is heard perfectly while Harry Betts’ musical score has a nice, euphonic quality. The action has a nice punch to it given the recording’s limitations.

Optional English SDH subtitles appear in a white font.


Arrow commissions several new special features for Black Mama, White Mama. All of them are worth seeing and it’s great hearing Margaret Markov recap her acting career. A reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips is included. This is a Blu-ray combo pack that includes a DVD as well.

White Mama Unchained (14:01 in HD) – Actress Margaret Markov fondly recalls her career in this new interview. Her experience with Roger Corman and other anecdotes are highlighted.

Sid Haig’s Filipino Adventures (15:51 in HD) – The actor discusses in this new interview working with Pam Grier and covers the other movies he also filmed in the Philippines, including The Big Bird Cage.

The Mad Director of Blood Island (14:38 in HD) – Director Eddie Romero is interviewed in this archival piece as he happily discusses his early films.

Black Mama, White Mama Trailer (01:54 in HD)

Image Gallery – Stills of posters and other promotional images.

Audio Commentary by filmmaker Andrew Leavold – Leavold specializes in Filipino movie history and it shows in this informative solo discussion. The cast and setting are dissected, tossing in references to many other related films.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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A generous helping of blaxsploitation pairs with the women-in-prison genre in Black Mama, White Mama for this (mostly) enjoyable ’70s flick.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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