Created by William Girdler and David Sheldon
“Whatchu gonna do with that gun, mama?”
Uh, damn right?
In Sheba, Baby, the 1975 blaxploitation would-be classic that does a sex-change on Shaft, Pam Grier finally gets to let her P.I. freak flag fly, after playing a string of revenge-bent photographers, nurses and secret agents.
She’s SHEBA SHAYNE, a Chicago P.I. who gets called home to Louisville, Kentucky when her dad’s loan agency is threatened with a hostile takeover by some local thugs. What’s a sister to do except step in and lend a hand — especially after a second attack leaves her defiant dad in the hospital?
At first, it looks like the culprit is Pilot, a local black crime boss, but ultimately the real culprit pulling the strings is revealed as “The Man.”
And we all know who The Man is, right? Dick Merrifield plays “Shark” with cheesy glee, laying on the racism, cruelty and misogyny every chance he can get.
Man, Whitey sucks!
Did you get the joke, by the way? Pilot? Shark? And with thugs with names like Hammerhead, Tank, Fin and Whale romping through this flick, it seems pretty obvious that something fishy was going on in the writers’ room.
This is strictly B-Land, and cut-rate B-Land at that, so don’t go expecting Chinatown. Or even Shaft. But it’s still a lot of pulpy fun if you’re in a lizard brain sort of mood, hitting all the sweet spots: gratuitous sex and violence, a strong lead (and a suitably studly male lead “for the ladies”: Austin Stoker as Sheba’s former–and possibly current–main man, “Brick” Williams), an alternately cheesy and funky score (I’m assuming they couldn’t afford Isaac Hayes), and some truly atrocious seventies-era fashions.
In fact, with its non-stop stream of establishing shots of Chicago (despite the fact it almost all takes place in Kentucky), its bold brassy score (“Sheba Baby!”) and oh-so-seventies typography in the opening credits to set the mood, this looks like nothing so much as a failed TV pilot that decided, at the last moment, to light out for the B-movie circuit. So we get numerous shootouts, some butt-kicking, a speedboat chase, a chase through a carnival midway, a catfight at a party (Hair is pulled, tops come off!), a car bomb or two, a little sex (“Oooooooooh, baby!”) and a memorable scene where Sheba dunks a thug’s face in some toxic chemicals to get him to talk.
Hell, Sheba’s more than up for almost anything here, using whatever she can–be it her chrome-plated .44 Magnum, a little Mike Hammer-level torture or her ample feminine charms, to see that justice is done.
But no version of Mike Hammer ever looked as good as Pam Grier. As Barbara Mason warbles at the beginning of the theme song, “She’s a dangerous lady, and she’s well put together.”
- “The thing I like best about Pam Grier is her sense of boundless energy. So many actresses are so protective of themselves on screen. Even in the action scenes, they seem afraid to mess up their hair or get their dresses dirty. Not our gal Pam, who in Sheba, Baby engages in a couple of breakneck chases, dives off a yacht, practices karate on the bad guys and gets into a brawl at a party. She seems to be having fun, and the characters she plays seem more athletic, more active, than a lot of the action roles played by aging male superstars.”
— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
- SHEBA, BABY | Buy this DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
Story by William Girdler and David Sheldon
Screenplay by William Girdler
Directed by William Girdler
Produced by David Sheldon
Theme song sung by Barbara Mason
Original Music by Alex Brown and Monk Higgins
Starring Pam Grier as SHEBA SHAYNE
Also starring Austin Stoker, D’Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger, Dick Merrifield, Christopher Joy, Charles Kissinger, Charles Broaddus, Maurice Downs, Ernest Cooley, Edward Reece Jr., William Foster Jr, Bobby Cooley, Paul Grayber, Sylvia Jacobson
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.