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Sheba, Baby (1975)

DVD Cover (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Director:
William Girdler William Girdler
Starring:
Pam Grier Pam Grier
Austin Stoker Austin Stoker
D'Urville Martin D'Urville Martin
Rudy Challenger Rudy Challenger
Richard Merrifield Richard Merrifield

5.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Action, Action Thriller, Blaxploitation, Detective Film
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Review by Chad
Added: February 14, 2012
It's black history month once again, and you know what that means: blaxploitation reviews. This time around, I decided to take a look at one of Pam Grier's final films in the genre, a movie that attempted to once again recreate the "tough black chick" formula made so successful in films like Foxy Brown and Coffy. You know the drill with these movies: shady guys screw over the heroine or someone close to her, and Grier decides to kick some ass and get her revenge. Unfortunately, while Sheba, Baby had its heart in the right place, the end result was one of the weaker films to use this plot.

It all begins when Andy Shayne (Rudy Challenger) and his assistant Brick Williams (Austin Stoker), two men running a successful loan shop, start to receive threats from a group of gangsters who want them to sell out the business. Andy flat refuses, with the logic being that he's run the shop all his life and that he will not be bullied into giving it up. Unfortunately, the gangsters decide to rough him up a bit in order to make him change his mind, and that prompts his daughter Sheba (Pam Grier) to make a trip to the city to check in on her father. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, Sheba is tracking down the bad guys and making them pay for what they did. D'Urville Martin and Dick Merrifield star as the aforementioned bad guys.

The story brings nothing new to the table, but to be fair, a lot of films have used this exact same plot and made it work. It's a simple tale to tell, but with the right leading lady and some decent action sequences, it can usually bring a good night of entertainment to any household. To begin with, the action sequences are rather dull. The final chase scene where Grier chases the bad guy on a speed boat and uses a harpoon gun to good effect is done rather well, but otherwise, the action is pretty tame. The only other highlight is a chase through a carnival that seems to have been shot guerilla-style, and aside from the confused looks on the faces of the people at said carnival, this scene is nothing more than "guy chases Grier, Grier runs away" for five minutes.

Another thing that hurt the film is the performances. Grier herself can usually make any script work, but even though I am a huge fan and it pains me to say this, she was incredibly off of her game in this movie. Maybe it's because this was her last film for her AIP contract and she was just going through the motions, or maybe she was getting sick of playing this role, or maybe her heart just wasn't in it for some reason... but whatever the case, she let me down. She has a couple of great lines (the "smooth talking nigger" part made me laugh) and her skills did shine through in a few scenes, but overall, I was disappointed with her appearance here.

Dick Merrifield is another weak link on this chain of bad acting. Well, I can't say that he was downright bad, but he certainly wasn't great either. He seems like a good actor, but not in a role like this. Again, I couldn't tell you what his exact problem was, but it all leads to a villain that we honestly don't care about, which culminates in a final showdown that we don't really give a shit about. On the positive side, I loved D'Urville Martin's performance as the, ahem, "smooth talking nigger", and I felt that he played the role to perfection. This is a villain that we love to hate, and this is the kind of character that we want to see get what's coming to him.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with Sheba, Baby. I am a huge fan of Pam Grier and it was nice seeing her once again (it was especially nice seeing her in a skintight diving suit), but I quickly found myself disappointed in the fact that she was mostly phoning it in. This, coupled with an unoriginal storyline and average action sequences, means that I really can't give this film a recommendation. I'm personally going with a 5/10, but you can knock a few points off of that if you don't share my love of all things Grier.
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