Created by William Girdler and David Sheldon
"Whatchu gonna do with that gun, mama?"
Uh, damn right?
In Sheba, Baby, the 1975 blaxploitation 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 plays 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 the writers were thinking fish, for some reason.
This is strictly B-Land, so don't go expecting Chinatown. Or even Shaft. But it's still a lot of pulpy popcorn fun, 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 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 buttkicking, 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 or her ample feminie charms, to see that justice is done.
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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