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Bloody Mama

Catalog Number
VA 4048
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Bloody Mama (1970)

Additional Information

Additional Information
Say it with bullets!

You gotta' believe... You gotta' have faith... But first, you gotta' get rid of the witnesses!

The family that stays together slays together!

Shelley Winters, who once played the spoofish "Ma Parker" on Batman, brings the same larger-than-life approach to her portrayal of real-life Ma Barker in Bloody Mama. Presiding over her outlaw gang, consisting mainly of her goonish sons, Ma goes on a Depression-era rampage of bank robbery, murder and kidnapping. Obviously filmed in a hurry-watch as the Barker mob drives past modern shopping centers-- Bloody Mama strives for an entertaingly sleazy aura, especially when dealing with the incestuous subtext of Ma's relationship with her boys. And look who plays the Barker brood: Clint Kimbrough, Robert Walden and Robert De Niro! Bloody Mama was scripted by Robert Thom, whose previous collaboration with producer Roger Corman was the cult classic Wild in the Streets (former 1950s ingenue Diane Varsi appears in both films).

Bloody Mama is a 1970 American low-budget drama film directed by Roger Corman and starring Shelley Winters in the title role.[2] It was very loosely based on the real story of Ma Barker, who is depicted as a corrupt mother who encourages and organizes her children's criminality; in reality, Ma Barker's involvement in criminality was fairly limited. The film features an early appearance by a young Robert De Niro as Lloyd Barker.

In 2008, Bloody Mama was nominated for AFI's Top 10 Gangster Films list.[3] Corman says the film is one of his favourites.[4]

The film starts as young Kate Barker (Lisa Jill) is brutalized by her father and older brothers, who rape her. Skipping forward 35 years, the middle-aged Kate 'Ma' Barker (Shelley Winters) now brutalizes innocent people herself, while indulging her monstrous sexual appetites. She lives by robbing banks with her four sons; the pragmatic Arthur (Clint Kimbrough), the sadistic Herman (Don Stroud), the bisexual Fred (Robert Walden), and the loyal, drug-addicted Lloyd (Robert De Niro). It all begins in the late 1920s when Ma leaves her husband, George, and her Arkansas home and embarks on her own with her four sons on a robbery-murder spree to make her own fortune, while keeping them under a tight leash.

When Herman and Fred are arrested and imprisoned for petty theft charges, Ma takes over the group and leads Arthur and Lloyd on a bank robbery spree to gain enough money to get her sons out of jail. The gang is joined by a gunman named Kevin (patterned after gunman Alvin Karpis, played by Bruce Dern) who was Fred's cellmate during his incarceration and, it is strongly implied, his lover. The group is also joined by a local prostitute named Mona Gibson, whom Herman frequented before his imprisonment. The gang resorts to more violent action and robberies.

While hiding out at a cabin in Kentucky, Lloyd comes across a young woman swimming at a nearby lake whom he sexually assaults. Not wanting the woman to report them to the police, the Barkers hold her captive and Ma eventually kills her by drowning her, despite the protests of her sons.

Some time later, the gang arrives in Tennessee where they abduct a wealthy businessman named Sam Pendlebury (Pat Hingle) (based on kidnap victims William Hamm and Edward Bremer whom the Barker gang kidnapped in 1933 and 1934). Holding him for a $300,000 ransom, the sons, particularly Herman, bond with their captive whom they see as the sympathetic father figure they never had. When Herman and Mona go to collect the ransom, they are chased by a pair of FBI agents and barely escape. When they find that the ransom is only half of what they originally demanded, Ma orders her sons to kill Sam rather than let him go. But none of them can bring themselves to do it and they set him free, lying to Ma about killing him.

Next, the gang hides out in Florida Everglades where Lloyd soon dies from a heroin overdose and Mona leaves Herman and the gang after she reveals that she's pregnant and does not want to be around them anymore out of the safety for hers and Herman's unborn child. Her fears are justified when Herman and Kevin give away their hiding place a little later: a local handyman and caretaker named Moses (Scatman Crothers) witnesses them shooting an alligator out on a lake with a Tommy gun. Moses then calls the police and reports his suspicions.

At the climax, several FBI agents and local police arrive at the Barkers' farmhouse hideout and a huge shootout ensues between the authorities and the surviving members of the gang. Kevin, Fred, and Arthur are all killed. Herman commits suicide to prevent himself from being sent to prison again. Ma is the last one to fall.

Release Date: March 24, 1970 by American International


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