Bloody Mama (1970) Poster

(1970)

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Makes one understand why the Academy held back Shelley's "Poseidon" Oscar.
Poseidon-322 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Looking only ounces lighter than after her alleged 40 pound weight gain a year or so later for "The Poseidon Adventure", Winters portrays the title character, an outlaw mom based far more on legend than fact. The real "Ma" Barker was reportedly just a rather dense hillbilly who, though she loved, covered for and fostered her criminal sons, was not in any way a mastermind or the instigator as she is shown here. (One theory has her reputation created AFTER she was gunned down to lessen the stigma of the FBI blowing holes in little old ladies.) Winters plays her as a scornful, driven woman who will do virtually anything to escape her run-down, pitiful existence. She runs roughshod over her brood of four sons, slapping them when they sass her and taking them to bed with her in turns! Stroud plays the ringleader of them and suffers the most neuroses and inner turmoil. De Niro escapes from his existence through drugs of any kind. Kimbrough is the least developed (and least famous actor) of the four, but comes off as the sensitive one. Walden does time in jail and winds up as a sexual partner to equally criminal-minded Dern. This quintet, along with Stroud's hooker/girlfriend Varsi, rides across the Midwest holding up banks, kidnapping rich men and just generally causing mayhem anywhere they go. Though certain scenes and certain images linger in the memory (Winters scrubbing her grown boys in a washtub, afro-haired Varsi trotting around topless, De Niro tripping out on glue and dope, Winters packing a machine gun and playing Simon Says with it....) the film remains a fairly disjointed, sloppily constructed affair. It isn't terrible, but it falls short of excellence. The script doesn't seem focused enough and the editing is sometimes rocky. Stroud gives a very intense and thoughtful performance.

Winters is way, way over the top (and her hair color varies wildly throughout the film at inappropriate times.) She indulges herself in some extreme Method acting which isn't always pretty to watch, though she does catch one's attention. Seeing her sometimes similar mannerisms and vocal mumblings in this film casts a slight pall over her better received work in "Poseidon". It's so jarring to see De Niro in such a minor part (not to mention seeing him alongside some of these costars!) that it's sometimes a distraction. Varsi has to have earned a place as one of the all-time career slides. ALLISON MACKENZIE! Then here she is blankly wandering around with awkward tan lines and her nipples at full attention, looking basically out of her head. (She purportedly didn't give a hoot about film stardom, career, et al and it shows!) Dern does a great job. His initial scene, in which it becomes clear that he has more in mind for Walden than just a bunkmate, is delicious. The decent parts just don't add up to a cohesive, enjoyable whole. However, the curiosity factor of seeing that cast together (and doing what they're doing!) calls for at least one viewing. Incidentally, the paperback novelization of the screenplay is quite possibly one of the most vulgar and shocking tomes ever to come out as a movie tie-in!
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8/10
psycho
RanchoTuVu28 July 2005
Some movies romanticize the life of crime, or make the criminals into sympathetic characters, but Roger Corman's "Bloody Mama" goes in the opposite direction with its depiction of the Barker crime family of the 30's and their ruthless murders, sadism, incest, drug addiction, and insanity. It's a morbidly colorful mixture of negative southern poor white trash stereotypes, encapsulated in a family of sociopaths, with a vintage Shelly Winters bringing her trademark intensity to the role of Ma Barker and a great cast as her sons and their associates, including Don Stroud, Robert Walden, Bruce Dern, Diane Varsi, and Robert DeNiro. A mishmash of humor and repugnancy, it's definitely not for the squeamish.
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Bloody fantastic fun!!
Infofreak11 November 2001
I can't believe there is only ONE comment on this classic piece of Roger Corman trash! Corman is known as the King of the Quickies, which gives many people who aren't all that familiar with his work the impression is that all he made was "bad" movies that can only be enjoyed on a camp level. This is not true, and 'Bloody Mama' proves it! Sure it's an exploitation movie, but exploitation doesn't necessarily equate with worthless trash, as the movies of Russ Meyer or Larry Cohen or Sam Fuller show.

'Bloody Mama' tells the story of Ma Barker and her sons, infamous criminals during the Depression. Exactly how much of this movie is historically accurate I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. This is a non-stop action ride, low budget yes, but full of energy, clever touches, and generally strongly acted by the cast, which includes - get this! - cult favourites Don Stroud and Bruce Dern AND a scene stealing performance from a young Robert De Niro. If the thought of those three absurdly talented actors appearing in the same movie isn't enough to get you running to your local video store, then you're beyond help!

Add to that the familiar character actors Pat Hingle, Scatman Crothers and the appearance of Diane Varsi from the legendary 'Wild In The Streets', and b-grade film buffs will be ecstatic. Last but certainly not least, Shelley Winters in the title role is outstanding. She has had a long and varied career, but she always gives her best whether she is in a- or b-grade material, a star vehicle, supporting role or a cameo. More power to her!

'Bloody Mama' is a movie to be treasured! Trash with intelligence. Don't miss it!
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6/10
Unpleasant and violent movie with a deranged Shelley Winters reenacting murderous Ma Barker
ma-cortes25 September 2009
The most colorful epoch of criminality in America during the Depression era is brought to life in this story of a bank-robber family , in a period when any employment, even illegal, was cherished, ambition, money and power originated an interminable cycle of fury and violence. The infamous Ma Barker ( Shelley Winters)'s blood-thirsty gang of the 30s backed by his four rare sons ( Robert De Niro, Robert Walden, Clint, Don Stroud) carry out heists to banks and a crime spree that gets even bigger when she dreams up an abducting plot , its a fast road to ruin. A hooker ( Diane Varsi) appears to be falling for the moronic sibling (Don Stroud as the sadistic mama lover). Later on, they hook up with Robert Walden's (as the homosexual ex-con) prison lover, Bruce Dern. Meanwhile a wealthy businessman ( Pat Hingle) is kidnapped by the grotesques family led by the sadistic mummy. Based on the biography of the violent careers of Ma Barker, named Arizona Clark (1877-1935) and his perverted sons, who roamed the South robbing banks during the Depression as Missouri, Texas, and Florida . They're joined by nefarious criminal Alvin Karpis who doesn't appear at the movie.

This is a perverse stew of murders, pronounced bloodshed, sentimental blood bonding, action , lots of violence and with a bullet-ridden ending . Overacting by Shelley Winters as sex-crazed lady killer and machine-gun toting mother. Imaginative musical score and evocative cinematography by classic cameraman John A Alonzo . Director and producer( along with Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson : American International) Roger Corman skillfully blends extreme violence that was highly controversial and some good scenes action. Good camera work, slick edition and nice 1930s period sets in average budget.

Followed by ¨Big Bad mama¨ (1974) by Steve Carver with Angie Dickinson, William Shatner, Tom Skerrit and ¨Big bad mama II¨ (1988) with Dickinson, Robert Culp and Julie McCullough. And a remake titled ¨Public enemies¨(96) by Mark L Lester with Theresa Russel Eric Roberts, Alyssa Milano and Frank Stallone. Furthermore, ¨The Grisson gang¨ (1971) by Robert Aldrich with Kim Darby and Scott Wilson.
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5/10
Leaves Something to Be Desired
gavin694215 July 2012
This film is Roger Corman and Sam Arkoff's answer to "Bonnie and Clyde". But not only did they take the theme of Depression-era gangsters, they also borrowed the idea of completely eradicating the facts. I would be hard-pressed to name one thing in this film that was based a real event.

That being said, it has some historical merit. Shelley Winters gives a good performance, and has said she was proud of the film (which she oddly enough promoted as a film denouncing violence, despite its clearly violent nature). She even allegedly took a punch to the face, resulting in a nose injury bad enough to get X-rays.

Bruce Dern and Robert DeNiro give some of the earliest performances of their careers, and any DeNiro fan who has not seen him in this is really missing out on his humble beginnings. These days, he is past his prime, making cheesy comedies. But have you seen him before his prime?

Perhaps most interesting, this was the big-screen debut of cinematographer John A. Alonzo. While he may not be well-known, he did go on to film "Harold and Maude", "Chinatown" and "Scarface" and snagged an Oscar nomination. Not bad for a graduate of the Corman School.
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6/10
It's definitely worth seeing for the cast.
fredschaefer-406-62320418 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Bloody Mama was in the theaters back when I was too young to get into R rated movies by myself, only recently did I get a chance to finally view this film. Seeing it now after nearly four decades, I think Bloody Mama tells us much more about pop culture in 1970 then it does about criminals in the 1930's.

First of all, it's clearly an attempt by Roger Corman to cash in on the enormous success of Bonnie and Clyde, made only a few years earlier. The producers take full advantage of the changes in censorship ushered in by that previous film and here give us a screenplay filled with incest, homosexuality, nudity, drug addiction, and sadism, all portrayed by a cast of characters without a single redeeming moral value except for the fact that Ma Barker really did love her sons. A lot.

Corman was obviously pandering to early 70's audiences (especially the youth like myself) who simply could not get enough good old sex and violence in their entertainment. Sadly, Bloody Mama isn't very good when compared with Bonnie and Clyde or The Wild Bunch; the screenplay just trudges along with scenes built to showcase each character's particular depraved personality. And the low budget really shows.

Still any movie with this cast is worth seeing at least once if you're a film buff. Don Stroud, Clint Kimbrough, Robert Walden and a young Robert De Niro are the Barker boys. Was this De Niro's first gangster role? Stroud is pretty much forgotten today, but he was a great bad guy on old cop shows and would have been a much bigger star if he'd gotten the right role. Bruce Dern is Walden's prison lover who joins the gang and gets to sleep with Ma. He's still playing mean bastards all these years later, just watch HBO's Big Love. The only remotely redeeming person is Pat Hingle's kidnapped businessman; Hingle was an always dependable character star who brought a lot to anything he was in. Scatman Crothers is here a full decade before he worked for Kubrick in The Shinning and the late Diane Varsi gets to show off her breasts in one of her last roles.

The main reason to see Bloody Mama of course is Shelley Winters as Ma Barker. Winters was one of the movies all time great scenery chewers and she doesn't let us down here. Her Kate Barker snarls, yells and sneers when she needs to and then turns around and cries, pleads and begs if that is what it takes to get her boys to bend to her will. Winters made a long career out of playing monster mothers, shrews and harridans, but there was something about the way she portrayed her mean characters that suggested they were just women who'd had to put up with a lot in life and had learned to give it back twice over.

In the end, Bloody Mama is a relic of a bygone time, that time being the 1970's.
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8/10
A Study in Evil
dromasca4 March 2003
This is an amazing film for 1970, and a good film to watch by itself today. A true gangster story, with no romantics at all. Evil people do evil things, they just do them because they are stupid and degenerated. No social comment is being made, and this is actually the best decision the script writer and the director could make. Only a completly social careless society can let such people 'enjoy the freedom', with the execution squad being the only 'educational tool' it knows. The viewer gets it by itself. The mix of documentary with the true story is discrete and smart. I liked the movie, and gave it 8/10 on my personal scale.
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7/10
interesting early Deniro
PaulyC14 February 2008
Shelly Winters plays a wild Ma Barker in this decent Roger Corman directed flick about the Barker gang of the great depression era. Everyone playing Ma Barkers sons, who include Robert Deniro, gives a good performance. Bruce Dern also has a small role as sort of an outside member of the gang. The Barker gang is on the run, lead by their fearless mother. They rob banks and whoever they can get their hands on. There is one particular good scene involving Deniro, complete with his Max Cady accent, where he acts on the advances of a young blonde swimmer who flirts with him while he sits on the dock. Her flirty ways turn to terror as Deniro realizes he tells her some forbidden information and can't afford to let her live. Deniro lost 30 pounds for the role. He also told Corman he could drive even though he didn't have a license. Pat Hingle, a great character actor, as a high profile man who the gang kidnaps to get ransom money is also very good. This film is no "Bonnie and Clyde" but I'm surprised it didn't get more attention. Worth a look.
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5/10
"I'm sure glad I didn't raise me any girls."
utgard1418 July 2014
Trashy gangster picture from Roger Corman about Ma Barker and her criminal sons. It's very loosely based on the real people. I won't say it's uninteresting but it sure isn't much fun. It's violent, schlocky, and quite frankly, gross. I didn't care about anybody in the movie, which made it hard to become invested in the plot. It does have a nice cast, though. Shelly Winters gets a lot of flack for this movie but I thought she was pretty good. Robert De Niro appears in an early role. I missed his name in the credits so when I saw him I couldn't believe it was really him. Bruce Dern, Don Stroud, Pat Hingle, and Scatman Crothers are among the other solid actors in the cast. Like I said, it's not much fun but it's worth a look. I did love that corny theme song.
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Violent Fun
gwerq15 July 1999
A gleefully trashy Corman cheapie, with Shelley Winters as the sex-crazed head of a family of criminals. Very bloody and perverse, yet strangely campy, and with good support from Bruce Dern, Robert DeNiro and Don Stroud, in a brilliantly sadistic role. Add to this Winters' fascinatingly overblown performance and you have a classic. Based on a true story, but you'd never guess.
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2/10
Over the top Winters performance main attraction of this freak show
mlraymond3 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I will only say a few words about this almost forgotten sleaze classic from 1970. At the time, it represented some kind of point of no return for bad taste movies, and could still hold its own today. The most memorable viewing I ever had with this marathon of perversity, loosely based on the exploits of Thirties bank robbers the Barker-Karpis gang, was at a college film society in the early Seventies. The movie was so depressing and grim on the one hand, and so ludicrously , deliriously over the top on the other, that by the end, the audience was either numb from all the slaughter and cruelty, or laughing uproariously at things we knew weren't really funny. A couple of sequences near the end made the biggest impression. An old black man at a Florida tourist camp greets the newly arrived gangsters, and tells them about a legendary alligator named Old Joe, that haunts the creeks and lakes nearby. Later, Bruce Dern as his usual manic character ,and another gang member steal a pig, and trail it along behind a boat, hoping to lure Old Joe out of hiding. Meanwhile, sad, dreamy, drug addict son Robert DeNiro dies of a fatal heroin overdose on the riverbank, grieving over his lost love, who Ma had ordered killed. Suddenly, an alligator head appears menacingly in the water behind the boat, and the trigger happy mobsters gleefully blast Old Joe with machine guns. Meanwhile, Ma finds the body of her son on the river bank ,and goes completely wacko, shrieking and keening over her loss, which leads to one of the most unintentionally funny lines I have ever heard. As Ma wails and mourns with some of her other sons, the two guys in the boat proudly announce that they've bagged Old Joe, and Shelley Winters shrieks back at them, " How can you care about that? Your brother's dead, and you're out there playin' with gators!" This brought down the house at the screening I attended, followed moments later by the tearful Scatman Crothers phoning the sheriff to tell about the crazy folks and what they done. Weeping into the phone, the old black man asks rhetorically, " What they done? I'll tell ya what they done: they stole ma pig, and then they went and killed Old Joe!" Once again, this tragic moment caused total hilarity in the audience. This movie almost defies analysis. I cannot recommend it, unless you're a die-hard fan of Roger Corman or Shelley Winters. It is truly unforgettable, which is not a good thing, in this case.
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Pistol-Packin' Hillbillies
Lechuguilla20 January 2013
Fun movie about a gun toting Ozark clan that rebels against their Depression-era poverty by stealing, threatening, robbing banks, kidnapping, and killing their way into infamy. The clan's leader is colorful Ma (Kate) Barker (Shelley Winters), self-confident, forceful, and determined to get some high-style living for her and her four boys, whatever is required.

Interspersed through the plot are real-life B&W flashbacks to the 1920s and 30s, which enhance a sense of realism, as does the casting of non-actors in minor roles in some scenes. The dialogue is at times clever, like during one of the B&W flashback scenes when, in V.O., Ma tells us: "1929 was a bad year for a lot of folks. The rich men was jumpin' out of the windows and, as usual, they fell on the poor".

In addition to clever dialogue, Shelley Winters makes the film fun, mostly as a result of her over-the-top Southern accent. And there's something quite ironic about her character. For all of Kate's gun-loving ways, she's actually quite religious and anti-war. In one sequence, she sits down at the piano to play, and starts singing a song to spark some life into her four dejected sons; they eventually join in. "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier; I brought him up to be my pride and joy … there'd be no war today, if mothers all would say, I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier", which also sums up her familial bond with her sons.

The film's color cinematography is acceptable, though nothing special. Prod design and costumes seem accurate for the era, though Shelley's long eyelashes look more like something from the 1960s than the 1920s. The film's songs are good; I really like that title song.

A lot of viewers don't like this movie, for a variety of reasons. No, it isn't a realistic portrayal of the real Ma Barker. And no, the story is not altogether accurate, though some plot points are. But it's a fun movie and worth watching, mostly for the entertaining performance of Shelley Winters.
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10/10
Possibly the most depressing movie ever made, but in a good way
Alligator_803 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When I picked up a copy of this cult B-movie, I was expecting a good actioner, but not to actually be really well-acted and dramatic. Some have dismissed this movie as being cheap, old and with a bad script-IGNORE THEM.

There are some comic moments, however they are not the main focus of the movie. The main focus of "Bloody Mama" is the drama of the Depression era and what drives people to do what they do. Examples of this include themes of rape, incest, murder and just plain cruelty. However, these are actually vital to the movie, and are in there to shock, but shock in a manner that these acts are present in society whether you want to believe them or not. But, perhaps the one thing that stands out about this movie is after the credits have finished is that this movie sticks in your mind and leaves you not with sorrow for the victims and the family who were shot in the final shootout.

Some people simply due to stupid decisions throw their lives away. "Bloody Mama" portrays those type of people.

A must see movie- 5 out of 5.
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8/10
Daring movie
vinnie_hans1 May 2002
In this 70's film, a lot of todays society problems are investigated. Drugtaking, booze problems, violence, incest and betrayal all in one movie. For me it was very surprising to see that all these topics were on show in this special film. I think it's impossible to make a similar film nowadays. The late 60's and early 70's were much more liberal than the last decades. Very convincing roles by Robert DeNiro and Shelley Winters. As good as "Bonnie and Clyde"
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5/10
Hell-Raising Shelly with Wacky Sons!
shepardjessica-113 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This Roger Corman "exploitation" flick was great drive-in material, basically inaccurate much of the time, but a wonderful cast and plenty of 30's violence. Robert Deniro is very effective as the junkie son who keeps his "kit" in a Baby Ruth wrapper (I believe). Bruce Dern is stranger than usual. Shelley Winters was born to play Ma Barker and other sons, especially Don Stroud (fine actor) were on the money.

A 5 out of 10. Best performance = Deniro. Films like this were made tongue-in-cheek so don't expect BONNIE & CLYDE or an accurate portrayal of the Barker gang. A fun time is had by all. The alligator/pig scene is disturbing, but right in line with the rest of the goings-on. I'm not sure if this is on video or DVD.
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1/10
Bloody awful
Maciste_Brother10 June 2007
I watched BLOODY MAMA because I love Shelley Winters and wanted to see where Robert De Niro started as an actor. Well, it wasn't worth watching. What started interestingly enough quickly became tiresome and unwatchable. The script is a complete mess. Really. I never seen such a badly written story for a film ever. It just doesn't know what to do with its characters. By the time the film focused on the kidnapped man who was bound to a chair, I lost interest. What the hell were they thinking?

Poor Shelley, stuck in this bad movie. Whenever she's one screen, her mere presence elevates this movie up a couple of extra stars. Remove her completely and no one, and I mean no one would remember this film. Aside from the scene when Shelley robs a bank and forces old ladies to hang on to their car and the subsequent car chase, seeing the old ladies hang for dear life, which I admit was really fun, this film is totally forgettable.
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6/10
Barker Family Values
bkoganbing14 April 2009
Though Bloody Mama has very little to do with Ma Barker and the four fine strapping sons she raised, the film provides Shelley Winters with a role she can overact to her heart's content and no one would notice this side of a slasher flick. It's part that I wish Shelley had done in a more factual retelling of the Barker saga.

She gave her four sons played by Don Stroud, Clint Kimbrough, Robert Walden, and Robert DeNiro the lack of character and amoral view of life that led them to become criminals, she herself simply went along for the ride on their criminal enterprises. She was far from the mastermind that Shelley Winters is shown to be.

This was one of Robert DeNiro's first parts where he was noticed. You can see traces of later redneck characters that he did in films like This Boy's Life and Cape Fear in his portrayal of Lloyd Barker, the youngest Barker sibling. By the way Lloyd in real life did not end up the way he's shown in the film.

Other parts of significance are Bruce Dern as a character modeled on Alvin 'Creepy' Karpis who was part of the Barker story, but is not mentioned at all here. Another is Pat Hingle playing a kidnap victim of the gang's and a third is Diane Varsi who marries one of the Barker sons.

Roger Corman who produced and directed Bloody Mama gave Shelley Winters a great part and she ran with it. Even though the film is far from the truth about the Barkers, it does show the values those boys had and where they got them.
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6/10
Bloody Redneck Gangster Mama
Witchfinder-General-66624 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I am a huge admirer of Roger Corman, whom I consider to be one of the most influential directors alive. Corman's ingenious Edgar Alan Poe cycle (starring the great Vincent Price) alone makes him a brilliant director and Horror genius, and his repertoire furthermore contains other genres, with films such as the macabre and witty "A Bucket Of Blood" or "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre". Having praised Corman as a brilliant director (and equally great producer), I must say that I consider "Bloody Mama" of 1970 to be an entertaining film, but definitely not one of Roger's best. The film is a True-Crime Drama set in the 1930s when the Barker brothers and their bloody Mama were on a crime spree throughout various southern States. Even though gangsters are the central characters in "Bloody Mama", the film makes no attempt to romanticize a life of crime or to make the viewer sympathize with the criminals. The whole family are a bunch of ruthless people committing vile acts, which makes the film quite uncompromising. This is a quality in my book. Especially Ma Barker (Shelley Winters) is a truly despicable person, who has no mercy whatsoever, and hypocritically comes up with twisted morals in-between killing people. The matriarch of a family of criminals, she is the one who plans the deeds committed by her four sons and herself...

What I was slightly disappointed with was the acting. Not that the performances are bad, but with a cast like the one in "Bloody Mama" I would have expected more. Young Robert De Niro, who plays one of the Barker brothers, delivers a great performance as always, and Pat Hingle is also very good in a smaller role. These are the only two performances that I can really praise, however, I was especially (and negatively) surprised with how Shelley Winters overacted in the lead. Don Stroud did not impress me as the eldest son, and neither did Bruce Dern, who is usually a very good actor. "Bloody Mama" is also quite far away from the (probable) truth. The real Ma Barker was (with the utmost probability) not the criminal mastermind she is depicted as in the film, but just an elderly woman who tried to protect her criminal sons.Even though "Bloody Mama" has its faults, however, it is highly recommendable to lovers of crime flicks, and interesting enough for any cineaste to enjoy. Recommended!
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4/10
What is the Point of This Film?
jackgavin2 February 2006
There are disturbing elements to the film. Mainly, that the gang kill and rape indiscriminately, just because they can and depending on their mood at the time. Which makes this film slightly uncomfortable as it is based on a true story. Although how much of the film is true I'm not sure. But the film does come across as a cross between Bonnie & Clyde and the first half of A Clockwork Orange.

I watched this film, for probably the same reason that most people watch it today. Because it contains an early performance by De Niro. And although he is the best thing in it, that isn't saying much. He doesn't really give any indication of the big star or acting guru he was only a few years away from becoming.

But that isn't really his fault. What lets this film down the most is not the acting, but the script. None of the characters are developed at any point to become interesting, or for you to care what does or does not happen to them.

Nor do we have any empathy for most of the victims. One is so particularly stupid I found myself wanting them to get their sticky end. The army of G-Men chasing them are not developed, so there is no antagonist for the gang. The gang themselves get on pretty well with each other so there's no drama there.

This film really was a wasted opportunity and by the end of it you really couldn't care less.
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8/10
Trippy movie
tingeyh-110 August 2007
This movie was my introduction to Roger Corman. I am now hooked. I think other posters have put too much emphasis on accuracy and technique. Sure the plot is not always logical and some of the performances are not great. I find that classics like Bloody Mama are so fun because the director and actors are aware that the film is not Oscar-caliber but still have fun with it. What makes this film so great is that it is a disturbing,campy, slapped-together mess. I would also like to point out that the always great Don Stroud has said in interviews that he had an intense affair with Shelley Winters during the filming of Bloody Mama. As they played a creepy mother son duo, this little morsel of trivia adds a whole new level of disturbing to this fabulous film.
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What Did I Just Watch?
gluba200019 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is probably the most sadistic movie I've ever seen.

It was disturbing, gross, and unnerving.

I saw part of it a few years ago but watched the entire thing on the Action Channel last night and I have to say to myself "what the hell did I just watch?" It was morbid how Ma Barker threw the chubby elderly lady off the side of the car after the bank robbery and disgusting when one of her sons (was it one of her sons) went to have sex with Ma because she said "she's ready for him" and when Llyod (was it him...it was the junkie son) had that girl tied up and (you can assume) raped her then they drowned her in the tub and dumped her body in that lake...how sadistic! Then when they moved on down to Florida and threw that baby pig in the water for the alligator to eat it and when the alligator came around and ate the pig they shot it's brains out....that was extremely unnerving and morbid.

The shootout was a gore fest (not so much until her son, forgot his name, kills himself and you can literally see his brains fly everywhere for a split second.) And what was with the crowds of people watching on the side? (I know they did it in the 1800s, families would go down with their wagon and picnic baskets to watch it like it was a play but this was supposed to be the 1930s!) I don't recommend this to anyone.

I can come to decide on a rating for it so I just won't rate it.
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3/10
Handled with all the dignity you'd expect from Roger Corman
JoeB13128 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Which would be, of course, none.

This movie takes a lot of liberties with the Barker Gang story, as one might expect. The whole thing also has kind of a creepy, incestuous vibe to it.

The film is disjointed in its narrative and the characters do things that don't make a lick of sense. Shelly Winters looks like a confused old woman in the film (made when she was only 50) and her acting is just dreadful.

the historical Ma Barker, by the way, was probably not even a criminal, her reputation was enhanced to allow the FBI to deflect from the fact they shot a 62 year old woman.

Again, it's Roger Corman. A guy who made a hundred bad movies but gave a dozen actual stars and directors their start. Look for an early role by Robert DiNiro in this one.
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4/10
Trashy but unfunny
Karl Self22 February 2013
Although it's always interesting to watch a Roger Corman movie, I couldn't really get with this one. The problem is that the entire movie is laid out in the first ten minutes. Ma Barker is a twisted woman who lives out her mania through her sons, with whom she has incestuous relationships in every sense of the word. A crime spree ensues until it all ends in the long-anticipated bloodbath. Roll credits. Lots of gore but no suspense or development. Shelley Winters acts her butt off but can't salvage the movie. Interestingly, Robert de Niro has his first role here, and surprisingly he's laughable. Actually, maybe not so surprisingly since he has to overplay a hick and finds no place for his method acting. It's amazing that he still managed to evolve into stardom after this rocky start.
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8/10
Shelley Winters excels in this enjoyably sleazy Depression-era mobster winner
Woodyanders3 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The late, great, sorely missed Shelley Winters really lets it all hang out with her savage, forceful and brave portrayal of notorious Depression-era crime matron Kate "Ma" Barker, who along with her twisted sons embarks on a wild anything-goes crime spree in the Deep South. Her ungodly dysfunctional brood includes a scrawny and sweaty Robert De Niro as a pathetic heroin addict, Don Stroud as a volatile, temperamental brute, and Robert Walden of TV's "Lou Grant" fame as a sniveling passive homosexual with dominating Bruce Dern as his gay lover (!). Expertly directed by legendary B-movie maestro Roger Corman from an unsparingly harsh and caustic script by Robert Thom (who also wrote the acrid screenplays for "Wild in the Streets," "Death Race 2000," and "The Witch Who Came from the Sea"), this squalid whitetrash crime melodrama packs one hell of a mean and lingering punch. Kudos are in order for the uniformly excellent acting from a first-rate cast, with especially praiseworthy work by Pat Hingle as a rich businessman who's abducted by the dastardly Barker clan and Diane Varsi as a hardened, much-abused hooker. A very young and skinny pre-stardom De Niro is a real stand-out as a pitiful junkie who resorts to sniffing glue when he can't find any smack to shoot up. (Winters actually recommended to Corman that he cast De Niro in this role.) The conclusion likewise rates as a total corker, with Winters maniacally ranting and raving like an absolute lunatic as the police surround the Barker house. Winters also played Ma Barker on the "Batman" TV show. This gritty gangster gem rates highly as one of Corman's best and most underrated movies.
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1/10
Well acted but sleazy and slow
preppy-34 February 2002
Silly psychological drama about Ma Barker and her sons who robbed and killed in the 1920s. Roger Corman directed this...it seems like he was actually trying to do a serious movie...sadly, it doesn't work at all. This movie has a following but damned if I know why.

It is very well-acted but the script and direction ramble all over the place. Also I found most of the actors dialogue unintelligible -- they're all putting on stupid Southern accents which don't help. Also, the movie is VERY sleazy. Rape, murder, incest, torture, beatings, drug abuse, homosexuality (portrayed negatively unfortunately)...you name it. I'm no prude, but this movie rubs your face in it. For instance, the opening scene has a young girl (about 13) being held down by her brothers while her father rapes her!

This is ALMOST worth seeing to see Shelley Winters chewing the scenery as Ma and Robert DeNiro before he hit it big.

All in all, a must miss.
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