Crazy Mama (1975) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is one of the better "B" movies made for the drive-in market in its dying days. Roger Corman produced, as usual. This time Jonathan Demme was the director learning his craft under Corman's wing, thus joining Martin Scorcese, Ron Howard and others who learned under Corman's production banner.

Crazy Mama is a kitschfest about a three generation bank robbing family. This time, the filmmakers bucked the formula and located the film in the 1950's instead of the 30's. The whole plot didn't really make sense in the 1950's - the story was obviously meant to take place in the Depression - but that temporal dislocation was actually a big positive, because it gave the film its best material - a great score of bebop rock hits, and a parade of 50's nostalgia - big-finned cars, Burma Shave signs, cheesy dancing cigarette commercials, klunky appliances, primitive TV shows, etc.


Cloris Leachman shows the side of her butt in a smooching scene, then shows her left breast in a scene where she is wearing a transparent top.

Linda Purl is naked (breasts, buns) in a scene where the boys open the bathroom door after her shower.

I doubt if they paid much attention to the punctilios of the 50's period detail, but I didn't notice anything out of place, and they managed to evoke the spirit of that romanticized version of the 50's that has endured in our imagination. If the period was more than leather jackets and Howdy Doody - well, who cares any more, at least in the context of a broad farce?

Although this movie is pretty raunchy, Cloris Leachman was a fairly big g-rated TV star when she made this film, and was just beginning the process of headlining new own TV series, "Phyllis", an MTM spin-off. Leachman stars as a beauty parlor operator in Long Beach, California whose shop is repossessed by the bank. Leachman decides she's never going to be in that position again, so she takes her mother and her daughter back to Arkansas to reclaim the family farm which was stolen away from them when Melba was a girl. Of course, they don't have any money, so they have to turn to a life of (inept) crime). When Melba and her gang finally return to Jerusalem, Arkansas they find out that their farmland has been turned into a country club.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Full-screen format

  • no features

It's basically a sitcom, with a sitcom level of action and humor, featuring such sitcom staples as Ralph Malph, Phyllis, Private Secretary and Mr Howell. Unlike a real sitcom, however, it is both violent and sexy, as per Corman's standard drive-in formula. It isn't as good as the 7.1 IMDb rating implies, but it is an easy watch.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews online

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Typical drive-in fare from the 70's.

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