After last week with The Apple, I needed a reprieve. I need a palette cleanser. I need some blaxploitation. Thank fucking god William Girdler is here to help me out – and he’s brought Pam Grier!
This is Girdler’s 1975 action flick Sheba, Baby!
Now, I’ve talked about William Girdler twice before – once on Film Seizure’s Monster Mondays show (which some asshole with the same name as me hosts… wait, I’M the asshole). First up, I did The Manitou for Monster Mondays. That was a fascinating Exorcist rip-off centered around some Native American lore. That was neat. Then, over here, just this past October, I wrote about the blaxploitation Exorcist rip-off Abby. That one was fun too. He’s an interesting director. Sadly, he was killed scouting locations in Manila, Philippines for his 10th film.
But with Sheba, Baby, obviously, the standout is Ms. Pam Grier. For the most part, she is the primary attention this movie is given. The movie didn’t get great reviews upon release, but almost none of them criticized how Grier looked in the lead role as the private investigator form Chicago, Sheba Shayne. She’s returned to her hometown of Louisville (the same location Girdler used for Abby the year before) to deal with some motherfuckin’ thugs who are trying to intimidate her father. Idiots, do not try to intimidate anyone related to, or friendly with, Pam Grier. You will get your ass beat!
Grier was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is of mixed ancestry. And by mixed, I mean African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne. Clearly, either each of those various races donated their very best genes to create Pam Grier, or that is the magic combination to create beautiful human beings. After moving around the country due to her father being in the military, she finally landed in Denver and took some interest in stage acting. Once she moved to Los Angeles, she got a job at American International Pictures where she was eventually discovered by Jack Hill who cast her in two women-in-prison classics The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. From that point forward, she rose to superstardom in blaxploitation.
Her big hits were Coffy and Foxy Brown. Of Coffy, Roger Ebert praised her for being a fantastic leading action star while still being incredibly beautiful. He also thought the idea of having a believable female lead in an action flick was a pretty big damn deal. Shit… That was over 45 years ago. Today, it is still a big damn deal to have a believable action lady leading a quality movie.
I’ll likely be focusing on exactly how awesomely gorgeous Grier is, but she’s well enough famous for most people coming to this site to know what’s up with her. I’m anxious to get right into the movie to remedy the batshit insanity of last week. So, let’s do that!
We open with a funky score and some guys pulling up across the street from Andy Shayne’s insurance company’s office. Inside, Andy’s partner Brick Williams (yes that is his name and it is awesome), says that maybe Andy do something about these thugs hasslin’ him – whether it is cut a deal or get them off their back. Andy is not interested in caving into these demands, whatever they may be. He’s goddamn stern about standing up for what’s his and not bowing to the pressure.
Outside, the toughs wait for Brick to leave. Once he does, the bad dudes outside make their way to the building with a crowbar. Thinking the place is empty, they plan to not steal anything, but just mess the joint up to show old man Shayne they mean some motherfucking business. However, they don’t realize Andy is there and he shows THEM that HE means motherfucking business too.
Unfortunately, there are too many of the bad guys and they beat up Andy but good. After landing several body blows to Andy, he collapses to the floor and those thugs take off in to the night. Cue the funky theme song and the credits.
We see Chicago in all its glory. It’s a sunny day and things seem to be doin’ just fine. Speaking of fine, we see Pam Grier walking down the street. It is quite obvious that whatever completes the below statement is absolutely true in every possible way.
I love that the theme song’s chorus goes “She’s a dangerous lady/And she’s well put together”. This is true. Again… If that said “PAM GRIER IS” and we were told that she is a “Dangerous lady”, that is correct. If we are told that she is “Well put together”, that too is correct. You put both those things together, and, fuck yes, you get all the bonus points for completing the statement at its fullest maximum completion.
So, yes, this is Sheba Shayne. She’s a Chicago private eye. Nobody fucks with her because, duh, she is a dangerous lady. Her partner, Racker, gives her a telegram that was sent a couple days previously while she was out of the office. The telegram is from Brick and says that her father’s life is in danger and he’s in serious trouble. She scolds Racker for not contacting her sooner and then decides to head out on the first Eastern Airlines flight from Chicago to luxurious Louisville. She meets up with Brick and he tells her what’s going on with her father and that the demands are simple – sell out or be killed.
Sheba, being a well put together and dangerous lady says that they now have a fight on their hands.
Sheba tries to get the lowdown from her father, but he doesn’t want her to get involved. He thinks she’s out of her depth. He’s not exactly favorable toward her line of work. She and Brick are concerned about them, but that only intensifies when there’s a call while she’s at the house from a “smooth-talkin'”, erm, fella by the name of Pilot. Pilot is calling many times a day trying to get Andy to sell and get the fuck out or face the consequences.
Pilot calls again, but this time at the office. And this is when we get to see Pilot. He’s played by the great D’Urville Martin. Martin was in a whole bunch of significant movies, but mostly bit parts until the blaxploitation age. He would gain the most notoriety for directing Dolemite. He is over the top in every scenario and absolutely amazing. If you saw the wonderful Dolemite Is My Name from 2019, he was played attitudinally perfect by Wesley Snipes.
But Martin is also perfect in Sheba, Baby. Here is the proof. He calls up Andy, threatens him, but this time, he’s not just a voice on the other end of a phone. We get to see him and what’s he doing? Everything we all would have ever wanted to do as criminal masterminds…
He’s fuckin’ bitches. God dammit… Everything about this shot is perfect. D’Urville’s doofy grin. The women obviously being paid to fondle him. The one girl is actually holding the phone for him. And we have a token white bitch for him too. Perfect. This is the chef’s kiss that makes these early moments of Sheba, Baby perfection.
Andy decides to have a conversation with Pilot. Pilot is surprised by this. Why? Because he didn’t expect Andy to talk. So he rigged a bomb to the ignition of his car that will explode 10 seconds after the car starts. This is the car that Sheba just borrowed to use for the day. After Andy and Brick save Sheba, she is PISSED. This was exactly why she said he could not handle this situation alone and without her no matter how dead set he was.
And she’s giving him some fiery sass over it.
Sheba goes to the cops to meet with a homicide detective and while he does know Sheba and likes her and her father, he’s unable to provide protection for Andy. So she decides she is totally taking these matters into her own hands.
She goes to a factory or some sort of… place. I’m not sure that OSHA is very good in and around Louisville, Kentucky…
Sheba goes to see this fool to ask if this guy wired her dad’s car to explode. He claims he knows nothing, but Sheba knows better. She used to be a cop in this town and she starts roughing his ass up. She dunks his head into some powered chlorine. He tells her some info about something going on at midnight. If he’s wrong or telling her some bullshit to get her off his ass, she’s coming back and going to keep kicking his ass with chlorine.
Later, she spends the day with Brick and they start to rekindle a past relationship they had. She tells him what the dude at the chlorine factory said, but Brick isn’t so sure she’s going to be able to solve the problem. Brick wants to solve the issue with logic, but Sheba, again, knows better. These fools don’t know what the word “logic” means. She’s not even sure they know how to spell it and that they’ll just shoot and ask later. That’s Brick’s issue. He doesn’t want her to get into a shootout with the guys, but I kinda feel like she’s itching to blow some motherfuckers’ heads off.
Things take a different turn after this little blow up about how to deal with these jerks. Something very clear comes into focus. The energy of people named “Brick” and “Sheba” should not be allowed to come together by way of sex. The world will explode. Life will not survive.
Well, fuck. We’re dead everyone. This planet has been destroyed.
After she gets the good dick and he got the good vagooz, Brick decides he will help Sheba in any way he can – even if violence happens. He admits that he’s really concerned about future world-destroying poon action if he doesn’t help her out. I mean… I get it. I totally get it. That’s Pam fuckin’ Grier.
So they go to the supposed meeting for the bad dudes and she interrupts by first ramming a thug with Brick’s car and then starting to shoot the place up. We do get some further information right before Sheba so rudely interrupted this meeting. Pilot is taking over all the loan shops in the black neighborhoods. I’m guessing the plan is to being sharking people. And, yes, black folk once upon a time had to set up their own loan banks because regular banks that most people would go to would refuse, and could do so legally, to give money to blacks. This was eventually, supposedly overturned by the end of the 70s, but new rules took effect to continue to discriminate against blacks. It wasn’t until the 90s that ALL those rules would be expunged. That’s not to say that banks may continue to look at an application and refuse due to various things that might indicate someone’s race, ethnicity, or class, but that’s what credit scores have done. It just so happens that minorities and poor folk STILL have shit credit scores anyway – due to other systemic issues with class structures. I digress… Pilot has almost taken all the loan shops except for Andy Shayne’s.
Pilot did escape despite Sheba having him in her sights. You see, Brick stopped her from shooting. I’m not sure why except for maybe to prevent from her from killing someone in retreat? Anyway, Pilot is pissed off now. He is giving a pep talk to his goons about giving Sheba some trouble since she has given him so much trouble herself.
The next day, while Sheba and Brick come to the realization that the common thread between all the loan joints being troubled by Pilot are that they are insured by the same company, Pilot sends in some shotgun-wielding goons. Andy tries to tell the gunmen that he’s not going going to do anything they demand but Sheba is wise to calm his ass down. Brick tries his patented “logic” but they aren’t there to steal anything, they are there to redecorate. They start shooting the place up. Sheba goes for a gun, and Andy follows, but in the confusion, the main gunman shoots Andy right in the gut. Sheba does not do the same to the bad guys. She shoots them in the eye, the head, the chest, pretty much everything far more immediately deadly than the gut.
Just as the cops show up, she is about to shoot the last gunman but she’s talked down from basically murdering a man who has dropped his gun. An ambulance is called for Andy, but damn, it’s not looking too good. Most of the time, a shotgun blast to the gut is, like, death…? But he’s in the hospital, no oxygen, no machinery, no nuthin’. Sheba tells him that when he gets out of there, she’s going to take him to Chicago where they can do things like sail on Lake Michigan and eat at all the best places, but, as the song tells us, “A Good Man Is Gone”.
Yeah, Andy’s dead. Sheba is sad, but I bet she’s gonna kick some motherfuckers’ asses onto their heads and their heads into their asses. Her cop buddy tries to tell her all he’s doing, but she doesn’t want to hear it. I suspect she wants to fuck some dudes up. Speaking of dudes that Sheba is gonna fuck up, Pilot is pissed at the guys who hired the gunmen for Andy being shot. The one surviving gunman is squawkin’ for the cops and telling them what he knows. But what’s more, he warns them that Andy better not die or else… Oops.
Anyway, time for a Pimp Break.
This is “#1” and #1 don’t jive. He also loan sharks. He’s loaning this gentleman some money. I’ve heard that #1 is highly accredited by the Better Business Bureau. He’s got some information that might just be useful for Sheba. When he doesn’t make with the info and runs away, she doesn’t chase him. She just hides his own backseat so when he thinks he’s lost her, he goes back to his car and drives into the carwash, she’s got him nice and trapped.
Look, ain’t nobody say pimps are very smart.
He tells her about Pilot and that he has a pad in a particular apartment complex. For his trouble she sticks his head into the car wash’s buffer. The buffer turns #1 into a weird amalgamation of Richard Pryor and Chris Rock.
Sheba shows up at the apartments and starts getting chased by some crazy ass fools in a car and shot at by another couple dudes. So she just starts murdering like any good action hero. But this scene is pretty fucking rad. There are cars going over embankments and Sheba just running out in the open with people chasing and shooting at her. She sneaks into a carnival and some of the pursuers get picked off by cops. She is able to grab one guy thinking she might have nabbed pilot but it is not. Pilot seeing that one of his lackeys might be close to giving up the goods, so he shoots him. Sheba chases him and catches him under a roller coaster. She tells him to give him the info before the roller coaster runs his head over.
He tells her that the only thing he knows about his boss is that he goes by the name “Shark” and what his number is. Meanwhile, the coppers are really pissed at Sheba and orders Brick to get her out of town or they’ll shut him down. Like a real investigator, Sheba calls the operator to see what she can find out about this “Shark” fella. It’s a “marine” number so the operator connects her and finds out that Shark is hosting a party on a yacht. So she asks how to get there. Simple as that. See? All you gotta do is just ask questions and people answer them. How hard is this for the cops?
Also, it kinda helps when Pam Grier shows up to the party looking like this:
A tall, dark, and smarmy white dude steps up and wants to get to know this woman who suddenly showed up. She promises that they will get to be real good friends. Again, being a perfect investigator, she begins working the room and starting a cat fight with some blonde bitch who was clinging to Shark. While she rolls around with this bitch giving us all something far more interesting to look at than anything ever, Pilot arrives at the party to tell Shark he’s gotta be careful because Sheba’s comin’ for him.
It’s then that he notices what pretty much no one else can look away from…
Sheba beats a hasty retreat into the water, but she knows what Shark looks like now. However, that doesn’t get Pilot off the hook. Shark plans to start cleaning up some messes. One of which is to kill Pilot. Sheba returns to the coast of the Ohio Rivier (remember, this takes place in Louisville that is well known for having smarmy bastards with yachts) in a fucking wetsuit like she’s some sort of chocolate lady James Bond. Guys, I love this movie so much.
Sheba is now sneaking aboard the yacht and carefully knocking guys out to prevent making too much noise until she absolutely has to. She gets ambushed and caught by Shark. And just like chocolate lady James Bond, she decides to seduce Shark. Guys, this movie is wonderful.
Now, understand this. This all starts with Shark saying he has to kill her. Sheba reminds him that everyone at his party saw her. He says that she left quick. She asks if that bruised his masculinity. He says it will take more than one woman to do that. She tries seducing him. He comes close. She kicks him in the balls. This is the best movie ever made.
When Brick comes into the office, he notices the phone number and the name of the boat that Sheba had. He calls the cops and asks about it. Finds out that the yacht is owned by a guy named Merrill and he’s a really rich guy who “has all the answers”. Brick tells them he thinks she’s gotten herself into trouble.
On the boat, Sheba grabs a knife she finds on the floor and breaks off the handle for easier storage in her suit. On the shore of the mighty Ohio River, some goons are gonna tie a rope from the back of a boat to Pilot and drag him into the water to kill him. Shark has Sheba come to the deck to watch so she gets an idea of what will be happening to her. He also explains that Andy owed him a bunch of money in premium payments so he’s going to get her dads loan shop anyway.
They plan to do the exact same to her that they did to pilot, but she jumps into the water before the boat can drag her, she is able to use the knife to cut her rope. The cops approach and Shark gets away, but, like a fucking bad ass, Sheba shoots some guys and uses a fucking jet ski to commandeer a boat to chase Shark while the cops and Shark’s goons blow each other away.
We basically are finishing things on a giant climax the likes of which never before seen to the residents of New Albany, Indiana. It’s just insanity on the level of a Roger Moore Bond film. Guns never run out of bullets, except when Sheba’s does despite Shark using a revolver that he never reloads, but it doesn’t matter because Sheba finally gets shark in the back with a harpoon and he crashes into a stoner’s house boat that promptly explodes in a ball of fire the likes of which seen pretty much every other weekend down at the old meth factory in New Albany, Indiana.
Sheba reunites with Brick and decides to help Brick clean up the Shayne Loan Company. She decides to return to Chicago. Brick doesn’t want her to go, and she doesn’t want him to leave the good thing he has in the extremely exciting world of Louisville. They share a long kiss and she leaves bringing one of the most perfect movies ever made to a close. If you don’t believe that this movie is one of the most perfect movies ever made, then let me just say this.
I’m only sort of kidding. This movie is amazingly fun. I mean, Sheba is hot as fuck, she murders bad guys like they are an infestation of rats, and she kicked the main bad guy in the balls. She also buffered a pimp’s face in a car wash. She nearly squashed D’Urville Martin’s face with a roller coaster. She picked a girl fight with some bitchy blonde Barbie chick just so she would be remembered in case Shark wanted to kill her. She shot many, many people, guys. I really do love this movie.
Alas, I do have to close things out. We’ll start with me telling everyone to check out the B-Movie Enema YouTube Channel because tomorrow’s episode of B-Movie Enema: The Series is a peculiar one. Definitely one that belongs on the show. It’s Microwave Massacre. So be sure to join me for that. As for next week’s regular Friday article, I just couldn’t stay away from Caitlan O’Heaney very long. I need to take a look at the early slasher He Knows You’re Alone, so be sure to come back here on March 5 to see what the haps is with that horror flick! See you then!