Bloody Mama (1970)

90 mins | Melodrama | 24 March 1970

Director:

Roger Corman

Writer:

Robert Thom

Producer:

Roger Corman

Cinematographer:

John Alonzo

Editor:

Eve Newman
Full page view
HISTORY

The 11 Jan 1968 DV listed the film among upcoming releases from American International Pictures (AIP). Six months later, the 18 Jun 1968 DV noted that the project was postponed, due to negative public reaction to gun violence, following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. On 12 Mar 1969, DV reported that screenwriter Robert Thom, along with actors Roddy McDowall and Jordan Christopher, planned to revive the production. Neither McDowall nor Christopher participated in the completed film.
       The 7 Aug 1969 DV reported that producer-director Roger Corman and co-producer Norman Herman were traveling to Bull Shoals, AR, to begin filming. Actress Shelley Winters, cast as title character “Kate ‘Ma’ Barker,” told the 24 Aug 1969 LAT that she was required to dye her hair red and take singing lessons for the role. She described her character as “a primitive” who was devoted only to her sons, for whom she spent over $1 million in legal fees. The 26 Sep 1969 DV listed “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier,” “Poor Butterfly,” “There’s Nothing Like A Mother,” and “Keep The Home Fires Burning” among the songs performed by Winters. The 13 Aug 1969 DV stated that Winters wanted Richard Tate, to whom she was “semi-engaged,” to appear as her husband in the film, but it was unlikely that he would join the cast. The role was later assumed by Alex Nicol. Principal photography began 12 Aug 1969, according to 15 Aug 1969 DV production charts.
       The 25 Aug ... More Less

The 11 Jan 1968 DV listed the film among upcoming releases from American International Pictures (AIP). Six months later, the 18 Jun 1968 DV noted that the project was postponed, due to negative public reaction to gun violence, following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. On 12 Mar 1969, DV reported that screenwriter Robert Thom, along with actors Roddy McDowall and Jordan Christopher, planned to revive the production. Neither McDowall nor Christopher participated in the completed film.
       The 7 Aug 1969 DV reported that producer-director Roger Corman and co-producer Norman Herman were traveling to Bull Shoals, AR, to begin filming. Actress Shelley Winters, cast as title character “Kate ‘Ma’ Barker,” told the 24 Aug 1969 LAT that she was required to dye her hair red and take singing lessons for the role. She described her character as “a primitive” who was devoted only to her sons, for whom she spent over $1 million in legal fees. The 26 Sep 1969 DV listed “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier,” “Poor Butterfly,” “There’s Nothing Like A Mother,” and “Keep The Home Fires Burning” among the songs performed by Winters. The 13 Aug 1969 DV stated that Winters wanted Richard Tate, to whom she was “semi-engaged,” to appear as her husband in the film, but it was unlikely that he would join the cast. The role was later assumed by Alex Nicol. Principal photography began 12 Aug 1969, according to 15 Aug 1969 DV production charts.
       The 25 Aug 1969 DV reported that Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller promised the company “full cooperation of every state agency,” in hopes of attracting more film production to his state. A report five days later noted that the cast and crew were escorted by the State Highway Patrol from Bull Shoals to Little Rock, AR, due to concerns over possible violence resulting from an African American “poverty march” on 24 Aug 1969. Winters appeared in a nude scene, bathing her character’s four adult sons while she remained fully clothed. According to the 29 Aug 1969 DV, the excessive nudity led Arkansas College professor of speech and drama John Homesley to leave the production in protest, along with three of his students. Prior to filming, Homesley wrote three letters to Roger Corman asking to join the company as the “contact for hiring local people.” Corman accepted the request and sent Homesley a copy of the screenplay. He also cast the three students in minor roles. In the early morning of 26 Aug 1969, Homesley and his students quit, leaving behind a note expressing their disappointment in the film. Norman Herman was somewhat surprised by the Homesley’s reaction, as the professor was among the first to see the screenplay. Homesley described the experience as the hardest work he had ever done, but admitted that he was paid well.
       As stated in the 12 Sep 1969 DV, actor Don Stroud was injured during a scene filmed on Lake Faulkner, in which he and co-star Bruce Dern were firing a machine gun at an alligator from a rowboat. Still photographer Michael J. Freeman attempted to board for a close-up of the actors and up-ended the boat, casting himself and Dern into the water. Stroud grabbed the barrel of the machine gun and burned his hand. Four days later, the 16 Sep 1969 DV announced the company’s return to Los Angeles, CA. Corman later told the 24 Sep 1969 DV that local residents protested a nude scene set in a cemetery, even though the owner had given permission. A golf course scene, featuring three scantily-clad young women, was planned as the final shot to avoid any further interference. Corman noted that he encountered no difficulty in finding three willing actresses. Governor Rockefeller honored Corman, Winters, and Herman by declaring them “Honorary Arkansas Travelers.”
       An article on AIP in the 14 Dec 1969 LAT included the advertising slogan, “The meanest brood of hoodlums ever spawned. Only a mother could love THEM. Only a mother like…Bloody Mama.” The 7 Jan 1970 DV reported that a public controversy over another slogan, “The Family That Slays Together Stays Together,” resulted in its removal of an advertising billboard from Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, CA.
       Bloody Mama premiered 24 Mar 1970 in Little Rock. According to the 5 Feb 1970 DV, the premiere was quickly followed by 300 engagements across the southern U.S., sixty-five of which were in Arkansas. The picture opened 9 Apr 1970 in Los Angeles, and 6 May 1970 in New York City. Reviews were grudgingly positive, despite the picture’s excessive violence, technical flaws, and historic inaccuracies. Several accused AIP of attempting to capitalize on the success of Bonnie and Clyde (1967, see entry). Public response was enthusiastic, resulting in earnings of $1,167,390 over a nine-month period, as reported in the 12 May 1971 Var.
       The 14 May 1970 DV noted that Bloody Mama was screened that day at the British Film Institute (BFI), as part of a Corman retrospective. One month later, the 15 Jun 1970 DV announced that British censors banned the film. It met the same fate in France, according to the 20 Aug 1970 DV, until later that year, when the 6 Nov 1970 DV reported that the ban had been lifted.
       The 6 Dec 1970 LAT credited George Barris with designing the custom antique car used in the picture. A model kit of the vehicle was issued by an unidentified company.
       Paperback Library published a novelization of the screenplay, as stated in the 17 Mar 1970 NYT. According to the 5 Aug 1969 DV, former journalist Earl Wingard was hired as unit publicist. Wingard had written a series of syndicated articles in the 1950s on well-known “public enemies,” based on files from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
       A full-page advertisement in the 8 May 1970 DV revealed that AIP ignored union requirements by refusing to hire a sound recorder, employing only a mixer for the Bloody Mama shoot. International Sound Technicians Local 695 brought a complaint against the company and won.
       The 6 Jul 1970 DV reported that Cinemobile technician Jerry Allen was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly after production was completed, and was killed while fighting in Cambodia.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Aug 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Aug 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1969
p. 2, 5.
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1969
p. 2, 4.
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1969
p. 5.
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1969
p. 19.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Sep 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1969
p. 16.
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1970
p. 1.
Daily Variety
5 Feb 1970
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1970
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1970
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 May 1970
p. 5.
Daily Variety
14 May 1970
p. 6.
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1970
p. 7.
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1970
p. 9.
Daily Variety
6 Jul 1970
p. 4.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1970
p. 1.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1970
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1969
Section O, p. 1, 24.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1969
Section J, p. 1, 18.
Los Angeles Times
29 Dec 1969
Section E, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1970
Section G, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
17 Apr 1970
Section G, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
6 Dec 1970
Section W, p. 13.
New York Times
17 Mar 1970
p. 40.
New York Times
6 May 1970
p. 48.
New York Times
7 May 1970
p. 71.
New York Times
24 May 1970
Section X, p. 13.
Variety
12 May 1971
p. 36.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp & dir
Mus supv
SOUND
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Opt eff
Title des
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Vis cons
Prop master
Key grip
Stunt coordinator
Our man in Arkansas
SOURCES
SONGS
"Bloody Mama," words and music by Don Randi, Guy Hemric and Bob Silver, perf by Bigfoot.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 March 1970
Premiere Information:
Little Rock, Arkansas, premiere: 24 March 1970
Los Angeles opening: 9 April 1970
New York opening: 6 May 1970
Production Date:
12 August--mid September 1969
Copyright Claimant:
American International Pictures
Copyright Date:
25 March 1970
Copyright Number:
LP37775
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
print by Movielab
Duration(in mins):
90
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Raped by her brothers at age seven, Ma Barker exacts absolute loyalty from her four sons, sadistic Herman, narcotics addict Lloyd, soft-spoken Arthur, and homosexual Fred. During the Depression Ma and her brood leave passive Pa Barker and the Ozarks to begin a criminal career. While robbing a ferryboat eldest son Herman loses his temper and stomps a passenger to death. To console Herman, Ma sleeps with him. Apprehended robbing a picnic, Fred and Herman are incarcerated. In prison Fred succumbs to the advances of Kevin Dirkman, who becomes Ma's lover upon release. Over her protests Herman introduces his mistress, the prostitute Mona, into the band. After Lloyd rapes local resident Rembrandt, Ma, Herman, and Kevin drown the girl in the bathtub. Later Lloyd dies of a drug overdose. The gang then kidnaps congenial multi-millionaire Sam Adams Pendlebury. Upon payment of the ransom Ma insists that the hostage be killed. Her sons, however, release the multi-millionaire and Herman assumes command of the band. At their Lake Weir hideout Herman and Kevin unknowingly reveal their identities by firing machine guns at an alligator. Trapped by police, the Barkers fight to the finish, Ma being the last to ... +


Raped by her brothers at age seven, Ma Barker exacts absolute loyalty from her four sons, sadistic Herman, narcotics addict Lloyd, soft-spoken Arthur, and homosexual Fred. During the Depression Ma and her brood leave passive Pa Barker and the Ozarks to begin a criminal career. While robbing a ferryboat eldest son Herman loses his temper and stomps a passenger to death. To console Herman, Ma sleeps with him. Apprehended robbing a picnic, Fred and Herman are incarcerated. In prison Fred succumbs to the advances of Kevin Dirkman, who becomes Ma's lover upon release. Over her protests Herman introduces his mistress, the prostitute Mona, into the band. After Lloyd rapes local resident Rembrandt, Ma, Herman, and Kevin drown the girl in the bathtub. Later Lloyd dies of a drug overdose. The gang then kidnaps congenial multi-millionaire Sam Adams Pendlebury. Upon payment of the ransom Ma insists that the hostage be killed. Her sons, however, release the multi-millionaire and Herman assumes command of the band. At their Lake Weir hideout Herman and Kevin unknowingly reveal their identities by firing machine guns at an alligator. Trapped by police, the Barkers fight to the finish, Ma being the last to fall. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.