Crazy Mama (1975)

Crazy Mama (1975)

“You ladies are lunatics! You’re damn crazy!”

When a woman (Cloris Leachman) and her widowed mother (Ann Sothern) lose their beauty parlor due to lack of payments, they take Leachman’s pregnant daughter (Linda Purl) and her boyfriend (Donnie Most) on the run with them to begin a life of petty crime in hopes of earning enough money to buy back their family farm in Arkansas. Along the way, they pick up another suitor (Bryan Englund) for Purl, an elderly woman (Merie Earle) eager for action, and a lover (Stuart Whitman) for Leachman, who tries to convince his wealthy wife (Sally Kirkland) that he’s been kidnapped.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Ann Sothern Films
  • Cloris Leachman Films
  • Dick Miller Films
  • Jonathan Demme Films
  • Strong Females
  • Thieves and Criminals

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, “Jonathan Demme directed this engaging offbeat comedy made under the guise of being a typical New World crime-spree exploitation film (i.e., Bloody Mama, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase)” but that’s actually a “spirited, unpredictable film” that’s “a lot of fun” and filled with “unusual characters played with unusual freedom by a fine ensemble of actors to whom mainstream directors weren’t offering parts” (i.e., classic film star Ann Sothern).

He notes that he “particularly like[s] the odd relationships between the characters and the loyalty and affection they have for each other”:

… and (of course) he makes special note of “the kittenish Purl” who he considers “a particularly exciting find.”

Peary notes that “Demme’s direction is extremely mature” — he “obviously feels warmth for the female characters and admires their guts, intelligence, [and] resourcefulness” — and asserts that “his diners, road signs, clothes, hairdos, [and] cars perfectly capture 1958 — as does the standout rock score from that year.”

I agree with Peary that this remains a “spirited, unpredictable film” filled with plenty of jam-packed action — including a sequence in a Vegas casino (and then a chapel):

… a motorcycle race:

… a bank robbery:

… a stay at a Teepee Village:

… and much more. Watch for Jim Backus as the bank representative who kicks Leachman and Sothern out of their initial business:

… Will Sampson (Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) in a silent cameo as an Indian at a trading post:

… and, of course, Dick Miller (here playing a cop having an affair with Whitman’s wealthy wife).

Note: “Happy Days” fans will surely make note of the strategic casting of Donnie Most as a character from the 1950s.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the ensemble cast
  • Creative direction by Demme
  • The rocking ’50s soundtrack

Must See?
No, but I can see its value as a cult favorite, and it’s a must for Leachman fans.


One thought on “Crazy Mama (1975)

  1. First viewing (10/11/20). Not must-see.

    ~ however, thanks to a number of factors – a rather engaging script by Robert Thom (‘Wild in the Streets’, ‘The Legend of Lylah Clare’, etc.); lively direction by Demme; game performances and a fun soundtrack, etc. – this ends up being a more ‘respectable’ entry from the Roger Corman factory.

    Overall, I found it to be a shaggy dog-hoot but I didn’t simultaneously feel that this now-rather-obscure film needs to be hunted down by film fanatics.

Leave a Reply