Sam Sherman is the King of DVD commentaries. Listening to his audio tracks on movies ranging from THE NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES to FEMALE ANIMAL is the closest thing to living the 1970's exploitation scene as a kid who grew up in the 1990's can get. Expansive and detailed, Sherman hits on everything from the evolution of an actor's career to the marketability of the final product, a subject he spends a good bit of time on with MEAN MOTHER, a U.S.-Italian production with a long and arduous history.
Directed by Leon Klimovsky and Albert Victor (aka Al Adamson)
Written by Charles Johnson and Joy Garrison
Directors of Photography - Louis Harvath and Emilio Foriscot
Joe - Dennis Safren
Beau - Clifton Brown (aka Dobie Gray)
Joy - Tracy King
Terry - Luciana Paluzzi
When released in the U.S., MEAN MOTHER was billed as a blaxploitation picture with an emphasis on actor Dobie Gray. To the sell the point that he's the star, both the credits and the pre-title sequence focus on Gray. The truth of the matter is that Dobie appears in roughly 13 of the final feature. Originally, he appeared in none.
As Sherman discusses in his commentary, the original movie imported to the U.S. was titled EL HOMBRE QUE VINO DEL ODIO, and followed Joe, played by Dennis Safren, a U.S. soldier AWOL from his tour of duty in Vietnam and caught up with European jewel smugglers in Rome. After being edited down with most of the dramatic elements removed, the remaining hard-boiled crime elements make up the majority of what will be eventually be known as International-Independent Pictures MEAN MOTHER.
Producer Sherman and directing partner Al Adamson didn't see a marketable movie with EL HOMBRE QUE VINO DEL ODIO, and decided to beef up the action and sex with a new, parallel story of another soldier from Joe's platoon who also went AWOL, Beau. Also in Rome, Beau has his own troubles to deal with in the form of bandits on the hunt for gold plates (I think). To sell the two stories as one, Sherman and Adamson also shot new footage of Safren with Gray.
The new, and more U.S. marketable, movie doesn't always work. Even Sherman admits he really needs to pay attention to follow the action. Relying solely on plot highpoints, both stories are underdeveloped and do little to complement the other. To bridge the gaps in logic and time, the dialogue contains more exposition than an entire week of daytime soap operas. The result is tediously painful to watch.
Other Sherman-Adamson titles released by EI Cinema's various video labels, Shock-o-Rama and Seduction Cinema, such as the previously mentioned NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES, aren't merely product's of their times but a reflection of them. MEAN MOTHER feels empty and hollow. There's little substance to support the characters. Even with the Vietman era sequences meant to provide backstory, little goes toward character. How much of this from EL HOMBRE QUE VINO DEL ODIO is lost on the cutting room floor, I'll never know.
The DVD presentation is standard for EI's Shock-O-Rama label with a trailer vault and Sherman's enjoyable commentary. The print quality if often muddy and murky, a far cry from the glorious transfer for FEMALE ANIMAL, the richest-looking title movie in EI's catalogue.