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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Sheba, Baby [Blu-ray]

 

(William Girdler, 1975)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: American International Pictures (AIP)

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:29:41.667

Disc Size: 32,649,929,634 bytes

Feature Size: 26,594,848,320 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: February 8th-9th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Audio commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson

Audio commentary with Patty Breen
Sheldon: Baby - a brand new interview with David Sheldon (15:16)
Pam Grier: The AIP Years - a look over the wonder years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali (11:54)
Trailer (1:54)
Gallery featuring rare publicity images and Lobby Cards (18)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of WilliamGirdler.com, illustrated with archive stills and posters

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Fresh off her career defining roles for Jack Hill in Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier returned to pure Blaxploitation (after turns in Blaxploitation-horror and action), in cult filmmaker William Girdler's (The Manitou, Abby) 'Sheba, Baby'...

Grier plays Sheba Shayne, a private eye based in Chicago who is called to her hometown to stop the local mob boss (played by "that bad D'Urville Martin", Black Caesar, Dolemite) from moving in on her father's loan business. Aided by her father's partner, Brick Williams (Austin Stoker, Assault on Precinct 13, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), Sheba finds out that the violent thugs aren't going go away with a fight. Car bombs, gun fights and boat chases ensue whilst armed with her curves, street smarts and a .44, Sheba is in for a bloodbath!

 

 

The Film:

Pam Grier was the unquestioned queen of blaxploitation in the 1970s, and for a good reason -- she was strong, beautiful and charismatic, and if she'd arrived on the scene a decade or two later when there were more diverse roles available for African-American actors, she might have become a major mainstream movie star like Angela Bassett or Halle Berry. But in the 1970s, Grier found herself doing most of her work in low-budget action vehicles for New World Pictures and American International Pictures, and Sheba Baby is a movie that Grier pretty much carries on her shoulders. William Girdler's screenplay is patchy and never does an especially good job of explaining just why the bad guys are trying to shut down a bunch of black-owned businesses (beyond simply being bad guys), and his direction is herky-jerky, failing to maintain a consistent pace or give the picture a compelling visual sense (in the party sequence, he seems to think that repeatedly cutting to folks eating cheese and crackers equals decadent elegance). And while there are a few other strong personalities in the cast (most notably Austin Stoker, who went on to star in John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, and D'urville Martin, a blaxpolitation regular who both co-starred in and directed the frantic Rudy Ray Moore classic Dolemite), they don't get much to do in this story. That leaves Pam Grier as Sheba Shayne, and she makes the movie worth watching despite its many faults. Grier is seriously sexy here, even with a PG rating preventing her from showing much skin, and she brings a fresh and natural attitude to her performance -- strong without being cocky, cool without feeling forced -- that overcomes the flawed script and helps her make Sheba a character worth watching. Pam Grier made a number of films better than this, and in 1997 Quentin Tarantino finally gave her the sort of well-written star showcase she long deserved with Jackie Brown, but Sheba Baby does show why she became such a favorite with the grindhouse audience back in the day -- she was a strong and beautiful leading lady with spunk to spare, and even in a mediocre movie she carries herself like a star of the first order.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

 

Private eye Sheba Shayne plays a lone hand against a gang of racketeers trying to take over her father's business. Any 'generic significance' claimed for Pam Grier's movies clearly dissipated long before this travesty, where jive-talkin', posturing blacks conform so closely to stereotype that they are not merely uninteresting but offensive. Not only do all the characters behave as the epitome of the urban 'street nigger', they have all assimilated the American Dream without question: a dream of patronising liberalism, non-confrontation and self-fulfillment, here clearly used to keep everyone in their places.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

This is the another Arrow Blu-ray release that is being simultaneously released in both region 'A' (US) and 'B' (UK). It is the exact same package on both sides of the pond to the best of our knowledge.

 

NOTE: As Michael Brooke informed us on Facebook in regards to Day of Anger: 'As the producer of Arrow's release, I can confirm first hand that the UK and US discs are absolutely identical: we only paid for one master, so there's no doubt about this at all! Which means that no matter which package you buy, the discs will play in any Region A or B setup (or Region 1 or 2 for DVD - and in the latter case the video standard is NTSC, to maximise compatibility). The booklets are also identical, but there are minor cosmetic differences on the disc labels and sleeve to do with differing copyright info and barcodes, and the US release doesn't have BBFC logos.' Their Sheba, Baby Blu-ray is the same situation.

 

Sheba, Baby gets an max'ed out dual-layer transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow.  Its attributes are the grain and the video quality is consistent throughout. Nothing is particularly dynamic beyond that but the presentation as film-like. The 1080P produces a strong replication of the original production with modest depth in the 1.85:1 frame. This is 'it' for Sheba, Baby.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow use an authentic linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit). The effects pack more of a punch than you might expect. Alex Brown + Monk Higgins are credited with the score for their numbers She Did It and A Good Man Is Gone but there is also the 'theme' by Barbara Mason and her song I'm In Love With You written by Cloteal Cleveland. It sounds predictably flat but clean and clear.. There are optional English subtitles. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' + 'B'.

 

Extras :

Arrow really stack the extras again with 2 audio commentaries. A first with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson and a second with Patty Breen webmaster of WilliamGirdler.com covering many interesting details of the genre, Pam Grier and this production. Sheldon: Baby - is a brand new - Arrow produced, 15-minute, interview with David Sheldon where he discusses Sheba, baby and his working relationship with William Girdler. Pam Grier: The AIP Years - is a 12-minute examination of the wonder years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali - shot exclusively for Arrow in October 2015. There is also a trailer and a gallery featuring rare 18 publicity images and Lobby Cards. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips as well as a liner notes booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, illustrated with archive stills and posters.

 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I've seen plenty of Pam Grier Blaxpolitation flics now and they do grow on you. Sheba, Baby is formulaic but she retains her defiant charm. Not her best effort but still some fun to be had. The film really is 'all her'. The Arrow Blu-ray provides as strong an a/v presentation as you are likely to find for this effort and the supplements add significant value - probably more than the film deserves. This is more suited to Grier's fanbase and those rare students of this addictive genre. For those individuals we absolutely recommend. 

Gary Tooze

February 3rd, 2016

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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