Arrow Heads! Vol. 7: Pam Grier is SHEBA, BABY (1975)

Arrow Heads — Arrow Video, a subsidiary of Arrow Films, humbly describe themselves as merely a “Distributor of classic, world, cult and horror cinema on DVD & Blu-ray”. But we film geeks know them as the Britain-based bastion of the brutal and bizarre, boasting gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging and bursting with extras (often their own productions). Their collector-friendly releases had traditionally not been available in the U.S, but now Arrow has come across the pond and this column is devoted to discussing their weird and wonderful output.

Chicago detective Sheba Shayne heads back to her hometown of Louisville to check in on her father, a money-lender who is getting harassed by a mysterious group of thugs who want to coerce him into selling his business to their growing monopoly. As Andy steadfastly refuses to sell his business, the threats get nastier and more violent, inciting Sheba to fight back.

The film is for the most part a fun action-revenge romp. Sheba puts her detective skills into action, shaking goons down for information and working her way up the chain to a prattling gangster named Pilot (D’Urville Martin). The terrified Pilot and his moronic underlings have some pretty funny moments, and their comical buffoonery is one of the ways in which Sheba, Baby takes on a lighter tone than its predecessors Coffy and Foxy Brown.

But Pilot isn’t the endgame; his own boss is the elusive criminal kingpin known as “Shark” who has a hand in every dirty dealing in town. Pam gets some cool James Bond style sequences, sneaking into a private party on Shark’s yacht and capping off the film with a thrilling boat chase showdown.

While less skeevy than Pam Grier’s previous AIP hits Coffy or Foxy Brown, the PG-rated follow-up has a parallel story structure to those films: Pam gets embroiled in a conflict involving criminals threatening a family member, does a little detective work of her own, kicks butt all over town, gets caught by the bad guys, and finally triumphs with a little help from her friends.

The similarity actually has an explanation beyond simple repetition of a formula. As writer David Sheldon explains, the script actually began as an earlier version of Coffy which was scrapped when director Jack Hill took over the project and replaced it with his own.

Pam’s love interests in these movies tend to be dopey or forgettable when paired with her own amazing presence, but Austin Stoker (he of Assault On Precinct 13) provides an exception to that generalization as Brick Williams, Sheba’s old flame and her father’s junior business partner. Stoker’s sensitive performance makes him an endearing character, and his attempts to try to protect someone who doesn’t want to be coddled have a definite appeal. This is one of the few Pam Grier movies where you actually hope the romance will work out.

The first time I watched Sheba, Baby I thought it a lesser film than Coffy and Foxy Brown. While that’s still technically true, on rewatching it I liked it a lot more. It’s not as outrageous as those explosive scorchers, but the story and characters are relatable and the lighter tone a bit more relaxed.

The Package

Sheba, Baby comes to Blu-ray in a handsome new edition from Arrow Video. This edition includes newly featurettes created for this Arrow Video edition. The package includes a reversible cover, a booklet, and an art card depicting The Mutilator, another Arrow release.

Last year Olive Films released Blu-rays of Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Friday Foster, and this release fares very well against those very welcome but disappointingly barebones editions.

Special Features and Extras

Commentary by David Sheldon
 Commentary by Patty Breen
 Not one but TWO feature commentaries! David Sheldon is the film’s writer and producer, while Patty Breen is a film historian and expert on director William Girdler.

Sheldon, Baby (15:16)
 Interview with producer and writer David Sheldon, a man who wore many different hats on many different films for AIP (including Coffy and Foxy Brown). Sheldon provides an overview of his own career and Sheba, Baby in particular. He also provides one of the 2 commentaries on the disc.

Pam Grier: The AIP Years
 Chris Poggliali of Temple Of Schlock gives an informative rundown of Pam’s early career and her legendary string of films at AIP.


Image Gallery
 Publicity images, lobby cards, etc

A/V Out.

Wam! Bam! Read More About Pam!
 Coffy and Foxy Brown — Blu-ray Review
 Friday Foster — Blu-ray Review
 An Evening With Pam Grier in Kansas City

Get it at Amazon:
 [Blu-ray] | [Instant]

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