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  Super Bitch Little Bad Mama
Year: 1973
Director: Massimo Dallamano
Stars: Ivan Rassimov, Stephanie Beacham, Patricia Hayes, Verna Harvey, Ettore Manni, James Bate, Ben Carra, Luciano Catanucci, Massimo Dallamano, Jackie Gambino, Tutte Lemkow, Cec Linder, Abdel Majid Majzaub, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Michael Sheard, Gareth Thomas
Genre: Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Inspector Cliff Hoyst (Ivan Rassimov) is an undercover cop trying to bust a drugs smuggling ring working internationally - and maybe line his own pockets too, if he can get away with it. When he arrives at the airport he is met by his contact who fills him in on the exploits of the gang they are meant to be targeting, led by one Mama the Turk (Patricia Hayes), a ruthless gangster who oversees her operations with an iron grip thanks to her family and henchmen's devotion to the ageing but sharp-witted woman. Cliff has his work cut out if he means to outwit her, but as the trail leads to London, he thinks he's up to the job...

One of the strangest items of casting in all of the Italian police thriller genre of the seventies was to have British comedy actress Hayes, a specialist in vinegary old lady roles for decades, in the role of a tough talking, two fisted, even hard driving hoodlum. But here she was nonetheless, apparently having a rare old time as the villain, a far cry from her regular sitcom parts in television, getting into a high speed car chase within minutes of her initial appearance, and coming out the vehicular victor as if she had been a budding Jackie Stewart all along - you had to assume it was a stuntman behind the wheel of the sports car she drove, but it didn't half look as if she was in the driver's seat herself.

Even once you had got used to that image, or succession of images, director Massimo Dallamano had more surprises up his sleeve thanks to a cast befitting an Italian-British co-production: was that Roj Blake from Blake's 7 tailing Rassimov or Mr Bronson from Grange Hill getting a bullet in the head, for example? They sure were, Gareth Thomas and Michael Sheard respectively, the sort of thing which can enliven a run of the mill thriller when they aren't as well known as the actor's other work. But if pride of place wasn't taken by Patricia in those stakes, then she had a rival in Stephanie Beacham, future star of TV supersoap Dynasty in the eighties, here paying the bills in between Shakespeare on stage with a sleazy, frequently unclothed role.

But the question remained, who was the Super Bitch (actually the video title), was it Pat or Steph? Or was it even Ivan as one of his accustomed schemer characters? There was always the other lady in the cast, Verna Harvey, a nearly woman of this decade who made a minor impact as one of the degraded kids in Michael Winner's Turn of the Screw prequel The Nightcomers, but wasn't able to consolidate that to a more lasting career in acting; she played Mama's daughter Eva, part of a gang who show up in London halfway through who seem more intent on accompanying themselves musically than anything else. Familiar face Tutte Lemkow was their leader (under Mama), apparently because he was the one playing guitar at their singalongs, no matter how violent they were getting.

Beacham was Joanne, part of a scam to separate rich businessmen from their money which involved persuading them into sex games (she appears as a bunny girl of sorts here) while unaware they are being filmed by a secret camera. The result? Ample blackmail opportunities, but Joanne's boyfriend Cliff reckons he can take her away from all this if he manages to play one gang in America against Mama's brood (appropriately, Dallamano was cinematographer on A Fistful of Dollars). With the heroin smuggled inside a statue, the stage is set for a bloodbath as Cliff's corrupt ways see to it he emerges a million dollars better off, and everyone else a lot poorer, not that this was as straightforward as that, as it threw in twists right up to the end credits. Neither a neglected gem nor a complete waste of time, Super Bitch was a bog standard police thriller from the golden age of Italian exploitation, sure to entertain on a fair enough level, though not doing a whole lot other than with its casting. Laid back music by Riz Ortolani.

Aka: Si può essere più bastardi dell'ispettore Cliff?, Blue Movie Blackmail
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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