From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Mean Mother! Sounds like a classic asskickin', soul-struttin film doesnt it? Well ITS NOT! This is one of those exploitation genre films that was falsely advertised as Blaxploitation to get audiences in the seats but in fact it was a genre mix em up that actually has two films mixed into one. When I started watching the film, the star Clifton Brown looked familiar to me. I wondered where had I seen his face before? Then I realized that Clifton Brown was actually...Dobie Gray! Who's Dobie Gray you ask? He is the singer of the 70s one hit wonder "Drift Away". Great song! Turns out that Dobie took the name Clifton Brown specifically for this movie.
The opening of the film definitely makes you think you're in for a cool Blaxploitation crime flick as we're introduced to some pimps and a hooker. Then we meet Beauregard "Bo" Jones (Dobie Gray/Clifton Brown) who is waiting not on a street corner or in a parking lot, but on a rooftop for the same pimps, so he can do a little drug deal with them. When they make the transaction, Bo hands over the drugs and he sees he's been shortchanged by the head pimp. He flips out and when the pimp's henchmen grab Bo and start to beat him up he just says: "I'm sorry, I got a little pissed off...I'll take the money". And he does. But suddenly some cops show up and a gunfight breaks out, Bo shoots almost everyone in sight which sets him up as the Mean Mother of the title. The opening credits for the movie are so cool. I was getting excited as the images of Bo flashed across the screen with the song "Meaaaaan Motherrrrrr" playing over it. "Yes! This is gonna be great", I thought to myself. The film begins and we're in....Vietnam or some place that looks like Nam'. It actually couldve been Kansas. I really dont know. This is where trouble comes into paradise. Mean Mother is changing into a war film. OK, thats no big deal. I can handle a cool Blaxploitation war flick!
The new character we meet is "Joe" (Dennis Safren) an Army soldier who along with his fellow grunts, gets attacked by the Viet Cong. Joe manages to make it out alive, only after he gets into a fistfight with one of his superiors. For some reason when I saw this go down I immediately started laughing. Was it the way these guys yelled at each other? Probably. Joe decides to split and go meet...Bo! Yep, Bo is in the Army too. Joe runs through the woods (not jungle) to meet Bo (as his hair strangely grows longer from the previous scene). When we see Bo, he is unloading a rifle into the woods...shooting at nothing. Joe comes over and says: "Hey Soul Brother" and tells Bo hes going to go AWOL and that they should stick together. Bo, being the too cool for school dude he is, tells Joe hes not going to split with him. To Bo, Joe doesn't have enough soul to hang with him. So, the two go their separate ways. This was where I was expecting the film to return to the city where Bo would be running from the fuzz and getting into more adventures.....but no.
Next we are taken to....Pakistan? where Joe (whose hair is shorter again) is trying to get to Rome. A man happens to overhear Joe's story about how he needs a passport and somehow Joe begins working for the guy. The man has been hired to rescue a foreign dignatary, so he has Joe do the job in return for enough money to get from Rome to Canada to avoid being court martialed for going AWOL. When Joe lands in Rome he is introduced to a beautiful woman named Therese (Luciana Paluzzi). The two fall in love. Meanwhile, Bo has made it to....Spain. He got from Nam to Spain? OK. Bo is chilling out at a small bar where he sees a beautiful woman show up. After some prodding, Bo the Mean Mother is turned down. But when some thugs arrive and try to pull the mysterious woman out the door, Bo intervenes and a small fight happens. Bo wins and he grabs the girl and they split. Back at the his place, it looks like Bo is going to get some, but when the girl pulls a gun on him, he knows theres not going to be any sex going on. The chick leaves him flat. I loved his next line: "Why Me?!".
Bo somehow manages to find out Joe is in Rome (the two had no contact since Nam). And he travels to meet up with him where they will both head to Canada after getting some money. Its really funny to see Dennis Safren's hair change from clean cut to sorta long each time he and Bo meet. They shouldve at least cut the guys hair to give some kind of continuity to the movie.
When I realized that Mean Mother was never going back to America and began playing like a late 60s Euro Spy film with hardly any scenes with Bo kicking ass on The Man, I knew things were going to go bad. I don't want to say this film is terrible, its slightly entertaining (honestly just enough to keep you watching) but on the other hand I looked at it as a unique artifact from the era which made it interesting to me as an exploitation film enthusiast. The only thing is, the film isnt charming enough to be a gem. To put it plainly, Mean Mother is actually a mediocre Euro crime film called Run For Your Life (1971) with some extra scenes shot a year or two after with Dobie Gray and Dennis Safren to tie both stories together as well as put it under the Blaxploitation banner. Overall, its still not a Blaxploitation film. I was thinking while watching the opening scenes, if they had actually just made a separate Blaxploitation film starring Dobie Gray by himself and patterned it after films like The Mack and Dolemite this couldve been a classic. It had potential, but that Euro crime flick ruined everything. Nevertheless, this is certainly the exact kind of film you'd wander in to see back in the 70s in a Grindhouse or at a Drive-In. The whole aspect of two different films pieced together sloppily and released under the title "Mean Mother" is a prime example of true Grindhouse exploitation promotional style. Its just too bad this actual film splicing experiment wasn't more enjoyable.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.