Sheba, Baby Blu-ray Review

Another Blaxploitation thriller from AIP starring Pam Grier during her prime

Pam Grier, the undisputed queen of Blaxploitation, made a slight move away from pure exploitation in William Girdler’s (The Manitou, Abby) Sheba, Baby. That may be why the 1975 movie is not as fondly remembered as her iconic roles in movies like Coffy and Foxy Brown.

What remains is a fairly ordinary b-movie street thriller made tolerable by Grier’s presence alone. She is still the same tough, sexy, independent female action lead that made her other Blaxploitation films so popular with audiences in the Seventies. It is not on par with her best films but mostly delivers what her fans want.

Pam Grier plays Sheba Shayne, a tough-minded private detective working in Chicago. She is called home to Louisville when her father, a legitimate businessman running a loan operation, has his store attacked by a local crime boss, Pilot (D’Urville Martin).

A nasty criminal, Pilot seems intent on pushing her father’s store out of business by any means necessary. Sheba’s old flame, Brick (Austin Stoker), helps her seek retribution against the criminals threatening her father’s life. Sheba eventually crosses paths with the wealthy criminal behind everything, Shark (Dick Merrifield), vowing to stop him.

Grier still does her thing as a female lead kicking butt and taking names, but something seems to be missing.

Sheba, Baby lacks the raw edge of her earlier AIP films. It is the fourth starring role she had with AIP and represented a nudge toward more mainstream roles for Pam Grier. That leaves a predictable b-movie script loaded with cliches. Grier still does her thing as a female lead kicking butt and taking names, but something seems to be missing. Rated PG, there is never any real threat of danger, even when people begin dying. It’s a standard tale of righteous vengeance found in lesser action movies.

It is a testament to Pam Grier’s sheer charisma that she turns Sheba, Baby into a watchable movie by herself. The Blaxploitation film would have surely been forgotten as a disposable crime thriller if not for her commanding presence on screen. Director William Girdler’s film doesn’t rank with her most iconic roles but certainly provides solid entertainment for Blaxploitation fans.

Movie ★★★☆☆

Sheba, Baby Blu-ray screen shot 8

Arrow Video has licensed this AIP movie from MGM, likely working with that studio’s prior HD transfer. This is mostly a crisp, film-like presentation of the 1975 film with excellent grain reproduction. A thorough AVC video encode on a BD-50 flawlessly handles the thick grain. The decent contrast and rich colors provide a clean, vintage feel to the video.

The 89-minute main feature is presented in its expected 1.85:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution. Taken from a fine, clean film scan of nicely preserved film elements, clarity is consistently high. Black levels are never seriously tested to their limits.

This isn’t the sharpest movie or transfer, some softness is evident in many shots. Having slagged MGM’s older vault transfers in the past, this movie’s film transfer is a noticeable improvement. There isn’t much, if any, visible processing and the level of detail indicates it was initially struck with Blu-ray video in mind.

Sheba, Baby looks better than expected as a low-budget Blaxploitation flick on Blu-ray, given a solid film-like presentation by Arrow Video.

Video ★★★★☆

Sheba, Baby comes with its original monaural soundtrack in a perfectly fine 1.0 PCM track. Its smooth, funky score and occasional music sound better than its limited sound design. Dialogue remains completely intelligible during the movie. A few limitations can be heard in the heavier action scenes. Smoothly mastered but lacking significant bass, this is a pedestrian mono mix.

Arrow Video provides optional English SDH subtitles in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Arrow includes two separate audio commentaries and a handful of exclusive new special features in this assortment. The interview with screenwriter David Sheldon is probably the highlight, though both commentaries have interesting stuff in them for hardcore fans.

  • Audio commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson – A wide-ranging commentary with a lot of practical and useless trivia connected to this film. Sheldon rambles a bit, discussing off-topic things such as Grizzly.
  • Audio commentary by Patty Breen – An engaging solo commentary by the webmaster and passionate fan behind WilliamGirdler.com. She obviously knows the movie inside and out, including a lot of lucid information in a friendly, smart manner.
  • Sheldon, Baby (15:16 in HD) – A brand new interview with writer/producer David Sheldon. He goes over his career at AIP and working with director William Girdler.
  • Pam Grier: The AIP Years (11:54 in HD) – A look over the years of the Blaxploitation queen with film historian Chris Poggiali. An informative recap of her AIP career if you aren’t familiar with the films.
  • Sheba, Baby Original Trailer (01:54 in HD)
  • Gallery featuring rare publicity images and Lobby Cards
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
  • 14-page booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of WilliamGirdler.com, illustrated with archive stills and posters

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.