Thursday, January 26, 2017

RIVERBOAT MAMA - DVD-R REVIEW

Hackneyed in its conception, Bob Favourite’s RIVERBOAT MAMA (1969) is about as cheap as they get, which is immediately demonstrated by credits handwritten on the backs of numerous publicity photos of the film’s top-heavy star Morganna, billed hereon as “Morgana, The Wild One.”  Through the use of some amusing—if wearisome—narration, we learn that “Many years back, somewhere along the ol’ Mississippi, an ol’ river rat by the name of Matt Blackjack [Art Schill] and his sidekick Moon” didn’t just haul “grain for farmers as such”, but captured girls along the way and then hauled them “forcefully up the river to sell to the gamblers and settlers.”

While trekking through the muddy marshlands, Maude (Morganna) hitches a ride on Matt’s illicit riverboat, because she’s (quote) “tired of workin’ over yonder!” unaware of Matt’s true cargo, which includes three women whom Moon kidnapped earlier (“They some fine specimens!”).  After sampling the goods and revealing Morgana’s ginormous mammaries—which wouldn’t be out of place in any of Russ Meyer’s top-heavy tit-pics—Matt bursts into a li’l ditty:

Muddy Maude, she makes my heart quiver / Muddy Maude, she lives up the river.”

Maude soon realizes what’s really happening and organizes a revolt with the other captives, which consists of ‘smothering’ Moon and stealing his guns.  Once liberated, the girls turn the place into a showboat, and for what seems like an eternity, they stand around modeling all sorts of dresses (“You got big boobs!”), a sequence which is shot with a painful lack of imagination in a single poorly-blocked camera set-up.  Continuing on upriver—with apparently no one at the helm of the boat!—the charismatic capitalists in search of (quote) “men and money” have no qualms about gettin’ down and dirty for a little greenback; that is, until Tim Sweetbreath (Chuck Davis)—who wears one of the most ridiculous blond wigs ever—becomes smitten with Maude (“You’re the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”).  However, just when (quote) “Maude thought everything was comin’ up roses, Matt and Moon were comin’ back to claim their boat!”
Maude (Morganna) organizing a revolt with the other women.

Morganna (a.k.a. Morganna Roberts) was an exotic dancer and entertainer who is probably better-known to most mainstream audiences as the infamous “Kissing Bandit” who rushed onto baseball fields throughout the ’70s, where she attempted to put the smooch on any number of popular baseball players.  Her ample proportions were always, shall we say, at the (ahem) “forefront” of her career, and director Bob Favourite definitely uses that as his prime selling point with this poverty-stricken production.  While dramatically sluggish, RIVERBOAT MAMA does feature ample requisite nudity—including some quite risqué shots for ’69—with copious shots of Morganna’s disproportionately busty figure, and much like Favourite’s INDIAN RAID INDIAN MADE (1969; also starring Morganna), it’s mostly played for laughs, but these come few and far between indeed.  Art Schill, who appeared in all three of Favourite’s films—including his Florida-lensed THE BRIDES WORE BLOOD (1972)—is, at the very least, somewhat memorable based solely on his “Muddy Maude” song, which he sings twice in the film!  On the other hand, Chuck Davis, another Favourite favorite, is downright silly as the Jethro “Golly”-type hillbilly, who does get to bed the title heroine, then proceeds to have one of the lamest post-coital fights with Matt without ever even getting out of the sack!
Maude (Morganna - on the left) taking over the boat!

Released by Harry Novak and his Box Office International Pictures with the usual hyperbole (“From bayou bitch to Mississippi Queen!”), RIVERBOAT MAMA definitely falls far short of Harry’s other, more infamous cornpone / hicksploitation films.   Despite taking place on a riverboat (provided by David Friedline), providing the film with the barest of production values, the piecemeal set decorations, which are supposedly the interior of the boat, are especially penniless, consisting of a few tables and the occasional bed(s), and make Byron Mabe’s SPACE THING (1968) seem positively state-of-the-art by comparison!  Unimaginatively shot with bland, static camera set-ups, Bob Huntley’s photography only adds to the film’s sluggish pace, while the customary banjo-and-zither score just meanders along like the rest of the film.   
Matt Blackjack (Art Schill) singing' his l'il ditty, Muddy Maude!


RIVERBOAT MAMA—sometimes referred to as MUDDY MAMA—was released onto DVD-R by Something Weird Video, and like the rest of their Harry Novak catalogue is now, unfortunately, out-of-print.  Presented fullscreen, the film has all the usual scratches, occasional missing frames and other filmic debris, but is certainly watchable enough.  The 76-minute film appears to be complete, and as usual, SWV has filled their DVD-R with all sorts of trailers (including many Harry Novak ones) and promotional material, which includes Fredric Hobbs’ ROSELAND (1971), Nate Rodgers’ TANYA (“A grueling life of discipline and fear. And camaraderie!”, 1976), Frederick R. Friedel’s KIDNAPPED COED (1976) and Bethel Buckalew’s cornpone classics, TOBACCO ROODY (1970), COUNTRY CUZZINS (1970), The PIGKEEPER’S DAUGHTER (1972) and SASSY SUE (1973).  These are followed by promotional spots such as “Shock Stock”, “Go-Go Burlesque”, “Geeks and Freaks”, Cool Cats”, “Monsters, Muscles and Mayhem”, “Wild, Wasted and Delinquent” and “The Manly, The Macho and Southern Sleaze”, which just about highlight most of SWV’s catalogue. 

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