Jonathan Demme's second film is one of his best pre-Hollywood efforts. Working from a colorful script by veteran B-movie scribe Robert Thom, Demme manages to create a personalized variant on the crime-spree genre by placing a strong accent on character and replacing the usual B-movie antiheroes with a likable trio of women whose familial bonds add an unexpected element of warmth to the story. Crazy Mama also benefits from energetic and inspired performances by its leads: The usually more urbane Leachman sinks her teeth into her Southern-rebel role with vigor; Ann Sothern brings plenty of deadpan wit to her matriarch role; and Linda Purl makes a vivid impression as the daughter who is determined not to let men make choices for her. There is also plenty of sharp supporting work, especially Merie Earle's scene-stealing turn as the spunky old-timer who joins the crime clan in Las Vegas. Demme keeps the story rolling at a fast clip, delivering plenty of the action required for a Roger Corman production but also taking the time to work in some unexpectedly touching moments -- the best arrives when the criminal "family" salutes their fallen comrades by "shouting them into heaven." All in all, Crazy Mama is a forgotten gem worthy of rediscovery by B-movie fans and well worth the time for anyone interested in Jonathan Demme's early work.
by Donald Guarisco review