From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
When it comes to Blaxploitation films there are very few people who are as iconic as the legendary Pam Grier. After the financial success of Cleopatra Jones the exploiters over at American International Pictures (AIP) decided it was their turn to cash in it as well. They decided to get director/writer Jack Hill to work his magic once again as he did with Roger Corman as they picked him to be the man to write and direct something of this type. What he came up with was Coffy and the rest is history. Of course he would bring Pam Grier back shortly after the success of Coffy to star in Foxy Brown. As these continued to be successful, director William Girdler got into the act, bringing in Grier to star in his AIP Blaxploitation flick Sheba Baby.
Sheba, Baby is the story of Sheba Shayne a private detective in Chicago who returns to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to assist in some issues her father has been having. See her father is a legit business man who is getting hassled by a group of thugs so that he sells off his business to their boss. When he refuses to comply with their demands then they have no choice but to give him troubles until he does. Of course, not if Sheba has anything to say about it. Along with her former boyfriend Brick (played in the film by Austin Stoker), they must do whatever they can to save the business before it costs her father his livelihood as well as his life.
Although highly comparable to films like Foxy Brown and Coffy, Sheba, Baby manages to continue what those films did to become successful. Ride the oh so glorious back of Pam Grier, which led to her becoming even more of a cultural icon of that time period. Very few faces of Blaxploitation cinema can say that these films did more for their careers than Grier, with Fred Williamson and Richard Roundtree being just about the only exceptions. But that’s not to say that it was just because of her looks that this happened, as Grier was more than a competent actress and really had a connection with audiences.
Very much like Roundtree’s character of Shaft became a hero to many African Americans, many of Grier’s characters were actually positive role models for young African American women as well. These characters weren’t portrayed the same way that blacks were in cinema prior to the release of these films. These characters didn’t appear in blackface or as hired help to wealthy white people. The characters actually stuck it to "the man" if you will as well as being the ultra bulletproof heroes that were representative of many white heroes that appeared on screen at the time. This was changing the way that films were to be made from that time period all the way up until now.
Overall Sheba, Baby is one fun Blaxploitation film as Pam Grier’s ass kicking, take no shit attitude definitively gives it the type of feel that you would want from something like this. Detestable criminals and overall scum of the earth take on Sheba Shayne in this one and there’s no doubt that you reap all of the benefits as the viewer. Sheba, Baby might not be as influential as Pam Grier’s prior work, but it’s still a very solid entry in a subgenre that didn’t last long enough.
Reviewed by Ed Demko