The story of Kate (Ma) Barker, who with her four killer sons terrorized mountain country in the Depression era, Bloody Mama is a pseudo-biopic starring Shelley Winters in one of those all-over-the-screen performances which sometimes are labelled as bravura acting.
Film was made entirely on location in Arkansas, and manifests an apparently deliberate attempt at naturalistic filming.
Story is a loosely-connected string of macabre vignettes, with an emphasis on dramatic peaks but very little character development or motivation. Cast as ma’s brood are Don Stroud as the psychotic, Robert Walden as the masochistic homosexual, Robert De Niro as the drug addict, and Clint Kimbrough as the quiet boy. Bruce Dern plays a sadistic homosexual, mated with Walden, and Diane Varsi is Stroud’s girl, a stray hooker.
The best performance in the film, and one of the most outstanding screen portrayals in many moons, is that of Pat Hingle, playing a wealthy businessman kidnapped for high ransom.