Ma’s Barker’s Cooking Lesson
In spite of what the above poster assures, every scene in Ma Barker’s Killer Brood is not blisteringly true. Indeed, according to historical fact, the real Ma Barker had very little to do with the criminal life of her four sons, who rampaged across the South and Midwest in the 1920s to early 1930s, committing murder, robbery, and kidnapping. However, as the saying goes, Bill Karn’s 1960 schlock gangster classic never lets truth stand in the way of a good story. The legendary Ma Barker was the criminal mastermind behind her brood’s crime spree, setting up the jobs, outlining the strategies, and divvying up the loot. And all done while serving her boys home-baked cherry pie. Ma wasn’t just a great criminal; she was also, per the film, an excellent cook. In one scene she even serves her soon-to-be-ex(ecuted) husband a slice of pie, insisting that he eat it before they shoot him (it seems he shot off his mouth to the wrong people at the wrong time, so he can’t be allowed to stick around). Adding insult to injury, Ma only gives him a small slice, pointing out, with some justification, that he won’t have time to eat a large one. Whatever else, Ma is practical.
Our new Grand Old Movies’ blog post looks at this film, at the myth of Ma, and at the idea of what makes a great movie. Ma Barker’s Killer Brood can be viewed as campy cult fun today, but we think Karn makes a statement in it, about violence and the gangster drama, that’s as interesting as any auteur’s. And it offers an unusual slant on motherhood, family, and American values; plus a terrific performance by Lurene Tuttle in the title role. Please click here to read our post. And enjoy the cherry pie.