Movie Reviews 213 – Switchblade Sisters (1975)

Switchblade SistersQuentin Tarantino describes director Jack Hill as “the Howard Hawks of exploitation movies” and given that Hill created movies as diverse as Spider baby and Coffy and has also written movies like The Terror and Dementia 13, the comparison seems fitting.

Released as one of Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder feature DVDs, Switchblade Sisters, is part gang movie, part female prison and part girls gone wild. The ‘success’ (and I put that in quotes because you have to appreciate this kind of movie) is that it is really greater than the sum of all it’s parts. The acting is suspect, the script is a joke, the sex is only suggestive, the blood is scant, and even the promised violence (when not hysterically funny based on inexperienced stunt fighters) is lame. Even the climactic final death scene is only conveyed via a projected shadow. But somehow, when you put it all together, it’s fun to watch much like going back in time and watching a cheesy 60’s cop show. Only with a lower budget and standards.

Lace (Robbie Lee) is the lacy camisole wearing leader of a girl gang called the Dagger Debs, so named on account that they are the female constituents of the Silver Dagger gang, led by her boyfriend Dominic (Asher Brauner).  Wanting to impress the Silver Daggers one day at the local dinner, the Debs decide to clear out all the other customers so that they can take over the tables. But one lone innocent looking dinner they try to chase out proves to be more than a handful. Maggie (Joanne Nail) fights back and soon earns the respect of the girls. Well all the girls except for Patch (Monica Gail) who bore the brunt of Maggie’s defence in that first encounter. Holding a grudge, Patch decides to get even and does so by making Lace believe that Maggie has sights on taking over the girls and nabbing Dominic as well. Patch’s manipulation of Lace creates an ever growing wedge among the gang, one that soon turns deadly when a rival gang is forced to share territory.

The movie is rich with groovy street talk, funky cringe worthy clothes and roller skating rink scenes but the retro illusion is shattered by the simplistic dialogue and unrealistic situations. The movie tries to be both a high school comedy with corny classroom jokes and a tough gang movie that just doesn’t ring true. But if you can elevate yourself over the superficial aspects, it becomes enjoyable for what it attempts to pull off. Even though the characters are silly, you are drawn into all the scheming amongst the girls and want to see who wins out in the end.

Sadly Hill regular Sid Haig sat this one out. His acting skills could have been used as all the male actor’s really miss the mark and are unconvincing douches. When it comes to the girls, Lee’s high pitched nasal voice (which she later made good use of as a voice actor for kiddie shows) is beyond annoying here. But Nail and Gail are more credible which was needed to keep audience interest just enough. Not as good as some of Jack Hill’s other movies, but still a must for his fans.

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