Saturday, July 4, 2009

Switchblade Sisters (1975)

by JM

Occasionally, Billy and I come across a movie that is so outlandish, so over-the-top, so insane, and so... perfect that we dread writing a review of it. Skeeter and Roller Boogie are certainly two examples that come to mind. I remember my brother calling me as he was writing Savage Streets to complain that there was just too much happening in the movie to even begin doing it justice in a review. Well, Switchblade Sisters is one such challenge. I have watched it a handful of times and it has been resting beside my laptop for months. Truly, there is no way for me to write up anything that comes even remotely close to explaining how great this movie is.

Also known as The Jezebels, Switchblade Sisters is a spectacle that must be seen to be believed. I bought the movie for two reasons. Firstly, I loved the cover. It is that perfect 1970s artwork that modern "grindhouse" movies continually try to emulate to no avail. Secondly, I knew it was directed by Jack Hill, who did the nearly perfect flick Spider Baby. And with the tagline "So Easy To Kill, So Hard To Love", how could I go wrong?

The movie opens with what has to be the funkiest track I have ever heard, "Black-Hearted Woman", by Medusa. Truly, this song is so Goddamn good, you will wonder why it isn't considered a national treasure. Or, at least, why P-Diddy didn't steal it 10 years ago, call it "B.I.G.-Hearted Poppa", and perform it live on the MTV as a tribute, or something.

Switchblade Sisters is the story of the Dagger Debs. The Dagger Debs is an all-girl gang that hangs out with the Silver Daggers, an all male gang. It is at least comforting to know that inner city gangs set themselves up in the same way that fraternities and sororities do on college campuses, right?

Well, after holding up an a-hole building manager, the Dagger Debs meet up with the Silver Daggers for lunch at a hotdog stand. It is here that we are introduced to Maggie. Maggie is... well, just look at the picture:Can you even believe your eyes??

Anyway, Maggie ends up joining the Debs, who are led by Lace, who comes off as something of a cross between A Nightmare On Elm Street era Heather Langencamp and Bettie Boop.Again, I will ask, can you believe your eyes???

The girls quickly all find themselves in lock up and are forced to defend themselves against what really must be the most stereotypical, homophobic, craziest depiction of a female warden ever put to screen. As the warden gropes Maggie in the enormous cell housing all of the members of the gang, Maggie actually says to her, "Get your hands off of me, you fat pig d*ke"! Oh. My. God. Shortly after this, Maggie is raped by the President of the Silver Daggers, Dominic, who also happens to be dating Lace. Usually, I have a hard time stomaching rape in movies. I can remember freaking out and leaving the room during the rape scene in What's Love Got To Do With It, the Tina Turner story (I know this is embarrassing). But, this is 1970s rape, which is depicted as something else entirely. I mean, after the doofis in charge of the Silver Daggers rapes Maggie he actually says to her, "What are you so pissed about? You asked for it, didn't you? ...and anyway, you got yours, didn't you?". And she falls for him!Of course, the Dagger Debs number two in command, Patches, (Yes, Patches... because she wears an eyepatch) finds out about the liaison between the new girl and Dominic and starts planting the seeds for Maggie's ousting. By the way, here is Patches:I mean, the whole friggin' movie is like this. It is too much!! For Christ sake, Crabs (yes, Crabs,,, because... well, no explanation is offered. But, if I were to guess how someone acquired that nickname...), the leader of the rival gang, looks like this:So, there prostitution, more rape, even a gunfight at a roller rink, and the movie ends with Maggie taking over the Dagger Debs and renaming them the Jezebels!

I could give you more details, but why ruin it?

There are a lot of newer movies that try to emulate, parody, or pay tribute to this type of movie. None of them are particularly good, in my opinion. What makes this movie work is that it is authentic. This movie was actually made in the mid '70s. It was clearly made quickly on a low budget by people that were having fun.

It is kind of like the difference between a blues song performed by Whitesnake or one performed by Lightnin' Slim. The content may be similar, but one version feels forced to the point of absurdity. I am not going to say which one is which, though. Come to your own conclusion.

Anyway, this is the craziest movie I have ever seen. Trust me when I tell you that the pictures and words above barely scrape the surface.

5 FINGERS! If I were allowed I would give it 100.


  1. I have had this movie for quite some time and have yet to open it up and watch it. I plan to rectify that very soon after reading your review, TF. Jack Hill is one director who can always be counted on to deliver some choice exploitation thrills with next to no fat on them.

  2. Now I have to see this. This sounds absolutely entertaining, although I'm not sure if it's for the right or wrong reasons. Great review.

  3. Venons5 an Fred,

    Thanks. This really is one of the coolest movies I have ever seen. I am going to have to dig deeper into Jack Hill's stuff, for sure (I've only seen a couple of his movies). Let me know if there is anything else out there similar to this for me to check out, too.


  4. There's THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, THE BIG BIRD CAGE (I reviewed this one at my site), SPIDER BABY, COFFY, FOXY BROWN, THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS (Haven't seen this one) and SORCERESS. I'm sure you've seen some, if not all of these. Then there's those Mexican horror pictures he worked on, but I don't think he was the sole director on those.

  5. Wow hadnt heard of this one before, thank the horror gods for blogs! Consider this one added to the wishlist guys

  6. JM,
    Great job at describing this movie's insanity. I remember when you first showed it to me and I was in shock. It rivals only "Savage Streets" in terms of bizarre characters and hilarious dialogue.

  7. Nice review JM. I'm so curious now, better check it out.