Thursday, January 14, 2010

Switchblade Sisters (1975) Review

Switchblade Sisters (1975) Directed by Jack Hill

The streets are a rough place to grow up, - at least in the world of Switchblade Sisters, as young Maggie finds out when she gets involved with a gang of girls who regularly flaunt the law while getting into scuffles with other gangs. This is exploitation cinema in every sense of the word, and it might have easily been forgotten had Quentin Tarantino not resurrected it in the '90's (into mainstream theaters, nonetheless).

If Switchblade Sisters succeeds, it's because it's willing to go far over the top without a second thought. Girls getting into knife fights? Got 'em. Lesbian prison guards? Why not? Black revolutionaries? Of course, it's the '70's! And we're just getting started. We're also treated to a roller rink shootout, countless gang brawls, gratuitous sex, comic relief that could have been ripped out of a bad high school comedy, and immense amounts of laughably bad dialogue. It exemplifies an astonishing number of the different qualities that make exploitation films what they are, and for this alone it's notable.

As we get to know the girls and guys in the gang, it's obvious that each one of them is some kind of instantly recognizable stereotype. As a result, we don't have to put an ounce of thought into them - that would just detract from our enjoyment of the film. Their names pretty much say it all: Maggie is clearly the "nice girl" who isn't so nice underneath, the sidekick with the eyepatch is named Patch, the fat girl Donut, and so on. There is no character development here, but who cares? These characters are iconic above anything, so much so that Tarantino himself lifted a number of them (including Patch) and threw them into Kill Bill.

Ironically, the film falls flat when it tries to pay attention to the intricacies of its plot or meaningful interactions between its characters. In fact, the "serious" dialogue seems almost absurd. Late in the film when a couple of the girls discuss their revenge on Maggie, they can't seem to break away from the exaggerated portrayals of their characters we see for 95% of the film, and the result is close-up shots of them making ridiculous enraged faces.

Meaningful dialogue or good acting isn't what this is about though. Leave your standards at the door, prepare to be entertained, and try to appreciate this film for all its trashy glory. They don't make 'em like this anymore.


Pros: A great representation of what the exploitation grindhouse films had to offer.
Cons: Occasionally starts to take itself too seriously before lapsing back into ridiculousness.

No comments: