Anyone reading this review has most likely seen a Jack Hill film. From the Pam Grier-starring Foxy Brown to my personal favorite Spider Baby, Hill has his name stapled in exploitation cinema. He’s worked with the notorious Roger Corman and eventually created a name for himself. His filmography often comes up in articles delving into inspirations for Quentin Tarantino’s work. Although this might come off as a cheap comparison, watching SWITCHBLADE SISTERS truly felt like if Tarantino had made his own version of Grease. Us 90s kids might even see where Freeway (yes, the Reese Witherspoon cult classic) got some influence.
With all that being said, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is its own movie as it came out in 1975. In a then progressive move, we are introduced to the streets that are run by both male and female gangs. One of the female-led gangs, the Dagger Debs, finds themselves in jail after an altercation. They are joined by Maggie, who is new to town. However, Maggie and the girls join together as scenarios arise that find them sticking up for one another. The Dagger Debs is led by Lace who is dating Dominic, leader of the Silver Daggers. Maggie is raped by Dominic, who also finds out he’s about to be a father to Lace’s baby. This is just the beginning of the conflict that threatens to split the Dagger Debs.
Although an archival documentary, “We Are the Jezebels” inclusiveness still feels fresh as it explores not only the making of SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, but touches on the exploitation genre at the time. The documentary covers interviews with director Jack Hill, producer John Prizer, casting director Geno Havans, production designer B.B. Neel, stunt coordinator Bob Minor, and cast members Joanne Nail, Asher Brauner, and Chase Newhart. At forty minutes, it covers all you would want to know about the film.
Other archival material includes an interview with Hill and Nail at the Grindhouse Film Festival in 2007. It is one of those special screenings rarely held with a crowd full of diehard fans that really gives off a nostalgic vibe. Other features revolving around the filming locations and interviews from the 1990s are included. However, Arrow has a newly recorded audio commentary by historians/critics Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger.
SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is given a 1080p high definition upgrade, but manages to hold onto the 1970s exploitation look. Still, it’s impressive to see a low-budget offering from almost fifty years ago look this great. The original mono audio track is included. As typical with other Arrow releases, reversible artwork is included. There’s also an extensive booklet with multiple essays, including a rather intriguing breakdown of the rape sequence for which some have referred to as “problematic.” The film approaches it quite differently than normally seen onscreen and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas takes that head-on.
SWITCHBLADE SISTERS isn’t going to change the way you view cinema, but is an essential entry in Grindhouse filmmaking. Arrow has given fans a new reason to revisit what is now seen as a feminist cult classic. You can now purchase the Blu-ray here!