Switchblade Sisters (1975)
Directed by Jack Hill
Runtime 91 minutes
I recently got to see Switchblade Sisters, aka The Jezebels at a midnight screening at a sweet little theater in Brooklyn called Nighthawk Cinema. It’s got a bar and café, and a waitress who takes orders inside the theater—it’s obviously modeled after the Alamo Drafthouse but with a very local feel.
Switchblade Sisters is a gang film, plain and simple. It focuses on a gang called the Silver Daggers, who basically run a high school that new girl Maggie (Joanne Nail) has transferred to. The Silver Daggers are led by Dominic (Asher Brauner) and boyfriend of Lace (Robbie Lee), the leader of the Dagger Debs—the male gang’s girls. A confrontation gets the Dagger Debs arrested, along with Maggie. Lace decides she likes Maggie, so she makes her a member of the Debs. The friendship upsets Lace’s best friend Patch (Monica Gayle) who wants Maggie gone in the worst way. Dominic has taken a liking to Maggie so Patch decides to use this against her, turning Lace against Maggie.
A new gang has challenged the Silver Daggers so Dominic with Maggie’s help devise a plan to ambush the Crabs at a roller rink, but things don’t go as planned. Lace ends up in the hospital and Maggie assumes control of the Debs. She ultimately convinces most of the girls that they don’t need the men. They agree and change their name to the Jezebels and Maggie joins forces with Muff (Marlene Clark) and her gang of black militants. Patch manages to convince Lace that Maggie is her enemy—leading to a standoff between the two women that will ultimately decide the loyalty of the Jezebels.
Switchblade Sisters is a classic exploitation film loaded with sex and violence. It also is a story of female independence, with the Silver Dagger girlfriends becoming a dangerous gang in their own right. The acting is so-so, with Robbie lee’s performance as Lace a bit over the top but the directing is pretty good, considering it’s a low-budget exploitation film. What I love the most about these films in general is that they are written, directed and acted with a seriousness to them that doesn’t quite make it to the final product. You can’t help laughing during the movie. Switchblade Sisters definitely falls into the category of so-bad-it’s-good.
Writer and director Jack Hill made quite a name for himself in exploitation films, having written and directed such stellar B movies as Spider Baby (1968), Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974). Jack Hill has likened the character of Patch to Shakespeare’s Iago (OTHELLO) and she definitely deserves the comparison. Original working titles for the film included THE JEZEBELS and PLAYGIRL GANG, but Hill eventually settled on Switchblade Sisters even though the words are never used in the film. One interesting bit of trivia—Dominic’s second-in-command Hook was played by Don Stark who would go on to play Donna’s father Bob on the series That 70s Show from 1998 to 2006.