Dir. by Jack Hill - 1 hr. 31 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
So, even if you weren't aware that Quentin Tarantino had re-released this film back in the 90's, upon watching it, you'd get the clear impression that "Switchblade Sisters" is exactly the kind of film that he'd be able to give an graduate-level dissertation on. This is a straight-up exploitation film, meaning you're going to get delinquent girls fighting with one another, flashes of boobs, and glorious violence. I don't mean to imply it's a bad exploitation film; it's really watchable even when laughably unbelievable, which is more than a lot of films of this ilk could claim.
If there was a contest to re-title "Switchblade Sisters," I'd go with "Bitches Be Crazy." Lace (Robbie Lee) is the leader of a teenage girl gang (Gang? I don't see any gang here!) called the Dagger Debs, the lady-accomplices of a teenage boy gang called the Silver Daggers, who are led by Dominic (Asher Brauner), who is also Lace's fella. A scuffle at a burger joint introduces Maggie (Joanne Nail), who gets thrown in juvie with the rest of the Dagger Debs. Eventually, Maggie joins the Debs, but Dominic complicates matters by raping Maggie, which Patch (Monica Gayle), Lace's #2, interprets as Maggie making a move on Dominic. So yeah, bitches be crazy.
A film like this, centered around high-school gangs that all seem entirely populated by actors in their twenties and thirties, is not ever going to be considered a stone-cold classic like "Chinatown" or "Citizen Kane." The entire goal is trashy entertainment, which "Switchblade Sisters" provides in spades. You got your knife fights among women in smoking hot outfits, you've got all the girls that you want to see topless get topless at one point or another (I couldn't help but over-think matters and connect the ideas that if the women were really high-school aged, there's no way all of them could legitimately be over 18, and thus appear nude on film), you got your grass-dealing, you got your roller-skate shoot-outs, you got your evil lesbian matrons, you got your female militant black gangs being called in to back up the white girls in another gun fight, you've got Crabs' (Chase Newhart) entire wardrobe.
That's freaking awesome, and worth the price of admission right there.
And you've got the central premise of this film, that you can't put two women in the same situation with any man present and expect the women to maintain their sanity. In fact, most of the bloodshed in "Switchblade Sisters" is the direct result of the women getting insanely jealous of one another over a guy who isn't worth a used tissue. Lace completely loses her shit, sells out both the Debs and the Daggers, and ends up in a one-on-one knife fight with what was at one point her best friend. She has a good excuse to get a little emotional over things (I'll leave that particular spoiler unspoiled), and although Lace isn't hard on the eyes, I can understand her jealousy over having to compete (in her mind, I have to stress - Dominic raping Maggie early on doesn't leave her with much interest in him) with what Maggie's got going on.
She's a looker, and her outfits show off everything she's got to offer. And that's really the entire point. You're not supposed to root for any of the characters, you're kind of supposed to get off on their bad behavior. That's what an exploitation film is. And, honestly, I can't hate a movie that names the fat chick "Donut" (Kitty Bruce, Lenny Bruce's daughter) or names the black militant leader "Muff" (Marlene Clark). That's all kinds of messed up, but that's the kind of movie that "Switchblade Sisters" is. The modern-day comparisons to this movie are all going to be from either Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino, and if you enjoy the trashier aspects of their films, this is going to be right up your alley. "Switchblade Sisters" is definitely a bad film, but it's also a bad film with entertainment value.
3 / 5 - Streaming