Switchblade Sisters

on June 15, 1996 by Kat Giantis
   In one of those classic cases of Hollywood irony, director Jack Hill's career was almost ended by his 1975 cult flick, "Switchblade Sisters." Now, thanks to Quentin Tarantino (who is re-releasing the film as part of his Rolling Thunder production/distribution deal with Miramax), Hill is making something of a comeback. But while John Travolta, that other Tarantino comeback kid, now finds himself at the top of the Hollywood food chain, it is unlikely the same thing will happen for Hill, for one good reason: "Pulp Fiction" was a good movie, and "Switchblade Sisters" is no "Pulp Fiction."
   Then again, it doesn't pretend to be. It tells the story of a female gang, the Dagger Debs, and their male cohorts, the Silver Switchblades. The story plays like "All About Eve," but with bell bottoms and '70s lingo ("ya dig?"). Gangleader Lola is threatened by newcomer Maggie, who catches the eye of Lola's man. Both gangs are endangered by a rival gang moving into their school, and a turf war ensues, with Maggie taking charge and Lola plotting her downfall. Not to be missed are the shoot-out scene at the roller rink, and the Debs hooking up and training with a gang of black female revolutionaries. (Who would have believed that references to Mao could find a place in this film?)
   Many aspects of "Switchblade Sisters" will be particularly disturbing to our '90s sensibilities. Two sexual assault scenes are especially disquieting: The victim is so undisturbed by the ordeal that she ends up falling for her rapist. (This led to screams of protest from women at the Seattle fest screening; one irate 'goer jumped onstage to voice her disapproval during Hill's post-film speech.) But this movie never pretends to be more than what it is, which is pure exploitation. The dialogue is absurd ("I lost my eye for this gang!"), and the acting is barely up to amateur standards. (Robbie Lee as Lola gives what has to be the longest sustained performance by a squeak toy in cinematic history.) Still, the film is fun, if only for the good laughs at the sheer badness of it all. We dig.
Starring Robbie Lee, Joanne Nail, Monica Gayle, Kitty Bruce and Janice Karman
Directed by Jack Hill
Written by F.X. Maier
Produced by John Prizer
A Miramax release
Action. Rated R.
Running time: 89 min
Screened at the Seattle Fest
Tags: Starring Robbie Lee, Joanne Nail, Monica Gayle, Kitty Bruce and Janice Karman. Directed by Jack Hill, Written by F.X. Maier, Produced by John Prizer, Miramax, Action

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