Grindhouse Double Feature - Episode Five : Switchblade Sisters and Coffy
Switchblade Sisters (aka the Jezebels)
Exploitation auteur Jack Hill wrote and directed this wild, often satiric girl-gang movie, whose story is very loosely based on Othello. Hill manages to jam packs this exploitation extravaganza with everything from teenage drug and prostitution rings, knife fights, sadistic juvy guards, black inner city Maoist revolutionaries, roller rink shootout, and urban combat , complete with armored cars, machine guns, and molotov cocktails. At the same time he's able to works in subtle elements of liberal feminist social commentary. Note that most of male characters are portrayed as either weak or short-sighted.
Switchblade Sisters follows the exploits of the Dagger Debs, the female counterpart to a male gang called the Silver Daggers, who control an inner-city high school, where they sell drugs and sex to the student body. When new girl Maggie joins the gang and befriends its tough-talking leader Lace, she arouses the jealousy of Patch, Lace's former right-hand woman, and catches the eye of Lace's boyfriend, Dominic, leader of the Daggers. When the Daggers are challenged by a rival gang and Dominic shout down at a bloody roller rink gunfight, Maggie steps in as leader and enlists the help of a tough band of female black militants in getting revenge. Through it all, Patch keeps driving a wedge between Maggie and Lace, leading to treachery, and more bloodshed.
Hill takes a stylized campy pop art approach to the material. The dialog alternates between subversively witty and absurdly silly and is actually well served by the actors' often hammy over the top performances. Perhaps the most memorable piece of dialog being Robbie Lee's (Lace) unique delivery of the line, "If you, it's gonna turn out baaad!" It was originally filmed under the title "The Jezebels" and the alternate title "Playgirl Gang" was considered. Eventually the more exploitation friendly Switchblade Sisters was the one that stuck.
Quentin Tarantino promoted its 1998 theatrical re-release under the auspices of his revival imprint, Rolling Thunder Pictures. The Elle Driver character in Tarantino's Kill Bill films seems to be heavily influenced by Patch.
Blaxploitation landmark that made Pam Grier a star. Written and directed by low budget exploitation master Jack Hill, who was also responsible for such memorable works as Spider Baby and Switchblade Sisters. Grier plays a hardworking nurse turned vigilante, out to take down the drug dealers who addicted her younger sister. She sets about infiltrating the organized-crime ring by posing as a Jamaican prostitute. Coffy seduces, slashes, shoots, and blasts her way through an assortment of pimps, pushers, thugs, and crooked cops all the way to the top of the drug ring.
This is the role in which Pam Grier defined the ultimate iconic strong black women. Hill and Grier had worked together previously in the women in prison exploitation classics, The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. After the huge success Coffy, they teamed up one more time for what was originally intended to be a sequel to Coffy, but end up as a separate picture, Foxy Brown.
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