Archive for the Biker Films Category

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975)

Posted in 1970s Movies, 2012, Biker Films, Classic Films, Gangs, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Tough Girls! with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES: SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975)
THE JEZEBELS: The Coolest Girl Gang on Earth
Review by Nick Cato

This time I’m doing something slightly different. I didn’t see this one in a theater, but it’s a grindhouse gem. I saw it on VHS when it was re-released by Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures in August of 1998.

From the jail-breaking dames in 1955’s SWAMP WOMEN to “The Man-Eaters” in H.G. Lewis’s SHE DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968); from the seldom-seen knife-wielding thieves in the 1973 Japanese cult classic, YASAGURE ANEGO DEN: SOKATSU RINCHI to everyone’s favorites, “The Lizzies,” in 1979’s THE WARRIORS, there’s nothing cooler than a group of pissed off, rebellious ladies out on the streets marking their own turf and making their own rules.

But when it comes to nearly non-stop action, campy violence, and man-battering domination, you can’t get much better than the “Dagger Debs,” the all-girl gang from 1975’s SWITCHBLADE SISTERS.  And unlike the previously mentioned films, The Debs are (for the first half of the film) part of a male gang, the “Silver Daggers.”   Sick and tired of being treated like second class (gang) citizens, they create their own clique and before long director Jack Hill —the man who also brought us such classics as SPIDER BABY (1968), THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971) and two of Pam Grier’s best films: COFFY (1973) and FOXY BROWN (1974) —treats the viewer to one of the wildest, craziest, coolest gang films ever made.

Let’s get the silliness out of the way:  this is first and foremost and exploitation film, chock full of horrible acting and dialogue.  The director packed it with plenty of self-mocking sequences.  There’s obese lesbian prison wardens and high school gang members that look way older than 18; there’s chicks fighting over the same goofy-looking guy and a massive shoot-out at a roller skating rink (not to mention an all-black female gang who have a custom-built street tank!).  There’s dope-dealing and prostitution in the school bathrooms.  Yet despite all this, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is a story of female empowerment.  It was released on the tail end of the Vietnam War and shortly after the sexual revolution, yet still portrays the world as anything but friendly to women.  Hence the strength when Lace (played by the cute and oh-so 70s-looking Robbie Lee) decides to break away from the boys and sort-of lead her own clique.  The film makes an even stronger feminist statement when new member Maggie (played by the even cuter and even more oh-so 70s’ looking Joanne Nail) eventually takes over the group (after their men are wiped out during an ambush) and re-names them “The Jezebels,” now fully separating them from their male co-bangers.  It’s not until the last section of the film when The Jezebels join forces with the aforementioned black female gang to take on another rival gang (led by the wonderfully named “Crabs”), that we see total female unity, power, and determination.  There’s bits and pieces of this hinted at beforehand, but in the end (before all hell breaks lose and the Jezebels begin to turn on one another), these ladies are not to be messed with.

Again, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is a 70s cult film and an exploitation flick if there ever was one.  To some who have seen it, they might be thinking I’m giving the pro-woman message a bit too much credit here.  But when you look at how female gangs have been depicted in the cinema, few have the charisma, the drive, or the purpose as The Jezebels.

Long before "Girls Gone WIld," there were the original wild girls, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975).

Adding to SWITCHBLADE SISTERS’ coolness factor are the fashions.  The girls are (mostly) seen in leather and lace, with studded boots, bell bottoms, and funky hats.  The black gang sport afros that are the epitome of 70s blaxploitation.  There’s something to be said for ladies looking this tight and still being able to flick their blades and have gun duels without ever ruining their threads…

I think its Joanne Nail’s character, Maggie, who makes SWITCHBLADE SISTERS work.  When she joins the Dagger Debs, she’s dressed (almost) like the star of a 70s roller-disco porno flick in her tight T-shirt and short-shorts.  But when she assumes the role of leader, she puts her sarcastic comments behind her and takes things seriously, not afraid to get things done, even if it means taking a life for the cause.  She may not have the toughest-looking face, which only makes her that much deadlier.

If you’re one of the unfortunate souls who didn’t grow up in or around the 70s, and can overlook the cheesiness and bad acting, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is an amazingly entertaining film that—thanks to Quentin Taratino’s 1998 re-release on VHS and the later DVD—continues to find new fans every year.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

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WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971)

Posted in 2010, 70s Horror, Biker Films, Grindhouse, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Satanists, Trasmissions to Earth, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , on October 19, 2010 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH # 4: WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971)
by L. L. Soares

If Billy and Captain America from EASY RIDER (1969) took a detour into the pits of hell, it might looks something like WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971).

Mixing three exploitation film staples – bikers, Satanists and werewolves, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS starts out like most biker films, with a gang of motorcycle hooligans going around causing trouble. First they beat up a redneck who forces one of them off the road with his truck. Then they harass a gas station attendant and fill up their tanks with no intention of paying. Like in most biker movies of the period, these guys take what they want and are eager to fight anyone who gets in their way.

At one point, Adam (Steve Oliver), the leader of the gang, has the gang’s mystical guy, Tarot (Duece Berry) read his “old lady” Helen (D.J. Anderson)’s fortune. The results aren’t good: Helen will die in a tower, struck by lightning. But that’s okay, Adam doesn’t believe in that stuff anyway and just keeps Tarot (everyone pronounces his name “Tuh-roe”) around for laughs, even though he’s the most serious one of the bunch and is the only one who seems to be in tune with the evil that awaits them.

Eventually, they reach a strange tower off the highway that is topped off by a weird devil symbol, and Adam and the boys approach it to taunt it with shouts of “Come out, Satan.” Of course, the place isn’t empty, but instead holds a bunch of satanic monks led by The One (Severn Darden), who “speaks where the others must be silent forever.” He sends his monks out to give the bikers loaves of bread and goblets of wine, which of course are drugged, and when the gang is out cold, The One uses black magic to lure Helen to the tower so she can be anointed as the Bride of Satan. This mainly involves a long sequence where Helen dances (badly) in a trance while naked, holding a python in one hand and a skull in the other.

Big Daddy Adam and his boys wake up and go to the monastery, where they beat up the monks fairly easily, but the damage is done. Helen will be haunted by weird visions from this point onward, and weird claw marks (or are they ash smears?) on the biker’s faces, caused by the monks, will make the rest of the gang act strangely as well. In fact, some of them start to get really hairy at night and have strong urges to kill.

When Helen continues to act weirdly long after they’ve escaped from the Satanists, and the bikers wake up to find some of their members dead (poor Mouse and Shirley!) , Adam is convinced that the only way to get rid of these “bad vibes” is to go back and finish the monks off once and for all. But it’s not that easy. They have to find  their way back, first. While riding their bikes in a fog, they suddenly find themselves lost in the middle of the desert, and then things just get weirder, with lots of psychedelic imagery.

When we finally see the werewolves up close, they don’t look half bad, considering how low the budget is for this movie. At least they don’t take their shirts off and flash their abs like in the TWILIGHT movies. Director Michel Levesque does he can with the material. As with a lot of low-budget 70s flicks, there are parts of this one that don’t make a whole lot of sense, and there’s a stretch in the middle where it moves kind of slow, but overall, it’s entertaining enough. Nothing spectacular, but at least it delivers what the title promises. The mostly unknown cast ranges from good (the leads aren’t that bad) to just plain awful (one guy seems to talk constantly in a John Wayne imitation). There are a few brief gore scenes and a nice helping of nudity.

At just 85 minutes, it’s not on long enough to get too awful, and there are some scenes that are downright fun. With more scruffy bikers and chanting satanic monks than you can shake a stick at. Check WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS out if you dig bikers, Satanists, werewolves, or all three!

© Copyright 2010 by L.L. Soares