Archive for the Gangs Category

Remote Outpost: SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK (1991)

Posted in 1990s Horror, 2012, Demons, Gangs, Ghosts!, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Stephen King Movies, TV-Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by knifefighter

You find yourself on a barren and desolate world, light years from anything or anyone you know… Without much food or water, your oxygen running low, you strike out for the distant hills… After days of torturous climbing, you see an oasis below. An installation of quonset huts bedecked with hundreds of television antennae. Congratulations, Traveler, you’ve reachedTHE REMOTE OUTPOST.

 # #

Direct from THE REMOTE OUTPOST:
SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK (1991)
TV-Movie Review by Mark Onspaugh

We all know the problem with sequels.  Sometimes a movie is great and can stand just fine on its own, then greedy producers want to go to that well again and again.  Usually, what results is a series of films that steadily decline in budget and quality.  Films like the original version of THE PLANET OF THE APES (1969).  The first is a masterpiece, the second is quite good, the third is okay… By number four (CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, 1974), the miniscule budget forced the production to film in Century City, and many of the ape makeups were crude masks.  If it wasn’t for Roddy McDowell’s brilliant turn as Caesar, the film would probably have been forgotten and the fifth film would never have happened.

Titling sequels is also an issue.  Do you go with numbering (LETHAL WEAPON XXVIII) or new titles? Do you do both, hoping to show creativity but still cash in on that brand? (GREMLINS II: THE NEW BATCH, 1990).

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK (1991) is a good movie, and needs no sequel.  It almost seems as if producers were kicking around joke titles and decided to greenlight the merriment.  Thus, we would eventually be enjoying the demonic hijinks of SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… AGAIN (1996) and SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… FOR MORE (1998).

This leads me to believe we will eventually see other installments, like, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… BECAUSE THEY FORGOT SOMETHING; SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… FOR THE FOOD, BUT STAY FOR THE PIE;  and SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… BECAUSE THEY MISSED THEIR FLIGHT AND HAD TO RETURN AND YOU JUST GOT THE GUEST ROOM CLEANED AND NOW THESE ANNOYING DEMONS ARE BACK AGAIN – DAMN.

(Warning: SPOILERS abound below! It’s a SPOILER Wonderland!)

The first movie in the series is based directly on a Stephen King story of the same name, first published in Cavalier Magazine in March 1974 and then later collected in 1978’s Night Shift.  Jim Norman is a teacher who’s had a sketchy history (wife injured in a hit-and-run, a mental breakdown) and is finally back teaching in his old home town.  His last class of the day is an easy class largely in place to give jocks something they can pass so they can play sports.

But Jim has another secret—his older brother was murdered when the two were just kids.  The Norman brothers were assaulted by teenaged toughs near a railroad tunnel.  Jim escaped, but his brother was brutally stabbed.  Years later, he still has nightmares about the four toughs who took away his brother Wayne.  As Norman works through the school year, students begin to disappear. Each time one does, a transfer from “Millford” shows up, and it’s one of the thugs from his past, now dressed in contemporary style but still seventeen.  They tell Jim he is unfinished business, and that they mean to finish him.

In investigating these delinquents, Jim finds out “Millford” is not a school, but a cemetery (nice touch, that).  All the toughs (but one) were killed six months after his brother.  Once Jim’s wife is killed, he makes a deal with some dark entity in an occult ritual where he sacrifices both his index fingers.  The toughs show up, but are done in by a demonic version of Jim’s older brother.  At the end, Jim knows this dark thing he has invited into his life will also… come back.

The story is a good one, and King does not compromise or cop out with a happy ending.  In King’s world, dealing with dark forces often means a sacrifice, usually a big one.

Not so the film version.  SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK was originally going to be an installment of CAT’S EYE, the 1985 anthology film that would also feature adaptations of the Night Shift stories “The Ledge” and “Quitters, Inc.” The producers decided SOMETIMES would be better as a stand-alone story, and substituted “General,” a story original to the film where a cat protects a little girl (Drew Barrymore) from a murderous troll.

The movie of SOMETIMES was produced for television by Dino De Laurentis (at one point in the film, Jim Norman and his family watch Dino’s KING KONG from 1976 on the old VCR).  Jim Norman was played by Tim Matheson, who has been acting since he was five, and may be best remembered as the ultra-cool ladies man Otter in ANIMAL HOUSE (1978).  Matheson commits fully to the role of a troubled teacher haunted by demons from his past.  In fact, he saves one of the film’s more maudlin moments from sinking into a vat of treacle.

Tim Matheson and Brooke Adams in SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK.

SOMETIMES takes its time developing Jim’s character and that of his family, as well as his normal (if somewhat troubled) world. This is fairly standard in King’s writing; he makes sure we are fully grounded before bringing in the more fantastic elements of his story.  The TV-movie, unsure if people will have read the story, hedges its bets by having Tim Matheson doing a voice-over that mentions his brother’s murder and his subsequent troubles, and concludes with, “If I had known the horror we were facing, I’d have taken Sally and Scotty in my arms like my parents took me, and run from this town forever.”

Although the story is fairly close to King’s, there are some important differences.  In the film version, the hoods block the two brothers as they are going through the tunnel, parking their car on the tracks.  Instead of deliberately stabbing Wayne in the stomach and crotch (ouch), Wayne is jostled by one thug and runs into the switchblade of another.  When the train comes, Jimmy grabs up the car keys from the ground as the thugs pile in. One escapes, but the thugs and Jimmy’s brother are consumed in a train-meets-car fireball.

The phantom car.

Present day, Jim is married to Brooke Adams (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, 1978 and THE DEAD ZONE, 1983) and also has a young son.  (NOTE: I always wished they had cast Adams in SUPERMAN, 1978,  because I thought she would have made a much sexier Lois Lane than Margot Kidder.)

As with Jack Torrance of The Shining, Jim Norman has had troubles because of his temper.  In the movie we see each student who is killed off as they are murdered, and, in the first instance, the student is run off the road by a phantom car that only Jim and the student can see.  Jim snaps at the thugs as they begin to take over his classroom, and also has a clairvoyant dream where he sees a bright female student being murdered.  Jim leads the police to her hanging body, which casts suspicions on him for the murder.

A great bit in both prose and film versions is class jock and bully, Chip, confiding in Mr. Norman that these new students scare him, and mean the teacher real harm.  In the story, Chip runs off (and is presumably killed), but in the movie he is taken for a ride in the phantom car and shown just what his new friends really look likewith burned corpse makeups right out of EC Comics… Cool, Daddy-O!

SOMETIMES THEY COMES BACK and burn!

Another nice bit is that Jim periodically hears the train whistle, although the train stopped running years ago.

In the movie, Jim tracks down the only member of the gang to survive, Mueller, who is played by the great William Sanderson (BLADERUNNER, 1982 and TRUE BLOOD, 2008).  Mueller is also “unfinished business” for the hoods.

In the end, everyone gathers at the railroad tunnel for a nice reunion from Hell, and the thugs plan to kill Jim and his wife and kid.  Mueller valiantly takes a knife for Jim and his family, saying, “When someone dies… (urk, ack… expire)”

Out of a shimmering white hole emerges Wayne Norman, still looking twelve years old. He and Jim fend off the thugs until the Phantom Train from Hell arrives, right on time.  It takes the thugs and their ghost roadster to the Abyss.

Wayne is confused, and thinks Jim’s son is Jimmy.  Once he realizes he’s dead, Wayne wants Jimmy to come with him, and Jim tearfully explains his family needs him.  It is a very corny moment, but Matheson manages to elevate it into something poignant and real. Wayne goes back to Limbo, knowing now he will be able to pass on to something better, and Jim will see him again someday.

Robert Rusler as the leader of the thugs who COME BACK.

Obviously, the movie ends happily, and there is no hint of dark magic, sacrifices or Jim unleashing something hellish.  While King’s story is more satisfying in that regard, I found the movie to be entertaining, well written, directed and acted.  The film was directed by Tom McLoughlin, who wrote and directed JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI (1986) and was a writer and director of a whole lot of TV.  The movie was written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, who also wrote such fine films as SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987), STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991), the remake of PLANET OF THE APES (2001) and everyone’s favorite Nic Cage sorcery film THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (2010)or was that SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011)?  Which one has Cage screaming, “The bees! The bees!” with a beehive on his head?  Oh, right, THE WICKER MAN (2006) —but I digress.  Acting-wise, besides Matheson and Adams, the thugs were all good, especially the leader, played by Robert Rusler, who was also in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1982) and VAMP (1986). In fact, the only bad actor in the entire ensemble was the fellow that played Jim as a kid.  He had an unfortunate resemblance to Jerry Mathers (TV’s LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, 1957-1963) and he always looked constipated when he cried, which was a lot.  I checked his credits, and he only did one voice-over job after this effort…

Sometimes it’s good they don’t come back.

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

And There’s More to Come! A public service from your friends at THE REMOTE OUTPOST.  Not only will we review the two sequels to SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, we will give you a fairly detailed synopsis – that way, you need never watch either, or you’ll know how far to fast-forward if you just want to see Hilary Swank in tentacle porn.

Friday Night Knife Fights: NEAR DARK VS. LOST BOYS – PART 1

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Evil Kids!, Friday Night Knife Fights, Gangs, The Cinema of Joel Schumacher, Vampire Movies, Vampires, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS
(SPECIAL MONDAY EDITION!)
NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS (Both – 1987)
PART 1 OF 3
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to a special weekend edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

L.L. SOARES:  With nothing exciting opening at the movies this weekend, we decided to skip our traditional Monday Cinema Knife Fight column and instead kick off the week with a FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS piece.

MA:  This will run in multiple parts, with the subsequent parts appearing on Friday nights, the usual night for FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.  Part 2 will be posted this Friday.

LS: But this first part appears on a Monday. Is that confusing enough for you?

MA: Tonight it’s the battle of the 1980s vampire movies, or I should say the 1987 vampire movies since these flicks were released the same year, NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS.  Joining us tonight in our quest to see which film tops the other, are CKF staff writers Paul McMahon and Mark Onspaugh.  Thanks guys for joining us.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Happy to be here.  It’ll be nice to participate in a column where I won’t be distracted for a change.

(LS starts juggling hand grenades)

MARK ONSPAUGH:  What was that about your not being distracted?  Good luck with that!  I’m happy to be here as well, as always.

MA:  All right, then let’s get started.  Tonight’s bout has five questions, or rounds, in Friday Night Knife Fight lingo.  Whichever film wins the most rounds wins the bout, and if the final question is unanimous, then that’ll be scored as a knock-out and that film will win the bout regardless of how it scored during the previous rounds.

PM: That doesn’t sound fair.

MA: It makes it like a boxing match.

LS:  We’re Cinema Knife Fighters!  We’re not fair!

MA:  No, but we are honest.

LS:  Shut up, you!

MO:  Going at it, already?

LS:  Not soon enough for me!

MA:  Okay, let’s move forward with our first question.  Since these two movies are about vampires, that’s where we’ll begin.

Question #1:  Do you prefer the vampires in NEAR DARK or THE LOST BOYS?

Mark, since you’re a veteran of these columns, let’s start with you.

MO:  Okie-dokie.

This is a tricky one.  THE LOST BOYS has some very cool makeup effects, while NEAR DARK has almost none.  It has some blood, some burning and some wounds, but that’s it.

MA:  I like the make-up effects on the vampires in THE LOST BOYS too, especially on Kiefer Sutherland.

LS:  I think NEAR DARK works without effects. But the ones in THE LOST BOYS are pretty good for the time. Both movies seem pretty dated now.

MO:  But the NEAR DARK vamps are more than just punk kids, or calculating adults—.

MA:  By calculating adult, are you referring to the Edward Hermmann character, Max?

MO:  Yeah, that guy.

MA:  He’s pretty lame.

LS:  But he went on to become the grandfather on THE GILMORE GIRLS!

The bad-ass vampires from NEAR DARK.

MO:  I was about to say that the vampires in NEAR DARK—there is a twisted cruelty to them that, to me, runs deeper than the juvenile delinquent vamps in THE LOST BOYS.

LS:  Now you’re talkin!

MO:  In a perfect world, my preference would be vamps like NEAR DARK with makeup effects (including those taloned bat-feet!) from THE LOST BOYS, but I get that NEAR DARK director Kathryn Bigelow wanted to say anyone could be a vampire, that they wouldn’t fly around or show big fangs.  So much is attitude with a vampire—I’m going to go with the bad-ass and bleak vamps of NEAR DARK.

LS:  I don’t think there’s even a smidgen of doubt about that one.

(MO tosses grenade over his shoulder, and there is a big explosion off-camera)

MA: FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS is always explosive!

MO: Getting back to Cannom, he also worked on VAN HELSING (2004), THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2006), and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012).

LS: So you’re telling us that he’s a really talented guy, but  his choice of movies to work on can be pretty awful?

MO: I’m saying his makeup effects are really cool.

MA: Hey, I liked ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, both the movie and its effects!

(LS laughs)

MA (to LS): Since you’re pretty much already made your opinion known, LL, why don’t you go next?

LS:  Well, y’know, I sat down last week and watched both of these movies again. I hadn’t seen either of them in a while. The last time I saw NEAR DARK was like five years ago, and I haven’t seen THE LOST BOYS since the 80s.  So it was interesting to go back and look at these movies with fresh eyes.

The thing about THE LOST BOYS is that it wasn’t as freakin’ godawful as I’d remembered. Sure, I’ve got some major problems with it that I’ll discuss later, but the basic vampire storyline, Jason Patric and the vampires trying to recruit him, really isn’t so bad. The vampires are kind of cool-looking, especially Keifer Sutherland with his black duster (which he made cool LONG before THE MATRIX), when they’re in vampire mode. But when they’re not, they look like a really lame hair band. There are two guys in the group who look almost identical and I couldn’t really distinguish them. And then there’s Alex Winter, from BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE as Marko, a younger vampire. And Jamie Gertz is hot and I practically liked any scene was she was in. So despite the hair metal look, these vampires weren’t completely horrible.

THE LOST BOYS – Vampire Gang or Hair Band?

But the ones in NEAR DARK are just so much more believable. Sure, they’re supernatural creatures, too, but they’re more gritty, less flashy (except for Bill Paxton) and I just thought they were superior in every way. I gotta go with Mark on this one, attitude counts for a LOT, and the NEAR DARK vamps are bad asses compared to the more wimpy LOST BOYS. THE LOST BOYS might have more flash, and the big-ass fangs, but they just seem childish in comparison.

I also thought it was interesting how you became a vampire in each movie. In THE LOST BOYS you have to drink the blood of a vampire—as Michael does when he thinks that the bottle of David’s blood is wine. It’s an interesting scene when the wine is introduced, after David shows Michael how he can make him see things that aren’t real. So it’s an elaborate process that takes time. Michael has to drink from that bottle several times, but it affects him right away. He starts avoiding sunlight and wearing sunglasses inside.

In NEAR DARK, when Mae just bites Caleb, the transformation begins, which is kind of scary, how easily it happens. No tricks, no big elaborate plan. Just a little nibble, and Caleb is a goner.

However, it is interesting how, in both movies, you have to make your first “kill” to complete the process for real. And neither movie’s hero wants to take that step. That’s a big similarity in both movies.

And Jenny Wright is so much more interesting as Mae than Jamie Gertz is as Star. Gertz is very pretty, but also very “Hollywood.” In comparison, there’s something odd about Wright. She always seems to be holding back, always seems to be afraid to really emote about anything, and it works in her favor. She’s also pretty, but in a more unconventional way. And where Star is the bait to lure men in, Mae is more her own person.

MA: Paul, how about you?  What are your thoughts on the vampires?

PM:  I’m with L.L.  NEAR DARK all the way.

There’s an evil about Jesse and his group that surpasses anything in THE LOST BOYS.

LS: THE LOST BOYS are still on training wheels!

PM: In THE LOST BOYS,  Kiefer’s David had a glam band that followed his every command and offered no challenge at all to his leadership. (Max wasn’t any kind of leader to those boys, no matter what he says at the end of the film.)

MA:  Max couldn’t lead a marching band, let alone a band of vampires!

LS: Aww, he’s not so bad. I’ve always liked Edward Hermann.

PM:  Lance Henriksen’s Jesse Hooker was more menacing by far. Jesse’s crew had intense personalities that made them independent characters. Bill Paxton’s Severen was the most evil character in either film, and Joshua Miller stole his scenes as Homer– quite the feat for a child actor.

The great Lance Henriksen as Jesse Hooker, leader of the vampire gang in NEAR DARK.

MA:  I dunno.  I couldn’t really get into Miller.

LS:  I didn’t care for Homer that much either. I just never grew to like him; he was an annoying brat, which I guess was the point. His constantly trying to turn Caleb’s sister, Sarah, into one of them was the one interesting thing he does in the movie. But she always out-smarted the little runt, and even though he had super strength, she always managed to get away.

Vampire kid Homer from NEAR DARK – you little brat!

But don’t forget, THE LOST BOYS has its equivalent, too, with Laddie. Another little kid vampire. Laddie isn’t half as memorable as Homer, and I think he’s just there to make Gertz look maternal, and thus softer than the rest of the vampires. More sympathetic, because she’s always protecting the littlest vampire.

PM:  The vampires in NEAR DARK kill every night, and during the bar scene they play a torturous game of cat and mouse with the patrons, enjoying the hell out of the fear they generate.

MA:  I think that’s the movie’s best scene.

PM:  Homer’s dance through the burning carnage is creepy as hell.

LS: The only time I thought Homer was creepy or clever at all was the scene where he pretends to have had an accident with his bicycle, and some guy stops to see if he’s hurt, and he bites him. But that dance was lame, like most of Homer’s scenes. What a little jerk!

PM:  I thought the dance was creepy.

LS:  Hell, if you want to compare little kid vampires, Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994), makes both Homer and Laddie look pretty insignificant.

PM: In THE LOST BOYS, David’s group only kills in one scene and it’s over pretty quickly for an R-rated film.

LS:  THE LOST BOYS was R rated?  I thought it was rated G! I bet it wouldn’t earn its rating if I asked my special R-rated computer.

Seriously, that one scene is pretty gory for the time, I guess. But yeah, it’s over very quickly.

PM:  Michael doesn’t even get bitten to become a vampire, he is tricked into sipping David’s blood from a wine goblet.

LS:  Lame! And what’s with that dumb name —“Michael?”

MA:  Ha, ha!  Here, have a grenade!  (MA pulls pin on grenade and tosses it to LS):

LS:  Gee, thanks!  And it’s not even my birthday!  (Tosses grenade at camera).  3D effects, Cinema Knife Fight style!  (There’s an explosion off camera followed by some groans and screams.  Rubber hands and feet fly out from behind the camera towards the panelists, who all duck.)

MO (laughing):  This is the best 3D ever!

PM:  The scene when Mae bites Caleb in NEAR DARK is charged with enough sexual tension to leave the viewer cold.

My vote goes to NEAR DARK.  No contest.

MA:  I’m not a fan of the vampires in either movie, really, but I think this is one area where THE LOST BOYS may have NEAR DARK beat.

LS:  Oh no, Michael wimps out, as usual.

MA:  Hear me out.  The few times we see the vampires (at least when they look like vampires, since they “transform” when they hunt/feed/kill) in THE LOST BOYS, I like the way they look, especially the makeup on Kiefer Sutherland.  I agree with what Mark said.  I think the make-up effects in THE LOST BOYS are pretty cool.

Keifer Sutherland as David, leader of THE LOST BOYS.

LS: But vampires are more than just effects.

MA: Agreed. But, in terms of how they look, I prefer the vampires in THE LOST BOYS.  But in terms of how they act, and how I feel about them in general, I prefer the vampires in NEAR DARK.  They’re a more deadly, realistic bunch.

In THE LOST BOYS, the group of teen vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland do very little.  When they feed and kill, it’s overdramatic, quick, and not scary.  And the head vampire Max (Edward  Herrmann) is a joke.  So, in terms of how they act, I hate the vampires in THE LOST BOYS, with the exception of Kiefer Sutherland.  He gives the best performance in the movie, and I have to admit, I like him better than any of the vampires in NEAR DARK.  This, combined with the cool makeup, gives THE LOST BOYS the edge, albeit a very thin one.

However, I’m in the minority, as the three of you chose the vampires in NEAR DARK, and so Round 1 goes to NEAR DARK.

LS: Hurray!

MA: And that’s all the time we have for now.  Join us again this Friday night for Part 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:  NEAR DARK (1987) vs. THE LOST BOYS (1987).

Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon

More to come! Squeak, squeak

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