In a 1988 Sight And Sound interview, Patricia Highsmith talks about film adaptations of her novels, from Strangers On A Train (1950) to The American Friend (1977)
Posted June 2, 2006
Pin open your eyelids and get ready to scream like a mongoloid! This week I’m highlighting a trio of 1970s exploitation drive-in movies that have mostly been forgotten by today’s movie renting public that rarely stray from the “New Release Wall” in their local Blockbuster. I’ll tell you what — fuck Blockbuster. They won’t have this stuff, so support your local indie video store.
SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975)
If there ever was a film that could be considered essential viewing for 1970s exploitation fans, this would have to be it. Director Jack Hill slays with this 1975 drive-in ass-kickin’ opus which has all the requisite cheese and then some: girl fights, gun duels, sex-starved reform school guards, a drive-by gang rape, in-school forced-prostitution, and even a violent African-American-Maoist revolution in the streets.
The plot chronicles the trials and tribulations of the Dagger Debs, an all teenage girl posse of bad-asses. When the sexy new chain-swingin’ chick on the block, Lace (Robbie Lee) joins the gang and befriends its tough talking leader Maggie (Joanne Nail), she arouses the jealousy of Patch (Monica Gayle), Maggie’s former right-hand woman, and even catches the eye of Maggie’s boyfriend (Asher Brauer). The soap opera style treachery, insane dialogue, colourful action, ballsy bloodshed, and tender titties on display invest this gem as a truly rewarding trash cinema experience.
As a personal aside, one of the bit players in the gang is the chubby-yet-adorable Donut, played by Lenny Bruce’s daughter — Kitty. If this film had nothing else going for it, it at least has her, the object of a rather hefty schoolboy crush on my part. Get the Rolling Thunder DVD, the audio commentary with Jack Hill and Quentin Tarantino is plenty entertaining.
TRUCK STOP WOMEN (1974)
A bushel of sexy gear-jammin’ redneck bombshells run their own little smuggling and prostitution ring out of a truckstop, and kick the puddding out of any man who dares to interfere. The Mob decides they want a taste of the action, a move that provides for an all-out war between the country gals and the citified goons.
Highlights: Some goof getting trampled in a trailer full of cattle, an 18-wheeler going off of a very big cliff, girls with guns, a nudity-packed musical montage about the joys of trucking, an odd but not-so-subtle feminist subtext, and the sassy and frequently unclad 1970 Playboy Playmate of the Year — Claudia Jennings, (GATOR BAIT, UNHOLY ROLLERS) in a starring role. Jennings would years later fall asleep behind the wheel of her Volkswagen on a California highway. (R.I.P. Claudia. We really miss you.)
Political trivia: Presidential hopeful Phil Gramm got into some trouble in the ’96 campaign when it was revealed that he helped line up financing for Truck Stop Women in his apparently less conservative days.
Movie Poster artist Joseph Smith, who also created the awesome poster art for PHANTASM, LADY FRANKENSTEIN, and EARTHQUAKE, pulled out all the stops with his aesthetically pleasing design for the TRUCK STOP WOMEN poster. If only artisans like Smith were still in charge of putting together modern day ad campaigns rather than today’s crop of uncreative retarded half-wits who exclusively use lame Photoshop techniques. What a fucking shame.
POLICEWOMEN (1974) (aka “The Insiders”)
This isn’t nearly as sleazy or action-packed as much of the other better known grindhouse drive-in movies of the 1970s, but it does somehow manage to be much more enjoyable than plenty of them. In fact, if there was ever a flick that neatly summed up the “cop-sploitation” genre of the period, this could well be it.
Much of this is due to large breasted Sondra Currie, who is a total delight in the lead role of Lucy Bond. This blonde sass-master kicks much booty, and ends up having to fight as hard to be accepted by her chauvinist pig peers as she does to catch the bad guys.
Sondra exudes confidence, a sense of humour, and you can smell the “spirit of adventure” pungently wafting out of her pores. Whether flapping gums at her superiors, or locked in all-out hand-to-hand combat, Lucy makes you wanna hoot n’ holler. It’s a bit of a mystery why Miss Currie didn’t go onto bigger things, or at the very least become a prominent star in the drive-in genre, but she did end up marrying Alan Levi, a TV director whose directorial credits include BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and MISFITS OF SCIENCE.
The plot has some outlandish flavours: I loved the all girl gang that spends most of its time in bikinis, and the compound that houses these slutty villains is run by a cranky ol’ granny and her muscle-bound brain-free boy-toy.
Sondra’s co-star is former Playboy Playmate Jeannie Bell, an ebony goddess that gets her ass handed to her by an saucy Asian harlot once she enters the compound. Jeannie manages to take her shirt off twice for no good reason, whereas Currie keeps hers on while her heaving chest makes angry threats to escape her blouse. Top marks to the unintentionally hilarious martial arts sequences, which are unusually well choreographed but are still obviously performed by fun-lovin’ actors instead of hard nosed professional fighters. Sammo Hung VS Jet Li this is not.
Written and directed by notorious serial sex director Lee Frost, who helmed hump classics like THE DEFILERS (1965), LOVE CAMP 7 (1969), HOT SPUR (1971), POOR CICILY (1973) and A CLIMAX OF BLUE POWER (1974). POLICEWOMEN may not be considered as one of his greatest achievements in the world of film, but I’m here to tell you that it should be. This good natured time waster is far from a waste of time.