Switchblade Sisters

Switchblade Sisters is a 1975 action and exploitation film detailing the lives of high school-aged female gang members. It was directed by Jack Hill and stars Joanne Nail, Robbie Lee and Monica Gayle. The film is also known as The Jezebels.

Switchblade Sisters
Directed byJack Hill
Produced byJeff Begun, Frank Moreno, John Prizer
Written byJack Hill
F.X. Meier
John Prizer
StarringJoanne Nail
Robbie Lee
Monica Gayle
Asher Brauner
Don Stark
Music byLes Baxter
CinematographyStephen Katz
Edited byMorton Tubor
Distributed byCentaur Pictures
Release date
  • May 1975 (1975-05)
Running time
91 minutes

The movie was not a success at the box office,[2] but garnered a cult following later on.[3] Most of its current popularity can be attributed to film director Quentin Tarantino, who named the picture a personal favorite and re-released it in 1996 under his Rolling Thunder Pictures label. This version of the film features a commentary by both Hill and Tarantino. The film's tagline is "So Easy to Kill, So Hard to Love."

Plot synopsis

Maggie (Joanne Nail) transfers from across town to a new high school that is essentially run by the Silver Daggers, a rough, hierarchical male gang, and their female counterparts, the Dagger Debs. A confrontation between the Dagger Debs and a repo man gets all the female members — and Maggie — arrested. Because Maggie is new, a lecherous lesbian warden at the juvenile detention center (Kate Murtagh) threatens to physically abuse her. Maggie fights back and eventually the Dagger Debs join her. Subsequently, Dagger Deb leader Lace (Robbie Lee) decides she likes Maggie and entrusts her with running errands while she serves a brief sentence in juvenile hall. One such errand- delivering a love note to Lace's boyfriend, Dominic (Asher Brauner), ends in Dominic following Maggie home and raping her. Maggie's close friendship with Lace upsets Lace's closest friend, Patch, who lost one of her eyes in service to the gang and now sees herself as second-in-command.

Lace is released from juvenile hall and reunites with Dominic, telling him that she discovered she was pregnant during her incarceration. Dominic disavows fatherhood and refuses to help Lace care for the child, encouraging her to undergo an abortion. Meanwhile, the Silver Daggers have to contend with the arrival of a new gang, led by the villainous Crabs (Chase Newhart), at the high school. After Crabs shoots Dominic's brother and orchestrates the gang rape of one of the Debs, Maggie devises an ambush on Crabs's men at a local roller rink. The effort proves disastrous when Crabs' men show up armed with rifles, kill Dominic, and brutally assault Lace, causing her to miscarry. While Lace recuperates in the hospital, Maggie assumes leadership of the gang, expels the men and changes its name to The Jezebels. She teams up with Muff (Marlene Clark) and her gang of African-American militants from across town to ambush Crabs. All the while, Maggie suspects that someone in her group tipped Crabs off to their plans at the roller rink, not knowing that Patch has already uncovered the real traitor: Lace, who organized the ambush to get Maggie killed in revenge for her stealing Dom and for assuming the role of leader of the Dagger Debs. Patch agrees to cover for Lace and, after the ambush proves successful, she shoots Crabs before he can confess to Maggie.

Back at the Jezebels' hideout, Lace and Patch attempt to convince the gang that Maggie was the traitor. The members refuse to believe Lace's assertions, and a knife fight ensues between Lace and Maggie. Maggie fatally stabs Lace in the throat, prompting a police strike force that had been surrounding the building to storm in and arrest everyone. The various members of the gang proudly proclaim themselves as members of the Jezebels, but when Patch attempts to identify herself as part of the gang to the police, the remaining members disavow any knowledge of her. The blood-soaked Maggie becomes hysterical as she and the rest of the gang are loaded into the back of a police van, screaming threats that the Jezebels will one day return.


Production notes

  • Jack Hill allegedly interviewed real-life female gang members before filming Switchblade Sisters in order to give small details an air of authenticity.
  • While filming, the titles Playgirl Gang and The Jezebels were considered. Hill states in the DVD commentary that he figures not enough people would know what a Jezebel was, however. Thus, Switchblade Sisters was chosen, even though the phrase is not spoken in the movie.


Jack Hill has stated that Switchblade Sisters was broadly influenced by William Shakespeare's Othello.[4] Hill and Quentin Tarantino liken Patch to an Iago character in the commentary for the film.[4]

Hill credited Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead for inspiring the scene in Switchblade Sisters in which a female gang member shrugs off being raped, Hill claiming that this occurs in Rand's novel.[4]

Pop culture relevance

  • One of the warden's attendants—listed in the credits as "Matron #1"—is played by stuntwoman Jeannie Epper. Epper played the reverend's wife in the first segment of Kill Bill: Volume 2. Her daughter Eurlyne also worked with Tarantino, playing a tag-along accomplice of drug dealer Lanna Frank (stuntwoman Monica Staggs) in the Death Proof segment of Grindhouse.
  • Two of the actresses playing female gang members in this film — Robbie Lee and Janice Karman, who played Bunny — went on to do voicework for children's cartoons. Lee was the voice of several supporting characters in the original Rainbow Brite series and Karman provides the voice of Theodore of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • The film also features a young Don Stark, who is today familiar to audiences as Bob Pinciotti on That '70s Show.
  • Donut was portrayed by Kitty Bruce, daughter of Lenny Bruce.
  • The film was reviewed by Siskel & Ebert, alongside another well-known exploitation film, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D..
  • A line from the film, "Everybody's gotta be in a gang" was directly referenced in the final roll-out of artists for the 2017 Treefort Music Fest regarding the surfy proto-punk band Death Valley Girls. [5]

See also


  1. Calum Waddell, Jack Hill: The Exploitation and Blaxploitation Master, Film by Film, McFarland, 2009 p174
  2. Jack Hill on Switchblade Sisters at Trailers From Hell accessed 10 June 2012
  3. "Lots of laughs in lineup at Fringe | The Chronicle Herald". Thechronicleherald.ca. Retrieved 2015-12-18.
  4. Audio commentary with Jack Hill and Quentin Tarantino
  5. "Final Round of Artists for Treefort 2017". 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-02-05.
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