Shakespeare's Sisters?

Director Jack Hill says re-released film is loosely based on Othello

by Joey Guerra

Daily Cougar Staff

In 1975, movie audiences were introduced to a group of immoral, impudent girls with bad attitudes and even worse senses of style. They were bad, beautiful and ... they bombed.

Twenty years later, thanks to Quentin Tarantino, the Switchblade Sisters are back. Released through his Rolling Thunder production company (the same people who brought us Chungking Express), the film's renewed cool quotient has also put director Jack Hill back into the spotlight.

"Nobody was more astonished than I was," said Hill in a recent interview. He claims he was reluctant at first to dig Switchblade Sisters out of the grave, because of its initial failure. Ultimately, though, Hill claims the experience has been "satisfying."

Switchblade Sisters is a rough-and-tumble look at a group of wild girls that skip school, have sex and play violently. Throw in jealous boyfriends, rival gangs, a love triangle and some Maoist principles, and you have the makings of the ultimate B-movie.

Director of such blaxploitation classics as Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), Hill met with considerable success doing B-movie, drive-in-type specials until Switchblade Sisters, which he claims suffered from a bad advertising campaign upon its initial release. "It was the only movie I made that didn't make money," he said.

Hill admits that he thought the film was a mistake when he saw it for the big screen. "When you get to a certain stage and have success, you think you have all the answers," said Hill.

Now, the film's re-release gives audiences a chance to see Hill's vision as it was intended. He equates Switchblade Sisters to a female-driven A Clockwork Orange, saying he based it loosely on Othello. While that description seems a bit grandiose, Hill ultimately calls it "a totally whacked-out fantasy."

"I think people come into the movie prepared to see a cultural artifact," said Hill. There have been the usual outcries from feminists over some of the film's portrayals (including a rape scene), but Hill calls it a "feminist manifesto," saying the whole point of the film is that it is an equal-opportunity offender. "It does seem to push certain buttons," he said.

On the other side of the switchblade, Hill also notes that some critics are now calling the film post-modern, and there is the obvious payoff. "I never made a quarter on it before, so anything is an upside."

Hill says he has some current projects in the works, but is less than enthusiastic about the current film industry, which he says spits out mere clones. "I'm not going to do anything that starts with a car chase or a helicopter being blown up," he said.

One thing to say for Switchblade Sisters is that it's definitely not boring. Audiences will most likely respond to the film because it is something different, and, even if it offends, Hill has done his job.

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