Arrow Video: Everybody’s Gotta Be in a Gang: Switchblade Sisters (1975)


"You can beat us, chain us, lock us up, but we're gonna be back, understand?!"

Switchblade Sisters (1975) seems like a run-of-the-mill "bad girls do bad things" kind of flick, but simmering under the surface is a poignant and tragic soul that lends some gravitas to a trashy premise. The film opens up watching Lace (Robbie Lee) getting ready, her babyface demeanor in stark contrast to her hard-edged clothing. She's the leader of the Dagger Debs, a gang of young girls from the wrong side of the tracks, victims of the rough and tough streets. Their main pastime is sauntering around whipping out their switchblades and hanging around the Silver Daggers a group of equally rowdy teen boys (although nobody looks younger than twenty-five). 

After a chance encounter in a hamburger place, Lace is bested in a fight by Maggie (Joanne Nail) a newcomer to the town. The police round up everyone after the scuffle and ship them off to a juvenile delinquent house. After this point the rest of the film follows a love/hate relationship between Lace and Maggie as they vie for control of the Dagger Debs and for the affection of Dominic (Asher Brauner) Lace's moody boyfriend.

The intense drama between the various members of the Dagger Debs is what sets this movie apart from its peers--it explores deeper themes of abuse, jealousy, and betrayal. No matter how resilient the girls seem on the outside, inside they are still vulnerable to the whims of both their "brother" gang and rival gangs. There are several rape scenes and it's obvious that the women would be much stronger if they stuck together and didn't let terrible men force them apart. Director Jack Hill said he was influenced by Shakespeare's play Othello, and that sweeping feeling of tragedy permeates the entire story and makes it much more compelling.

All of this aside, Switchblade Sisters doesn't skimp on the exploitation and there are plenty of bloody knife battles and bare breasts to put it squarely in the titillation camp. On the visual side of things the costumes are fantastic, with each girl given her own style. The most iconic of which is Patch (Monica Gayle) so-named because she lost an eye fighting for the gang and adorns the empty eye socket with a gilded eye-patch emblazoned with a feminine butterfly. In a way, her patch is a mascot for the film, simultaneously bad ass and delicate. 

While one probably wouldn't go as far as to say the film is outright feminist, at its heart its about women breaking free of their bonds and going out on their own. There is also a moment of intersectionality when Maggie enlists the help of Muff (Marlene Clark) who is the leader of a group of black female Marxist militants. At the end of the film the Dagger Debs rename themselves the Jezebels, as they are no longer confined to being associated with the Silver Daggers. They are now their own masters free to cause their own special brand of havoc.
Transfer: The high definition restoration looks beautiful and the colors really stand out. As always, Arrow has left a touch of film grain in as well.

Extras: This is a packed release with an excellent making of documentary and tons of interviews with the cast and crew. Director Jack Hill is highly involved with these extras and it's fascinating to hear him talk about his influences and working outside the studio system. There is a feature length commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan that goes in depth into the history of women's roles in exploitation films, the context of the time period it was made, and insightful analysis of the themes of Switchblade Sisters.


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by historians/critics Samm Deighan & Kat Ellinger
  • We Are The Jezebels, an archival documentary featuring director Jack Hill, producer John Prizer, casting director Geno Havans, production designer B.B. Neel, stunt coordinator Bob Minor, and stars Joanne Nail, Asher Brauner, and Chase Newhart
  • Gangland: The locations of Switchblade Sisters, an archival documentary in which Jack Hill and filmmaker Elijah Drenner revisit the shooting locations of Switchblade Sisters
  • Jack Hill and Joanne Nail at the Grindhouse Film Festival, a 2007 archival interview with the director and actor
  • Interview with Jack Hill, Robbie Lee, Joanne Nail, an archival 1990’s interview with the director and stars in conversation with Johnny Legend
  • Galleries of behind the scenes stills, international posters, video covers, and lobby cards
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors' booklet featuring new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Heather Drain

—Michelle Kisner