Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 7/18/00
1974 (2000) - Rolling
Thunder (Buena Vista)
review by Todd Doogan of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
90 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
dual-layered (extra layer for additional material), audio commentary
by director Jack Hill and Quentin Tarantino, intro and outro by
Tarantino about the film's history and impact, 7 theatrical trailers
The Swinging Cheerleaders,
The Big Doll House,
The Big Bird Cage,
The Soceress), clips from
Spider Baby and
Pit Stop, reel of text reviews
for Spider Baby, Hill's
student film The Host, film
themed menu screens, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English
(DD mono), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned
Cop: "Let me give
you some advice
Maggie: "No. Let me give you some advice, cop. You can beat
us, chain us, lock us up. But we're gonna be back! Understand? And
when we do, cop, you better keep your ass off our turf or we'll blow
it off! Ya dig? It's Jezebels, cop -- remember that name. We'll be
Rolling Thunder's first DVD (second if you go alphabetically next
to Mighty Peking Man)
Switchblade Sisters, not only
preserves a great B-grade film, it preserves an era in filmmaking -
the exploitation film. Exploitation films serve only a few purposes.
You can laugh at their serious attempts at drama, you can marvel at
their gratuitous use of the female form, and you can earn big bucks
making them. That's not to say there is anything wrong with
exploitation films. Some of the best filmmakers in the industry got
started making exploitation films. Consider this: Jonathan Demme
started with Caged Heat,
Martin Scorsese made Boxcar Bertha
and Francis Ford Coppola made Dementia 13.
All were great films, and all foreshadowed a new generation of
filmmakers. Jack Hill wasn't lucky enough to actually get out of the
exploitation niche, but he did make some of the best of the breed.
Foxy Brown and
Switchblade Sisters all came
from this talented filmmaker's lens. And if Quentin Tarantino has
his way, you will appreciate this filmmaker just as much as he does.
Switchblade Sisters is fun,
it's passionate and it's actually a damn good movie (in the good bad
movie mode). It's the epic story of a gang of women who rise up and
squash everyone in their path. The Silver Daggers are one of
America's heaviest gangs. They rob, they pillage and they party. But
behind every great gang is a greater gang of women. In this case,
they are the Dagger Debs. Led by Lace, these femme fatals rob
harder, pillage more frequently and they party way more heartily
than their male counterparts. One day, these ladies bump into
Maggie, and after they attempt to kill her, they realize she may be
able to hold her own amongst them. She fortifies this when the Debs
spend the night in a jail controlled by a tough lesbian guard who
wants a piece of Maggie. After the Debs beat the hell out of the
guard, they embrace Maggie as one of their own and a new family is
born. Things aren't all good, as we find when Lace's boyfriend Dom
wants to initiate Maggie into the fold personally. The new dynamic
is threatened even further when Lace's right hand chick, Patch,
starts to Otelletically whisper in Lace's ear about alliances both
real and imagined. Things begin to spiral out of control. New
questions emerge when Maggie changes the gang's name to the Jezebels
and calls for an all out street war in the name of honor, truth and
everything holy. Will Maggie and Lace stay friends? Will Bunny ever
figure out she's being undersold? When did the Daggers beat the
Sweathogs to take control?
All the things that normally turn a viewer off about a movie -
incredibly bad acting, awful camera set-ups and a very badly cliché-ridden
story - are exactly what sets this film up as one of the best of the
breed. I really didn't expect to like this movie as much as I did.
Tarantino says it best somewhere on this disc, when he explains the
emotion behind the film. You really DO care about these characters.
You become cemented in their story... as threadbare as it is. F.X.
Maier's dialogue is also really good (again, in a good bad movie
way) - there are some well written exchanges in here. Someone should
really take the time and adapt this to theater, because it could
work really well. And as funny as that sounds, I'm not kidding. Add
all of that to the depth the story gains with the additional insight
from Hill and Tarantino on the commentary track and you have a great
film worth owning on DVD.
This film was digitally remastered and preserved on laserdisc a few
years back, and sadly we get the same transfer on this DVD. It's a
good-looking print, don't get me wrong. It's just not anamorphic and
this film could really use that. That extra step would have put a
final polish on the transfer. As it stands, no one is going to cry,
because for a film this old (and of this level of filmmaking) it
looks wonderful. The sound is also about par for a film like this.
There's no distortion and the dialogue is centered well. There are
some effects that come across pretty nicely, particularly in the
disco massacre and the street fight towards the end. This isn't a
movie that deserves 5.1, and you won't miss it.
This DVD is also a pretty sharp special edition, especially when
held up to other live action Buena Vista releases. The above
mentioned commentary is a bit laughable when you really pay
attention. Tarantino is an insufferable fanboy, and about every
other fact he spews is just wrong. Hill corrects half of what he
says, and it's embarrassing. Tarantino's a trooper though, laughing
his fallacies off and continuing to truck along onto the next
correction. My favorite thing about the commentary is listening to
Tarantino mispronounce EVERY SINGLE name, character and actor-wise.
It's funnier than the movie, I swear. A few other gems do tumble
forth from the commentary, so historically it's worth listening to
as well. They include details on the set design, the art of being an
actor in L.A. and even (gasp!) Shakespearean references in Hill's
films. But surely listen in for the camp - you won't regret it.
The other additions to this disc are more interesting. You get an
intro and outro (basically a video essay) from Tarantino about the
film. Also included are clips and trailers for most of Hill's cannon
of films, which (although they are rarely seen) do look interesting.
You'll also find Hill's student film The
Host, which plays out like a lost episode of the
Twilight Zone (and as the
liner notes comment, served as inspiration for Coppola's
Apocalypse Now - Coppola and
Hill went to film school together).
Here's to Rolling Thunder. I hope they retrofit more of their
laserdiscs for DVD. They put some great stuff out. And even if he's
a goof, Tarantino loves these movies enough to take real good care
of them. That's all we want - our favorite films on DVD, presented
with the love that we hold for them. I mean, how can you not like
this movie? It knows it's bad... and yet it's entertaining as all
get out. More movies should do that today. We'd have less real crap
clogging up our theaters.