Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Savage Sisters (1974)

          Narrative dissonance is often a hallmark of sloppily made grindhouse flicks, thanks to producers’ capricious melding of incompatible genre elements, but Savage Sisters is especially discombobulated. Part part heist movie, part military adventure, part prison picture, and part sexploitation, Savage Sisters has everything except coherence. The movie is strangely watchable simply because there’s no way to guess which direction the story might take in any given scene, but it’s not a satisfying viewing experience. However, the movie isn’t exactly traffic-accident horrible, either, since it sometimes seems as if director Eddie Romero and his collaborators are trying for intentional humor. So the best way to classify the movie’s appeal is to say that if watching semi-attractive women seduce and slaughter their way through South America while delivering lame one-liners sounds like fun to you, then you belong to Savage Sisters’ intended audience.
          The story, which is far too convoluted to describe in detail here, follows revolutionaries Mei Ling (Rosanna Ortiz), an Asian, and Jo Turner (Cheri Caffaro), a Nordic glamazon, as they battle an oppressive military regime represented by the comically preening Captain Morales (Eddie Garcia). When Morales’ men capture Jo and Mei, the women are entrusted to Lynn Jackson (Gloria Hendry), a black stripper-turned-warden who digs torturing people. Then, when the three women hear that an evil bandito named Malavel (Sid Haig) has purloined a briefcase filled with $1 million in U.S. currency, the multi-culti ladies join forces to bust out of jail and seek their fortune. Also thrown into the mix is an American hustler named W.P. Billingsley (John Ashley), who ends up becoming lovers with all three women. Oh, and lest we forget, there’s a scene in which a prison guard threatens to rape Jo with a giant wind-up dildo, a running gag involving a sidekick named Punjab who only speaks in grunts, and a “comedy” scene in which two men are buried neck deep in a beach just before high tide.
          Savage Sisters packs a whole lot of nonsense in to 86 fast-moving minutes, and the tone of the movie is all over the place—Haig plays all of his scenes so broadly that it seems as if he’s acting in a farce, while Caffaro and Hendry strut around like they’re in an action picture. And then there’s Ashley, the workaday feature and TV supporting player who also co-produced the movie. One can almost understand the vanity of Ashley wanting to repeatedly appear on camera while exercising, slipping into bed with women, and wearing bikini briefs, but, still, Ashley’s casting as a second-tier supporting schmuck represents a strange exercise in behind-the-camera power. Yet that’s the meager fascination something like Savage Sisters provides—every decision that went into making the movie seems so loopy that half the fun of watching the thing is imagining what went through the filmmakers’ heads during production. Okay, make that more than half the fun, because genuine audience enjoyment is not something Savage Sisters provides in abundance. (Available as part of the MGM Limited Collection on Amazon.com)

Savage Sisters: FREAKY

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