Thursday, January 7, 2010
★★★½ SAVAGE SISTERS
Above is the Poster A.I.P. used in predominantly white areas
and below is the poster art used for African American neighborhoods.
Savage Sisters is wonderful popcorn and booze fare that should be given the cult status it so clearly deserves. The cast of exploitation veterans appear to be having so much fun the smiles become contagious off screen. Fast paced with a funky score this is pure 70s cinematic flea pit nirvana.
Eddie Romero is one of the Philippines most beloved filmmakers having won five FAMAS awards and induction into the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Lucky for us, he also made some damn good exploitation films. After his Blood Island horror series (1968-71) starring John Ashley, Romero partnered with the former A.I.P. teen actor to create the production company Four Associates Ltd.
In 1973 they made the drive-in classics The Twilight People & Beyond Atlantis for Dimension Pictures, Woman Hunt for New World Pictures and Eddie Romero still found time to direct Black Mama White Mama for American International Pictures.
Savage Sisters is the last film they co-produced and begins with flashy con-man W.P. Billingsley (John Ashley) casually informing the audience that there are three things that get peoples blood boiling - sex, politics and money. His narration introduces us to the cast of misfits involved in our trashy banana republic tale.
Dictator General Bathasar is trying to get one million dollars of the previous regime's money off the island. Guerilla leader Ernesto Gutierrez has enlisted the help of notorious bandit Malavael (Sid Haig) to blow up a bridge and steal the cash from the General's motorcade to help fund a revolution.
Before Ernesto's American girlfriend, Jo Turner (Cheri Caffaro) and local idealist Mai Ling (Rosanna Ortiz) can create a diversionary tactic their compound is raided by the military and the women are locked up in Captain Morales' (Eddie Garcia) prison where former prostitute turned Secret Police Captain Lynn Jackson (Gloria Hendry) is in charge of interrogations.
After the convoy raid, Malavel and his side kick One Eye (Vic Diaz) double cross and kill Ernesto along with the other revolutionaries. The General promises Captain Morales a promotion if he retrieves his money and Billingsley convinces Captain Jackson to bust out the ladies so they can lead them to Malavel and split the cash. The remainder of the film is a fun filled series of double crosses and attempts at getting the brief case of dough off the island.
Sid Haig, Vic Diaz and Eddie Garcia were in the previous Four Associates Ltd. films but here they really go over the top with hilarious results. Dressed like Poncho Villa, Haig plays Malavel as a crazed cross between Charles Manson and Tommy Chong. When he's not killing off wounded members of his own gang, he's shooting prostitutes post intercourse and complaining about how many bullets it took because they wouldn't stay still.
Diaz plays One Eye as one of the most ridiculous looking bandits in screen history. Wearing a decorative eye patch, a shirt several sizes to small and exposing his butt crack through half the film, One Eye is the poster child for depraved male slobbery. He constantly eyeballs women, steals a cigarette from the mouth of a dead soldier, kicks a child and acts more like he wants to have sex with the brief case of money than spend it. Although a bit of a dim wit, his character always knows how to keep Malavel from filling him full of lead.
Eddie Garcia is surprisingly funny as Captain Morales who likes to act like a dog while being whipped by his prison's head matron and has his second in command constantly following him around with a camera for any photo opportunity that may arise. His last dying words to the photographer being, "Take a picture while the lights still good."
The biggest revelation is the comedic timing of John Ashley who delivers the funniest line in the movie. Double crossed by the ladies and tied to a tree he releases this gem, “There was a time when I’d have let you piss in my face just to see where it came from, but now I hope I never see you again.” It's a shame he didn't do more comedic roles but now I can see the influence he must of had while producing the A-Team.
There are also some laughs to be had with minor characters such as Billingsley's incomprehensible side kick Punjab, an alcoholic Japanese WWII pilot and a boat captain missing both legs.
With the leading ladies, Cheri Caffaro, Gloria Hendry and Rosanna Ortiz, the humor is mostly generated through their foul mouthed tough as nails dialogue. Which brings me to my favourite element of Savage Sisters - the sex.
The raincoat crowd will be turned off by the lack of nudity but I think it's one of the most endearing qualities of Savage Sisters. The film plays out like one big burlesque strip tease. Private Parts are almost exposed throughout theentire film. Open shirts barely cling to the sides of breasts, the film cuts just as a bra is being snapped, a shirt is ripped barely above the nipple, soap suds cover a body in the most careful way, a topless catfight doesn't even offer a glimpse, Caffro's pants are ripped off while a guard blocks a view of her naughties, and objects in the foreground manage to block the payoff during every sex scene. Imagine the disappointment the peepers must of felt down on 42nd street.
There is a ton of bare flesh on display and towards the films conclusion the in joke is exposed with a strip tease that only reveals a side nipple shot. The final sequence has our heroines dressed as men not exposing as much as an ankle or wrist! While many will undoubtedly find this frustrating, I found the tease to be a brilliant twist on the cliches of the Filipino W.I.P. film.
Savage Sisters isn't all played for laughs and the script by Harry Corner and H. Franco Moon (sounds like someone moonlighting to me) is fully aware of the balancing act it must achieve for a good exploitation action film. There are plenty of bullets flying and barrels blowing up to get your beer cheer going.
John Ashley and Eddie Romero would make one more film together, the amazing hard-boiled action film Sudden Death (1977) starring Robert Conrad, Don Stroud and Vic Diaz. Seek it out.
For those who still feel cheated over the nudity, you can see every square inch of Cheri Caffaro in Ginger (1971), The Abductors (1972), Girls are for Loving (1973), and Too Hot to Handle (1977). Gloria Hendry can be had in Black Caesar (1973) and Rosanna Ortiz in Savage! (1973).
Savage Sisters has never receieved an official video release but the entire film can be streamed on YouTube by clicking here.