Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Switchblade Sisters, You're Gonna Miss Me

All I've wanted to do lately is watch movies. I don't really know why, but I've just been experiencing a hunger lately to take in as many films as I possibly can. I'm sure that's what those of you who know me think I'm like all the time, but truthfully, until fairly recently, I was happy to watch three or four movies a week, mixed in with countless TV shows, comic books, novels, video games, and websites, not to mention what passes for my piddling social life.

Suddenly, in July, I started watching a movie every single day, sometimes more than one. I watched close to 40 in that month alone, and that was even with me prepping a cross-country move! It looks like I'll come close to that again in August. In the last month and a half, I've watched 1/3 of the total movies I've watched all year!

Why am I telling you this? I have no idea. I just have so many movies to talk about right now, and the list of films I want to see keeps getting longer. The last couple months have felt quite fulfilling in that respect. I don't know how long I can keep up this momentum. Probably not long, since I'll be back to working full time by September. But I'll try to drag it out as long as I can.

The Switchblade Sisters, by Jack Hill, 1975

Watching old exploitation movies can often be a squirmy, unsettling affair. The violence doesn't usually take me aback very much, but the sex often can. Not that I'm prudish, I just don't really like it when things get rapey, as they often did in the 70's. In those cases, you usually just have to try to look past those scenes and try to appreciate the movie within the context it was made in.

Jack Hill's The Switchblade Sisters is actually a pretty well made film, despite the scenes that make you feel like a creep for watching them. It's about a gang of tough, kick-ass high school girls known as The Dagger Debs, who are like a sister sorority to a man gang called The Daggers. Maggie, a new girl in town, manages to work her way into the Debs, befriending the leader, Lace. Over the course of things, Maggie takes over the gang, throws out the guys, and changes the name to the much cooler sounding The Jezebels, and eventually, it all comes down to a big gang fight, with Maggie going up against her old friend Lace. Lots of violence and titillation along the way.

The Switchblade Sisters walks kind of a weird balance. The girls in the gang are strong, independent, three-dimensional characters, which is pretty impressive for its time. But the movie must also give in to the demands of its financiers and its target audience, so there's a lot of pretty tasteless stuff mixed in. You could almost say this movie is kind of feminist. You could also say it's not in the least bit feminist, and you would not be wrong. Overall, I did like The Switchblade Sisters. It has an entertaining story, and the lead girls were actually really badass. It's worth watching if you know that you're getting into some pretty gloriously trashy stuff. I know Quentin Tarantino is a big fan, if that's any indication.

You're Gonna Miss Me, by Keven McAlester, 2005

Rock and roll history and lore is riddled with stories of success and highly publicized accounts of tragedy. But along the paths of those famous stories are tangential stories of bands that almost made it, or artists who burned out before they even began. Bands who disintegrated after recording one ahead-of-its-time album. Artists who couldn't stand the attention. These stories are often just as, or more, interesting than hearing about The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or Kurt Cobain again.

You're Gonna Miss Me is a documentary about Roky Erickson, lead singer of a 60's rock band called The 13th Floor Elevators, and apparently, the man who coined the word "psychedelic". They have some songs you might recognize, look them up. Erickson took too much LSD, was diagnosed schizophrenic, and committed. But when he gets out his guitar and sings, he still can make phenomenal music. A very interesting and pretty sad documentary, and an important side story in the Annals of Rock.

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