by Jef Burnham
Now available on On-Demand DVD from the MGM limited Edition Collection.
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Produced for American International Pictures (AIP), Savage Sisters came about during the period of the 1970s in which countless American exploitation pictures were being produced in the Philippines in order to simultaneously cut production costs and increase production value. (You can learn more about this trend in Filipino genre filmmaking in Mark Hartley’s 2010 documentary, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, which I highly recommend.) Other notable films of this movement include Women in Cages (1971), TNT Jackson (1974), and Black Mama, White Mama (1973), starring Pam Grier.
Savage Sisters follows three beautiful women in an unspecified jungle nation (clearly the Philippines) out to nab one million dollars in U.S. currency from the bandit who betrayed two of them. But these three savage sisters have their work cut out for them, as they’re not alone in their pursuit of the bandit. The military too seeks to reclaim the cash before the bandit flees the country. This, however, makes it sound as though Savage Sisters has some sort of well-developed narrative, which it most certainly does not. The plot amounts to little more than a bunch of people chasing a guy for money really. What any of them intend to do with it hardly matters, for in the end, we simply have nothing and no one to get invested in as the massive cast of characters results in thin characterizations all around.
Moreover, with Savage Sisters, director Eddie Romero (who also helmed Black Mama, White Mama) attempted to elevate the humor of his previous pictures from incidental to intentionally cartoonish levels. This he accomplished marginally at best, and really only if you find torture and sex to be particularly humorous in and of themselves. For me, none of the gags work, I’m afraid. I think the fault lies in the film’s direction, though, for even Sid Haig, appropriately playing the most overtly comic character in the film, barely elicits a chuckle. And that’s a problem! It simply seems to me that Romero reached too far with this one, shooting for comedy where a simple exploitation torture-fest would have sufficed. That said, I surmise that Savage Sisters, unsuccessful comedy and all, will provide die-hard exploitation fans with quite the treat.
As for the quality of release itself, don’t let the disclaimer at the beginning of these on-demand releases regarding the quality of the source material mislead you. In my experience with the Limited Edition Collection, this disclaimer is hardly necessary. This is a mighty fine-looking transfer for a rarely seen exploitation flick, one marred by surprisingly little debris. In fact, I’d say the quality of this release stands up there with the mass-produced “Soul Cinema” release of Black Mama, White Mama.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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