Filipino-shot genre film is new on Blu from Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Savage Sisters is available on Blu-ray this week from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
The women-in-prison subgenre is a weird exploitation offshoot that took off big time in the Philippines in the 70s, perhaps most famously in several Roger Corman productions which helped to launch the careers of Pam Grier and Jack Hill, who would go on to make Coffy together.
It’s a strange genre that’s occasionally sleazy fun but often uncomfortable and alarming in its penchant for sexual violence and favoring mean-spirited and gratuitous sleaze over actual storytelling.
1974’s Savage Sisters, much like Black Mama, White Mama from the year prior, is an outlier, one of the more enjoyable, energetic, and palatable examples of this school of filmmaking. Both were directed by Filipino genre legend Eddie Romero (The Twilight People, Terror is a Man, Mad Doctor of Blood Island).
The comparisons don’t stop there. Black Mama, White Mama, a foxy spin on The Defiant Ones, paired Pam Grier and Margaret Markov as hostile, racially-charged escapees who must lean work together if they’re going to have any chance at securing their freedom. The cooperative, anti-racist aspect of BMWM was one of the reasons it stood above the rest of the genre.
Savage Sisters, sometimes also known as Ebony, Ivory, and Jade (but not to be confused with Cirio Santiago’s 1976 Filipino film of that same title), feels like a bit of an expansion on the same formula. Gloria Hendry (Live and Let Die, Across 110th St, Black Caesar & Hell Up in Harlem) and Cheri Caffaro (Ginger and its sequels), who bear a resemblance to Grier and Markov, provide the “Ebony and Ivory”, while the “Jade” part of the formula is the addition of an Asian woman, for a trio of protagonists. She’s played by Rosanna Ortiz, who isn’t well known in the west but has over 100 credits as a Filipino star.
The film’s plot revolves around a chase for a stolen $1 Million, which becomes the pursuit of anyone and everyone including revolutionaries, prisoners, corrupt officials, and various goons. (And if you know anything about this genre, then you know two of those goons are gonna be beloved mainstays Sid Haig and Vic Diaz).
John Ashley, who was known as the star of several hot rod and beach party style movies before becoming a mainstay in the cinema of Eddie Romero, plays a hapless, untrustworthy, and rather lucky schmuck who teams up with the girls and even romances all three — but would also readily turn on them if fortune should drop a million bucks his way.
The film’s tone is generally adventurous and comedic. While not particularly laugh-out-loud funny, it has a smirky, sassy sort of charm. The exploitation elements are there (it’s still “R” material), but they’re quite tame for the genre. The film is light on both violence and nudity, and the sex scenes in particular are played for laughs rather than titillation. The film almost seems to be playing up the expected “women in prison” genre tropes, featuring the requisite shower and striptease scenes, but nudity free.
It’s a refreshing take on a typically lurid kind of movie, and I enjoyed that the women in the film have a great deal of agency (especially compared to the male characters, who are all buffoons).
Savage Sisters is new on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics. The release utilizes Kino’s deluxe format with reversible cover artwork and a slipcover.
The Blu-ray utilizes a new 2K scan which looks quite good as the screenshots indicate.
Special Features and Extras
- NEW Audio Commentary by Horror-Flix.com’s James G. Chandler and Ash Hamilton
- HD Trailer (2:23)
- Promotional Trailers
Theatrical trailers for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics titles: Busting (2:45), Golden Needles (2:55), Trick Baby (2:34), and Trouble Man (2:30)
Get it at Amazon:
If you enjoy reading Cinapse, purchasing items through our affiliate links can tip us with a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.