Thursday, February 12, 2015


"Beware ! They are still at large..."

     From the late 50's up till the late 70's Eddie Romero cranked out dozens and dozens of low budget  exploitation movies encompassing war, horror, action and WIP. Most famous for the Blood Island series of movies he was for all intensive purposes THE Filipino exploitation movie industry before passing the baton over to Ciro Santiago. SAVAGE SISTERS was one of Eddie's last forays into the American drive-in market (with 1977's SUDDEN DEATH being his finale) and was his last movie for A.I.P.  Being an A.I.P. production (as Corman's New World had been the kings of Filipino exploitation) and coming rather late in the game, along with the lack of such recognizable Filipino exploitation genre actresses as Pam Grier, Margaret Markov or Roberta Collins SAVAGE SISTERS always seem to have been the odd movie out in regards to the other WIP/jungle action stuff of that era.


    Written under the pseudonyms "Harry Corner" & "H. Warren Moon" (most likely Romero and co-producer/co-star John Ashley) SAVAGE SISTERS is A.I.P's take on the standard Filipino formula of an initially fractured group of women who are thrown together in a sweaty setting (usually a prison of some sort) and who then end up banning together to take on the local military dictatorship (with the irony being these movies WERE shot the setting of an actual military dictatorship). Although Romero mixes in some of the usual 1970's "women in prison" staples including the classic shower scene and a bit of torture the movie mostly focuses on the action side of things.
    Hard core revolutionary Mei Ling (Rosanna Ortiz) teams up with Jo (70's bad ass chick GINGER Cheri Caffaro) to help Caffaro's rebel leader boyfriend hijack $1,000,000.00 that a corrupt general is attempting to sneak out of an unnamed banana republic. Unfortunately the rebels have decided to enlist the help of local bandit Malavasi (a wild-eyed and demented Sid Haig) who along with second in command (an eye patch wearing Vic Diaz) grab the cash for themselves while enlisting the help of hustler/con-man W.P. Billingsley (a leisure suit wearing John Ashley) to help get them out of the country. At the same time Mei & Jo have been captured by the military led by Capt. Morales (Eddie Gracia - Dr. Lorca from Blood Island).
   Once in prison the girls fall under the rule of the prison matron (who engages in some S&M playtime with Morales) and most importantly the chief prison torturer Lynn (played by the very beautiful Gloria Hendry from LIVE AND LET DIE). Lynn's boyfriend happens to be Billingsley who convinces her to help the ladies to escape with them all joining forces to get their hands on the money.

   The film is a bit of an oddity among the Filipino exploitation stuff as that it rather bizzarly has a complete lack of nudity among its leading ladies and although there's some pretty rough stuff implied such as Hendry's infamous "door slamming" torture along with Caffaro being threatened by an electric drill mounted phallic device (and a bit of blood here & there) SAVAGE SISTERS is pretty tame stuff. Although compared to what is considered the epitome of this genre (being Jack Hill's THE BIG DOLL HOUSE 1971 & THE BIG BIRD CAGE 1972) its a bit lacking, it's still a great little piece of low budget fun. The three leading ladies all jump into their roles with gusto and Romero, while as mentioned plays down the blood and nudity but has enough action (lots of machine guns & grenades) to keeps things from getting boring. There's even a bar fight mixed in with Hendry doing a sritp tease as a distraction.
    Many of these movies have quite a bit of humor in them (which is surprising to first time viewers) and SAVAGE SISTERS in no exception. Sid Haig as the hilariously (and seemingly) whacked out his mind on reefer & booze Malavasi and John Ashley as the slimy con-man both add to the fun. There's great scene where all three woman take turns seducing Ashley to find out his true motives (complete with Ashley wearing a series of outrageous bikini briefs).
   After a divorce from his beach party co-star Debra Walley, Ashely went to the Philippines to make the BLOOD ISLAND movies. He enjoyed it so much he stayed and eventually moved to the production end of things along with acting. He would later produce T.V's THE A-TEAM (that's his voice doing the opening narration).  Along with the above mentioned Diaz (who seems to have an affinity here for wearing shirts about two sizes too small and pants that show his ass crack) and Garcia the film if filled with the usual cast of Filipino character faces including Bruno Punzalan (Goro from BRIDES OF BLOOD).

    Although rather unknown today Cheri Caffaro was a huge drive-in star in the 70's. A tall statuesque blond (although she was always a bit hard and pissed off looking) the three "Ginger" movies she made with her husband Don Schain were huge money makers, with the first GINGER from 1971 playing for years on double and triple bills. She later appeared in another Filipino auctioneer 1977's TOO HOT TO HANDLE before walking away from movies (although she and her husband produced H.O.T.S. in 1979).
    I always thought it was strange that Gloria Hendry never had a bigger career. She was a Bond girl in LIVE AND LET DIE, had a great presence, was drop dead gorgeous and seemed to have everything to be as big as Pam Grier. Along with SAVAGE SISTERS, she had some great roles in BLACK CAESAR (1973). SLAUGHTER'S BIG RIP-OFF (1973) and BLACK BELT JONES (1974), but sadly never made it to the next step. In urban markets SAVAGE SISTERS was marketed as a blacksploitation, with the poster featured Hendry front and center.



  1. Wow - one I haven't seen - but with that cast - I'm sure I'll thoroughly enjoy it. I love that you seemingly couldn't make a Filipino movie and not cast Vic Diaz. Love him. But look at that cast. I just watched Too Hot to Handle - and liked Caffaro more than I did watching something back in the day. I do see what you mean about her appearance though. And bless her for making H.O.T.S. - and giving us another showcase for those gorgeous women. Ashley was always fun onscreen - and I love that he ended up working with Stephen Cannell - that's also his voice in the opening narration to my fave Cannell show - Hardcastle and McCormick. I like Hendry a lot and agree with you she should have had a bigger career - but I can't put her on the same level as Pam Grier - who had an extra dose of OOMPH in all departments for me.
    Gotta get ahold of this one for sure! Thanks for the heads up, Dick!

    1. Hi Craig
      I really enjoy this one - it's a good one. Yeah, there is only one Pam Grier - but I always thought is was shame Gloria isn't more widely known these days.
      Didn't realize that was Ashely's voice on Hardcastle and McCormick also (but now that you mention it - it all comes back).

  2. I agree that Cheri is vastly underrated with this new generation of exploitation film lovers. This film and the Ginger series alone make her worthy of cult status. I keep meaning to pick up that Ginger series boxset, even though I have the first film already.

    What would you say is your favorite of the... not sure what you call it.. the women sometimes in prison in the jungle with guns kind of film?

    1. Hi Rob,
      I still like THE BIG DOLL HOUSE the best, although THE BIG BIRD CAGE is a lot of fun (and SAVAGE SISTERS is definitely worth a look - its one where the humor works the best).

      SWEET SUGAR from 1972 in another great one - it was filmed in Costa Rica and stars Phyllis Davis (which makes it worth it right there).