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“We’re pirates.”
“And I’m Snow White!  Come on…”

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Kelly (blaxploitation regular Jeannie Bell, of TNT Jackson, Policewomen, 3 The Hard Way, Trouble Man and Black Gunn) and her (unseen) sister Sandy answer an ad in the paper for steady work on a yacht, “no experience necessary”.  Unfortunately, it’s a very odd recruitment strategy…for Filipino pirates!

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Angie (Rosanne Katon of Motel Hell) is “slingin’ hash” when she meets the two, and decides to “take her destiny in her own hands” by throwing her lot in with them.  When Sandy winds up kidnapped to be a prostitute on a paramilitary group’s coffee plantation (say huh?) run by “sadist” Montero (Tony Carreon of Vinegar Syndrome’s Death Force), Kelly and Angie assume she’s off on a bender.

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But it takes the local police inspector to inform them of her fate…and effectively blackmail our pair of inner city high seas brigands into infiltrating the setup and breaking Montero’s kidnapping racket once and for all.  While there, they come under the wing of camp veteran Marcie (Trina Parks, “Thumper” from Diamonds are Forever!), who joins them in their quest…and Montero’s “house girl” Serena (Jayne Kennedy, also of Death Force) may be the wild card they need to play to bring this house of cards down…

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As you can see, the plot mechanics for this one are fairly spurious, utilizing the flimsiest of structures to dive headlong from an ersatz comic book-level female empowerment fantasy straight into a traditionally misogynist women in prison film setup (are they really still out to take Montero down?  Or have they become just like all the other prisoners, merely trying to escape?)

While really no better or worse than any dozen Roger Corman Phillipines-set WIP/blaxploitation features save for the loss of more traditional starlets such as Pam Grier and Roberta Collins, on the flipside, there’s little to recommend The Muthers or separate the film from an already overcrowded pack.  It’s sole selling point is an all black, all female quartet of leads…but again, we’re hardly talking the sort of empowerment fantasy likely to appeal to a typical blaxploitation audience here.  And trust me, Carreon is no Sid Haig…

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Director Cirio S. Santiago (TNT Jackson, Vampire Hookers, Death Force, Firecracker, One Man Army) tags in some acrobatic gymnastic backflips and awkward high kicking “karate” courtesy of Bell, and the film (which to my knowledge has never aired in syndication or cable or been available to home video until now) looks pretty good for a reasonably forgotten picture of its era.

“The only thing I ever liked about the Girl Scouts was the Boy Scouts!”

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Vinegar Syndrome delivers a restoration that particularly shines during the jungle escape sequences of the film’s final third, a crisp, vibrant and colorful restoration that leaves serpents appropriately slimy (“just like every other snake I ever met…can’t leave my tits alone!”), foliage in lifelike multifarious shades of green and even the hot baked clay sand looking as if it would crumble to the touch.  If only a (far superior) film like Night Creature (1978, with Donald Pleasance and Nancy Kwan) were given the same treatment…

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When it comes down to brass tacks, if you love cult film, there’s a strong likelihood that you’re both familiar with and love Filipino cinema of the era – among which the works of Eddie Romero and Cirio S. Santiago remain an unavoidable, even integral presence.

While certainly occupying at best a middle tier (if not bottom end) among such beloved curios as Cleopatra Wong, the Blood Island trilogy, the Killing of Satan, Beast of the Yellow Night, Daughters of Satan, For Your Height Only, the Octaman or literal dozens of Corman and Cannon action films of the 70’s and 80’s, The Muthers certainly carries enough of the familiar Filipino cult cinema tropes and “exotic” jungle location footage to make it worth a spin for aficionados of Filipino WIP, with just a dash of a blaxploitation bent.

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