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Jack Hill (1933)

American cinema - American exploitation - director

Pam Grier in The Big Doll House (1971)
image sourced here.


Jack Hill grew up around movies - his father was a designer for the Disney studios and Warner Brothers. He went to the University of California to study film, where he was a classmate of Francis Ford Coppola - they worked together on student productions and later both apprenticed with Roger Corman, working on The Terror (1963). While Coppola went on to Oscardom, Jack continued with B-flicks. He didn't make a lot of films, and while all were low budget they all (except Switchblade Sisters (1975)) made money, and his early 'blaxploitaton' films Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) were hits. Soon after Switchblade Sisters (1975) he stopped making movies so he and his wife Elke could pursue meditation and he could write novels. Today his films are hailed as cult classics, thanks primarily to Quentin Tarantino, who saw Hill's work as it made its way to video. With retrospectives and a re-release of Switchblade Sisters (1975), his career seems to be reviving. --http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0384335/bio [Nov 2005]


  1. The Big Doll House (1971) - Jack Hill [Amazon.com]
    Director Jack Hill, a protégé of the original schlockmeister, Roger Corman, knew his way around a low budget and a shocking subject. Women-in-prison films were nothing new in 1971, but The Big Doll House had it all--sex, violence, nudity, a sadistic guard, and a sexually frustrated warden--and served it up with an abundance of cheapjack energy and tongue-in-cheek humor. The beauty of Hill's movies lay in the way they could appeal not only to the hordes who would go see them at drive-ins but also to the true trash-cinema fans who could appreciate his offbeat sensibilities. The plot is rather hoary, with a new inmate discovering the corruption of the prison setup, complete with a drugged-out psycho, a cellmate informer, and a guard who delights in torturing the women with poisonous snakes. The girls put their heads together and begin to devise a way out of their tropical hellhole, but not before disrobing several times and having a knock-down, drag-out fight in the muddy rice paddy where they're forced to toil all day. The Big Doll House, like some of Hill's other movies, was shot in the Philippines, with the cast and crew making up plot elements and dialogue in near-guerrilla filmmaking. Though the islands were a cheap place to produce movies in the '70s, the working conditions were boot camp-like. Where The Big Doll House really succeeds is in its mix of titillation and action, a fast-paced combination that makes it one heck of a fun exploitation movie to watch. It's also worth noting that this movie gave the great Pam Grier her first real starring role; she would become a Jack Hill regular before moving on to more substantial roles. --Jerry Renshaw
    "I will always remember when the franchise holder in New Orleans, a heavily Catholic city, told me that after he saw the numbers on Big Doll House Friday night, he lit a candle in church on Sunday to the film. He said he had never made a profit like that in his life - and he had been in the business forty years."
    - Roger Corman, How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime, p 182.

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