Thursday, 6 March 2008

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)

You know, her aim can't be that good without any depth perception

The Swedish rape/revenge film Thriller: en grym film (Thriller: A Cruel Picture) was released in a heavily-censored form the US as They Call Her One Eye. A few years ago, Bo Arne Vibenius' revenge epic was re-released on DVD by Synapse Films in it's original cut, hardcore sex scenes and graphic violence intact.

Madeline (softcore starlet Christina Lindberg) has been left mute ever since she was brutally raped by a vagrant. She is walking near her parents' farm one day, when she is offered a ride by a passing sleazebag, Tony (Heinz Hopf). He injects her with heroin to keep her under control, and pimps her out to a variety of seedy clients, including a lecherous photographer and a violent lesbian. When she fights back against one of the clients, Tony gouges out her eye. Soon she discovers that Tony has been writing terrible letters to her parents under her name, and they have killed themselves as a result. Heartbroken, Madeline seeks out instruction from stunt drivers, martial artists and weapon specialists. Subsequently, she uses her newfound skills to wreak bloody vengeance against those who have wronged her!

Compared to grimy rape-revenge flicks like I Spit On Your Grave, Thriller has a slick and stylised feel. Scenes of violence, in particular, are very stylised, shot in Peckinpah-esque, super slow motion, with distant, echoing sound effects. The result is dislocating, and occasionally quite beautiful, such as when Madeline punches a policeman and a spurt of blood arcs gracefully across the screen. Some scenes are quite brutal and graphic, such as when Tony cuts out Madeline's eye (legend has it that they used a human cadaver).

Christina Lindberg is, as always, a treat to look at. She spends a sizable portion of the film nude, but a body double was used during the hardcore sex scenes. During her acts of revenge, she wears colourful, spaghetti-western inspired outfits with matching eyepatches, providing the inspiration for Daryl Harrah's character Elle Driver in Kill Bill (you didn't think Tarantino had an original thought, did you?)

The stylised, slow-motion violence and some beautiful shot composition (some of the frames I'd be happy to hang on my wall, only some mind you) give Thriller a classier edge, and while it's certainly not high art, it's less likely to make you feel in need of a hot bath afterwards.

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