Mania Grade: F
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- Rated: R, (originally rated X)
- Starring: Zoe Lund
- Directed By: Abel Ferrara,
- Original Year of Release: 1981
- Run Time: 80 Minutes
- Distributor: Drafthouse Films
Mania Review: Ms. 45
By Robert T. Trate
December 13, 2013
Zoe Lund in Ms. 45
© Drafthouse Films
Drafthouse Films has another re-release this weekend. Let us consider it an alternative to the adventures of one Hobbit and a certain dragon. The re-release this weekend (see schedule below) is a cult film from 1981, directed by Abel Ferrara, known as Ms. 45. The story at hand is one of rape and murder featuring Zoe Lund as Thana. Lund was an accomplished composer and musician at the time and Ms. 45 was her breakout role. So how does the re-discovered/ re-release cult classic hold up?
Thana works in New York City’s garment district. She works as seamstress for an accomplished designer. Instantly, we see that Thana is quiet and shy. She would rather go home than hang out with her co-workers. This is an obvious choice by the director to illustrate to the audience that Thana is a bit of an outsider. Another obvious choice by the director is to show that the men of New York City are not the nicest or classiest of gentlemen. Minutes into the film, we can see that the shy Thana swims with the sharks the second she walks out the door.
After Thana gets her groceries, she is held up at gun point and raped in an alley way. In shock, she arrives at home to see that she is also being burglarized. In what can only be fate laughing at her, she is raped again. Instantly, any fan of cinema or alternative cinema will think that this course of events will parallel that to Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978). And you would be right. However, this tale of revenge takes a different course and it is none the better for all those involved.
When Thana is being raped the second time, her attacker drops is gun and Thana fights back, killing him. She places the man in the tub and leaves him there. What is completely strange is that she goes back to work the next day like nothing happened. There is no call to the police, a revelation to friends or co-workers, she just decides to cover it up. Now raped women, in shock, tend to numerous things to compensate for the horrible crime that was committed against them. However, grabbing a bread knife and cutting up her assailant's remains is really out there. She had done nothing wrong but protect herself. Why is she covering this up? This might not seem so strange, but what happens next is so disconnect that it throws the audience out of the film completely.
Thana becomes a femme fatale yielding the very gun that her rapist carried, a .45. What is completely confusing is that Thana starts going after men who have done her no wrong. Yes, they may be a bit sleazy, but up until she whips out the gun and kills them, no crime was committed. The biggest head scratcher is Thana watching a young couple making out and decides to follow the guy home and kill him, unsuccessfully. Why? She even goes after the neighbor’s dog who does nothing but help Thana get rid of the evidence. Why does she want Phil the dog dead, again?
The disconnect here is that Thana quickly becomes the antagonist in a story where she is supposed to be the protagonist. As brutal as I Spit on Your Grave is, it is still easier to root for Jennifer (Camille Keaton) than despise her. Further more, the closest thing to friends and family she has in the film, her co-workers, fall into her sights. The how and the why quickly go out the window and so does the enjoyment of watching Ms. 45.
I admire what Drafthouse Films is doing in highlighting these almost forgotten films, Ms. 45 and The Visitor (see review), for a whole new generation. I just hope their next choice is at least watchable.