Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)


Bo Arne Vibenius’ 1974 revenge-exploitation flick Thriller: A Cruel Picture (A.K.A A Hooker’s Revenge, A.K.A They Call Her One Eye) starts with a young girl playing with an old bum in the park. Before long, a black gruel begins to drip from the side of the man's mouth. I assume this is symbolic for the evil rot within him. Or something. He rapes the little girl. Then things take a turn for the classy.


Sadly, Madeleine is left mute by the attack. The adult Madeleine is played by Swedish Playboy model Christina Lindberg, who was briefly an international sex-symbol, despite (or because of) the fact that she looked about 12 (though, admittedly, a rather stacked 12). I expect the early assault on Madeleine only rendered her mute so as to limit the “acting” Lindberg had to do. This decision probably raised the overall quality of the film.

One day, mute Madeleine misses her bus to the doctor’s office, so she hitches a ride with Tony (Heinz Hopf), a sleazy dude with a mustache and a nice car. Mysteriously, despite her history, Madeleine is entirely comfortable with male strangers. More fool her. Tony drugs her (of course) and gets her hooked on heroin (which is actually salt water that they actually inject, because no one told the film makers that movies aren't real), sentencing her to a life of prostitution in his service. In the scenes where she’s “entertaining” clients, the director deftly cuts in footage of actual hardcore pornography, using a body-double for Lindberg. These scenes are short and, obviously, rather explicit. They’re too short (and jarring) to be sexy, and don't really add anything to the feeling of depravity, which the director has already instilled quite admirably. These hardcore scenes are just there to amp up the sleaze factor.

When Madeleine hurts one of her male clients, Tony, in true pimp style, takes out his scalpel and jabs her in the eye.

Apparently, a real corpse was used for this. No special effects. Perhaps that’s why it’s so skin-crawlingly awful to watch.

Oh, and did I mention that her parents commit suicide when she doesn’t return home? Somehow I missed that. Yeah, her parents totally commit suicide too. Just so you have the full picture.

Anyway, now wearing an eye patch and known as One Eye, Madeleine hatches a revenge scheme. Using her free day, Monday (yes, Tony gives her a day off) she takes lessons in driving, shooting, and ass-kicking. Then she does all of those things in an attempt to bring Tony down, and get the vengeance she (and we) so richly desire.


Thriller is clearly a no-budget film, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that it looks cheap. For a while, it almost seems crassly feminist, since the rape (and many subsequent scenes) are shot almost entirely from One Eye’s POV. Perhaps, I momentarily think, Vibenius is presenting us with some kind of moral pornography. However, the graphic nature of the sex scenes and the scalpel scene--those acts of violence directed towards One Eye--isn’t replicated during One Eye’s revenge. Though most of the violence One Eye inflicts is depicted in super-slow-motion, it is generally nothing more than a shotgun blast or a kick to the face. For all that sleazy build-up, One Eye’s revenge comes off as pretty anti-climatic. One has to wonder how, exactly, the film is situating itself (for lack of a better term), since the depiction of One Eye’s downfall is so elaborate and graphic by comparison to her vengeance.

The Synapse DVD of Thriller comes loaded with extra features, since, presumably, a subsection of the viewing public has been clamoring for them. I suppose that this is due, in no small part, to Quentin Tarantino, who has mentioned his admiration for the film, and made the character of Ellie Driver as a sort of homage to ol’ One Eye (thus the patch). While the extra features are plentiful, I can’t imagine how they’d help your enjoyment or understanding of the picture. Oh well.

Watch it if the synopsis appeals to you. You will probably feel the need to shower afterward, though for exactly which reason will depend entirely on your mindset.


Ash said...

I had to adjust the brightness and contrast on that third picture so you could tell that that's actually a fucking scalpel going into an eye.

Doug Tilley said...

Jesus, it certainly lives up to its name. I have Thriller sitting here on DVD, but the thought of watching a corpse getting its eyeball pierced makes me able to wait a bit longer to check it out.
After that Martial Arts dip, I decided I needed a cleanse.. So I watched a film that i've been meaning to see for years: PRINCESS MONONOKE.

travis said...

can I write with you guys?

Doug Tilley said...

Of course, dude. Christ, you were the first person I thought of when I started this freaking thing, and i've tried to contact you a few times to see if you were interested.

Just toss your e-mail address in my direction.

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