Movie Reviews 154 – I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

I Spit On Your GraveOne of the infamous banned British video nasties, this one was one those hard to find movies until a scathing Siskel and Ebert review made it immortal. The Streisand Effect usually goes into overdrive when exploitation movies and the word ‘banned’ are put together. But unlike many other examples where the ‘banned’ material turns out to be silly and innocuous, this movie, taken in the right context, is really a great (if still controversial) film.

Jennifer (Camille Keaton) has rented a quaint riverside cottage for the summer during which she intends to write a novel. The men manning a local gas station immediately take notice as well as the addle brained grocery store delivery boy. The country boredom coupled with the mischievous intent to devirginize the delivery boy gets the better of the men after a few taunting encounters, the men finally corral their quarry on a simmering day and engage in a protracted outdoor and then indoor gang rape. As they set to leave Jennifer’s secluded cottage with her unconscious body inside, the men threaten the delivery boy to go back and kill Jennifer so that she cannot indict the men. The delivery boy cannot go through with killing Jennifer but convinces the boys that he has. That is until the boys see her again a few days later laying quietly in her hammock… contemplating.

The essence of the movie is about the rape and Jennifer’s planned and executed retaliatory retribution. The rape is notoriously, and rightly so, infamous for being one of the most grisly and lengthy rape scenes ever filmed. Even with a forewarning I already had, it was still hard to watch and one can easily understand the initial, knee jerk, rabid reviews. But there is much more going on here and I get the feeling that many of those that trashed the movie never went beyond that rape scene. For the true merit of the film, or what should be the noted by critics, is the handling of aftermath of the rape. From that point on our Jenifer transforms into a calculating and diabolical revenge driven woman. Let’s just say the boys get their comeuppance, and then some…

Day_of_the_Woman-1978The history of the film and director Meir Zarchi’s battle get it distributed is as epic as the movie itself. If you doubted the fact that this was always intended to be an empowering movie for the woman movement, consider that it was originally titled “Day of the Woman” and it was to the chagrin of Zarchi that the eventual distributor changed the title to the much raunchier “I Spit On Your Grave”. All this is meticulously documented on the DVD and I highly recommend you watch the Zarchi interview in the ‘extra features’ to really get a context of the legacy of the film and a lot of other surprising facts.

I’ve got the 2010 remake DVD sitting on my shelves, but I can tell you now that this will be a hard act to top.

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