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Movie Review: XX
New York writer Jennifer Hills takes up residence at a secluded cabin in the woods to write her first novel. Unfortunately, she has the misfortune of meeting up with four men, who rape and beat her within an inch of her life. Luckily for her, the member of the group selected to finish her off is unable to do so. Jennifer manages to recover from her ordeal, and prepares to exact her revenge on the group.
Still controversial after all these years, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (aka DAY OF THE WOMAN, writer/director/producer Meir Zarchi's preferred title) is still hard for me to watch. Then again, who can watch a nearly 30 minute rape scene and not flinch at least once? The film's been called everything from 'the ultimate feminist film' to 'a vile bag of garbage', and remains banned in a couple of countries and censored in others to this day. To be honest, I'm still not sure if I'm allowed to have the film in my province (Ontario). But enough preamble, just what is I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE?
The obvious plus of the film (with which I'm sure some feminist critics will disagree) is the revenge aspect. The four losers of manhood rape and attempt to kill an innocent woman, but end up dying horribly themselves after the fact. The male cast are unattractive and misogynistic and rightfully deserve what happens to them. Camille Keaton's character could almost be likened in one instance to the black widow spider. She entices one of her rapists to 'mate', but instead kills him by cutting off his junk, not unlike the female black widow spider sometimes killing and eating her mate after doing the dirty. It's a stretch, but it was something that I was thinking of while watching National Geographic. Still, the female empowerment aspect might be lost on some people, and they'd rather see the film as just a good ol' revenge flick. The men hurt her and leave her for dead, and she hurts them back.
To further the whole 'revenge' thing is Zarchi's camera work, which sticks the whole unpleasantness in your face during Keaton's ordeal, forcing you yourself to experience the unpleasantness. I think that's what many people get upset about, since it's akin to the scene from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: unable to shut your eyes or look away from what's transpiring. Of course, others will see it as a pure example of exploitation filmmaking, which is true. Nonetheless, this all works towards the eventual revenge, which you can't help but want to occur, since again, the male cast are scumbags.
In spite of the sensationalism, female empowerment and revenge, the film is still basically a low-budget affair. Apart from Camille Keaton, the acting is so-so, though that mostly comes from the performances by Anthony Nichols and Gunter Kleemann as Stanley and Andy, respectively. They're not horrible, but compared to Eron Tabor's charismatic performance as Johnny, they're lacking something. Richard Pace, on the other hand, was a good part but was in need of refinement on the execution. Also, the last two 'revenge kills' by Jennifer felt rather clumsy, especially when compared to the first two kills. It's almost like you wanted more to be done, rather than the quick and dirty stuff that's in the film.
So, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is another one of those thinkers. On one side, you have the female empowerment aspect of the whole thing, and on the other, there's the 'rape and revenge' flick. Either way you look at it, there will still be the divisions of the 'love it or hate it' variety, and very few in between. I can't say that I 'loved it', but it's a solid exploitation piece from the late 70s that deserves at least some attention from fans of these types of films. Remember, you don't just see the film, you experience it.
Video: There's only so much you can do with a low budget film of this nature that's over 30 years old. Regardless, Anchor Bay presents the film in 1080p 1.78:1 widescreen with admirable effort. There are some rather solid details in parts, with clothing textures and faces benefiting the most. However, there are also some soft spots, as well as a fair number of instances involving print damage, though that mostly consists of black and white speckling and a few scratches. Colours are good, with mostly consistent grain that gives the film a lived-in look that many fans will appreciate.
Audio: The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track can be described as muddled. There isn't much beyond the basics to speak of, other than bird twitterings and some wind. Even then, those effects lack punch. Dialogue is also a mixed bag. At times it can be difficult to discern, while other times it's crisp and clear. Overall, the audio is okay and more or less suits the film, but could've been worked over some more.
Anchor Bay has ported over all of the extras from the old Elite disc (save for the review excerpts), including the always-entertaining Joe Bob Briggs, as well as included a new half-hour featurette.
Starting things off is a commentary by writer/director/producer Meir Zarchi, who provides an entertaining and informative listen. The man isn't afraid to acknowledge the criticism of his film, and seems ready to offer rebuttals. Aside from covering the controversy, Zarchi also goes over the basics of casting, shooting locales, and so on. While some of his comments appear to have been prepared in advance (he seems to be reading them), this is still a good accompaniment to the film.
As if the first track wasn't enjoyable, along comes a commentary by author/historian/critic Joe Bob Briggs, who provides an equally-entertaining track that's also funny. Despite not having the filmmaking aspect of Zarchi's commentary, Briggs still brings along a great deal of knowledge of the film and it's controversy. It's difficult to say which of the two tracks is better, but if you're looking for a good time in the fun department, Briggs is the one to choose.
The Values of Vengeance: Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit on Your Grave is the lone new extra (unfortunately in SD). This 29 minute piece has the film's director reminiscing about the making of the film, as well as the always-interesting damage of ratings edits, the changing of the title from DAY OF THE WOMAN to Jerry Gross' more schlocky title (which he hates), the quality of the 2010 remake, and other stuff. Some of the topics and information were covered in the commentary, but this is still a fun watch.
Finishing things up are an alternate main title sequence, four trailers, three radio spots, three TV spots and a poster and still gallery.
Still as divisive as ever, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE can be seen from a variety of angles. Either way, you can't deny the film's pull. Anchor Bay has managed to bring over the majority of the supplements from Elite's DVD, as well as provide an adequate audio and video package that should make for fun drive-in times.