Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)

They picked the wrong Swedish girl to mess with

This controversial Swedish film for its day gets a down and dirty look at the trade of kidnapping and prostitution from the perspective of a teenage girl. It doesn't skip a beat in showing just how perverse and cruel human trafficking can be. There's not just nudity but full on penetration shots. It can't compete with "Forced Entry" from a year earlier where the performers were actually engaging rather than inserting shots but, then again, there's more of a story in between. Despite its candid, insider's look "Thriller" isn't an exemplary showcase on the serious subjects it presents as it has a tendency to reach over the mark to the point where you have to wonder if they're just trying to stimulate and entertain on a base level. It's an exploitation piece that shows more than tells and mostly uses the setup as a means for the over-the-top revenge angle than anything to challenge with social commentary compared to "Straw Dogs" and "The Last House on the Left" of a few years earlier.

Madeleine was molested when she was a little girl, which made her mute from the trauma. Now grown up, she's been secluded to simple farm life until she meets what she thinks is a charming, rich man named Tony at the bus stop who drives her around in a fancy car and takes her out to eat. He gets her back to his place where he waits till she passes out and gets a shady doctor to load her up with heroin. Soon enough she's addicted and has to service strange men and women to get her fix. If that wasn't enough she loses a body part to make sure she complies. With no way out of the rut and with "accidents" happening to her family and friends, she starts to train in martial arts, tactical driving and weaponry for her moment of vengeance to come against the lustful clients that made her do demeaning acts, as well as against her slimy captor who's only concern was ever money. Even if she gets help at a rehabilitation clinic, guess what they want in return? It makes the world go round in an endless cycle with victims only becoming part of the problem.

"Thriller: A Cruel Picture" has influences from westerns, crime dramas to the growing number of revenge features in the '70s, which this apparently even beat out "Death Wish" by a month. The flow and style of the film is a little clunky at times with some pointlessly extended shots, all-too-convenient revelations and off-kilter experimentation. There are ultra slow-mo shots that some viewers are going to be bothered by or be all for as they make them so the audience didn't miss a single millisecond of violence--Peckinpah would be a proud cinematic parent. Some of the effects are hit and miss, such as bullet wounds represented by blood spray on the clothing but no tears underneath, or cars that instantly explode in flames on impact as if everyone's driving an unrecalled Pinto. Though it still gives the film some charm and a rough around the edges quality that enhances the excessive experience. It shows that the filmmakers went beyond their means just to deliver as much of an impactful experience as they possibly could at the sacrifice of quality. You'd have to worry if it looked too good or glamorous: an ugly delivery for an ugly act.

The dialogue is simple and direct, leaving little if anything to read between the lines. Christina Lindberg, known for her roles in erotic films, conveniently doesn't have dialogue or little way to communicate what she's thinking. Lindberg definitely carries the initial look of innocence to then taking on the persona of a dark vigilante with a penchant for cool dress--nowadays she'd have her own graphic novel where "The Punisher" was just getting started. The film carries little concerning emotion or sympathy for its duration as it shows that every other person is a creep or full of hopeless tragedy. There's little lasting subtext to be found here beyond to show there's no turning back once switching to the dark road of violence and revenge. It makes you wonder if she's truly absolved or so far over the edge that there's no way of returning to normal. There's a simple message against any shady individual who wants to mess with someone who they think is weaker, giving the audience something to cheer about when the victim turns anti-hero aggressor and doesn't hold back.

Rating: 7.5/10

Director: Bo Arne Vibenius
Stars: Christina Lindberg
Link: IMDB

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