Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978)

Since when has being leggy while stretching one's legs at a service station been an excuse to rape someone? Sure, the excuse was made at gun point, but I was deeply disappointed in... which rapist said that again? (There are so many in this film, it's hard to keep track.) I think it was Johnny who uses the victim's own legginess against her in a pathetic attempt not to get shot in the head. Yeah, it was definitely Johnny. Not cool, Johnny. Not cool. He's going to wish he had been shot in the head after he finds out what's going to happen to his precious genitals near the end of I Spit on Your Grave (a.k.a. Day of the Woman), the rabid granddaddy of rape revenge movies. Come for the exhaustive outdoor/indoor rape scene, stay for the Connecticut bathtubs overflowing with crimson crotch blood. What kind of sick twist would come for exhaustive outdoor/indoor rape scenes? Not me, I came for the legginess. Wait, that didn't come out right. Ugh, that didn't either. Moving on, if you're wondering why it took me so long to get around to watching this beautifully photographed masterwork, don't wonder about such things, it's not healthy. Truth be told, after witnessing an untold amount of cinematic rape, cinematic cannibalism, cinematic murder and cinematic torture over the past year or so, I thought I might as well watch this one. I mean, how awful could it be? Now, the infamous twenty-five minute rape scene does shock the senses, but the film is so expertly made. You could say the lush cinematography is the film's most disturbing aspect, but I'm not going to say that, even though I sort of just did.

How did you know, by the way, that the rape scene was twenty-five minutes long? You didn't time it, did you? What?!? No, of course not. I read it somewhere. It actually feels longer than that. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that there's no outside music used during the scene (the film has no music score), as it gives the film an added sense of dread. In other words, there's no music to tell you when to be scared. And besides, the use of suspenseful music would have come off as tasteless. And if there's one thing this film isn't, it's tasteless. Just kidding, the jury's still out on that one.

In my usually lily-livered and shiftless way, I'll probably gloss over the notorious rape scene and focus my superficial attention on the cut of Camille Keaton's cut-off jean shorts. I hope that's okay, because I'm not really in the mood to painstakingly recount the details of one of the most unpleasant sequences in movie history. I know, it's integral part of the story, but there's nothing for me to latch onto from an aesthetic point of view.

I know, you poor thing. Pervert boy has nothing to latch onto. Boo-hoo. Since I need to type words about something, let's soldier on, shall we?

Starting off like an Italian cannibal movie, Day of the Woman (a.k.a. I Spit on Your Grave) begins in New York City, the Big Apple. Hold on, that doesn't make any sense. Sure it does. All Italian cannibal movies begin in New York City, and so does this film; hence, my apt comparison. Yeah, but this film doesn't take place in the Amazon. Since when does a cannibal film have to take place in the Amazon? And, besides, I think most people will agree that rural Connecticut can be just as scary and intimidating as the Amazon.

Leaving New York City (if and when that guy parked at the intersection decides to move his or her ass), budding writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) is preparing to spend the summer at a remote house located somewhere in Connecticut to work on her first novel.

Stopping along the way at a service station to get gas, and, more importantly, stretch her damn sexy legs, Jennifer chats briefly with Johnny (Eron Tabor), the helpful attendant. You'll notice that as Jennifer is pacing back and forth that Johnny will periodically scope her damn sexy legs. Which, as most members of the non-existent heterosexual male-lesbian alliance (or H.E.M.L.A.) will tell you, is a totally normal thing to do. What's not normal, however, is the indifference Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleeman) show towards Jennifer as she paced back and forth. Preoccupied with playing mumbly-peg, the reason Stanley and Andy ignore Jennifer is because they're basically children. Oh, sure, they might look like adults, but believe me, they're not.

Blown away by the sheer beauty of her new surroundings, Jennifer decides to take a dip in the river that flows right next to her home for the summer.

After finding a gun in one of the drawers, Jennifer, who is wearing cut-off jean shorts, hears a knock at the door. You know how I mentioned that Stanley and Andy were basically children? Well, Matthew (Richard Pace), believe it or not, is even more child-like than they are. Delivering her groceries, Matthew, in his own awkward way, flirts with Jennifer as they settle the bill. Now, I'm no physiotherapist, but I think Matthew is autistic or some shit like that.

Later that evening, Johnny, Matthew, Stanley and Andy are fishing down by the river. After a lengthy discussion that didn't involve Søren Kierkegaard, the topic turns to women. Call me paranoid, but I don't think Jennifer would be flattered by all the attention she receives during their riverside conversation. To make matters even more unpleasant, Matthew spends the entire scene off to the side pinching a loaf.

The following morning, Jennifer, whose sexy, bikini-clad body is being cradled by a hammock, begins to write. Her attempt to start her novel, however, is thwarted when Stanley and Andy cruise by in their motorboat multiple times. At first, she tolerates their presence. But she soon grows weary of them, and goes back inside.

You wanna know where Jennifer got her hammock? At a little place on third called I Spit on Your Hammock. You see what I did there? I replaced the word "grave" with "hammock." Pretty awesome, eh? Anyway, I Spit on Your Hammock is right next to The Hammock Haven, which, of course, is on third. If you're still having trouble finding it, look for Hammocks! Hammocks! Hammocks!, on third, Mr. Magorium's Hammock Emporium, also on third, and She Blinded Me With Hammocks, which is on third as well. Matter of fact, I think they're all located in the same complex. You mean the hammock complex in the hammock district? That's right.

My personal favourite hammock shop in the hammock complex in the hammock district is Tabitha's Hammocks. You want to know why? If Tabitha likes the cut of your jib, she might just get in the hammock with you. Just kidding.

While relaxing leggily in a canoe, Jennifer is suddenly...

Just when you think Jennifer's ordeal is over, it keeps going. And not only that, it seems to get worse. To add insult to injury, one of them mocks her writing. Raped, beaten and lying unconscious in her house, Matthew is supposed to kill Jennifer (Johnny demands that he be the one to do it). But he doesn't. Yet, he tells Johnny and the others that he did; he even shows them the bloodied knife.

As far as executing and carrying out a brutal gang rape, Johnny and co.'s plan couldn't have gone smoother. On the other hand, their post-rape strategy is severely flawed. In fact, everything that could possibly go wrong does so during the rape's aftermath.

Since Matthew's the only one who knows Jennifer is still alive, the other rapists go about their daily routine like nothing ever happened. However, Johnny, the so-called brains of the operation, begins to wonder why, after two weeks, no-one has heard anything about the murder (he figures someone would have stumbled upon her dead body by now).

As the confused rapists are pondering this (Matthew insists that he did in fact stab her to death), Jennifer, whose physical scars have mostly healed, is planning her revenge.

Not aware of it at the time, but I was privy to the infamous bathtub castration scene long before I had seen or even heard of this film. You see, the line, "That's so sweet, it's painful" is featured on a Swamp Terrorists song. I know, Swamp who? They're Swiss industrial band who put out some sample-heavy EBM in the early '90s.

Staring at her with a weird mix of admiration and motherly concern, I was deeply impressed by the level of commitment Camille Keaton displays during the extended rape sequence. You would think she was a European actress, one along the lines of Paola Senatore (Eaten Alive) or Lorraine de Selle (The House on the Edge of the Park), judging by the way she jumps headfirst into the objectionable quagmire that is I Spit on Your Grave (a.k.a. Day of the Woman). At any rate, while writer-director/editor Meir Zarchi and cinematographer Yuri Haviv deserve a lot of the credit (the film looks amazing), I think the bulk of the credit has to go to Camille Keaton, as she is straight-up fearless, and the main reason the film is so memorable.


  1. Greatest rape scenes ever committed to celluloid -- after all, down-and-dirty titillation was their intended purpose. It was later on, in the heat of feminist/mangina backlash, that Zarchi claimed he was making a film about female empowerment or whatever.

    I was planning a review of this one myself. I got the Blu-Ray for Christmas last year. Camille Keaton's dirt-smudged ass looks splendid in hi-def.

  2. Great post as usual Yum-Yum. I've steered clear of this film on a few occasions but after your post I'm getting closer to the inevitable. Just like a car wreck you know you shouldn't look at but have to.

  3. @Scott is NOT: "Mangina" is a great word. :D

    @Tommy Ross: Thanks. I don't why I was so afraid of this movie for so long, it's not awful.

  4. This is one I've heard about but have avoided. As I've mentioned several times before, I really have an aversion to rape scenes in films. Considering how many Japanese films from the 1960s-1980s I watch, that becomes a problem. Even in relatively mainstream and tepid period dramas, entire plot points can instantly revolve around violent assholes wantonly thrusting their unwanted penises into anything resembling a female. Put a long-haired wig or a long sleeved floral kimono on a bag of rice, a length of cut bamboo, or even a rotten stump, and some deranged creep will try to fuck it.

    That all being said, this is still definitely one I'll just read your review of and call it good. Being born and raised in rural Connecticut (more suburban now), I can actually comment that its not very scary. Probably was a little more freaky in the 1970s. You want really freaky backwoods New England redneckery? Head further north to the deep woods of Vermont or New Hampshire where they want to succeed from the Union.

    So..... when are you going to watch and review Ingmar Bergman's "Jungfrukällan" (The Virgin Spring, 1961)? You've seen all of the exploitation rape and revenge films. Its time to take in the work of the master.

  5. I know what you mean, I was just flipping through the Japanese section of my local shop and half the movies in there had a rapey vibe about them.

    Vermont and New Hampshire, eh? But they're so close to Canada. ;)

    I'll definitely watch The Virgin Spring, but I don't know if I will review it.

    All? I haven't seen Forced Entry yet. ;)

  6. I looked up Forced Entry (or at least the wikipedia entry on it.) Talk about yuck. Stick to Bergman. Actually, get all into Bergman films. I know I've said that before, but I mean it. You will be deeply rewarded.

    I was thinking about it, and I think this movie is, in fact, awful. How can women being raped, which happens every day, be a source of titillation? Plus, they usually aren't in the best physical or mental state to hunt down and kill their attackers. The whole thing seems like one big sordid mess of a film on a lot of levels. I guess I'll just dance around my apartment to Togawa Jun and Skinny Puppy in a purification ritual, and move on to another review.

  7. But Forced Entry was directed by the guy who made Waterpower, so you know it's good. ;)

    I have four entries in the works that are Japanese films; two from 1976, one from 1999 and one from 1986.

  8. I think that the fact that the rape scene in I Spit on Your Grave is so unbearable to watch is actually a major point in the movie's favor. I've scene way too many movies that throw in a rape scene for titillation; and honestly, I find them far more disturbing and unpleasant than the ones who are honest about how horrible it really is. Keaton is gorgeous, but despite that and the fact that she's naked throughout so much of the movie, the only scene I actually did find titillating was when she was putting her hair up in front of the mirror before getting in the bath. The other parts were just so terrible that I couldn't feel anything except horror and disgust. I also find it interesting how she winds up using her attackers' chauvinism against them. I think this is a good movie, and I've often thought of watching it for the third time in my life to review it; but for obvious reasons haven't quite gotten around to it yet.

  9. The putting her hair up scene is pretty hot, but I think, for obvious reasons, the hammock scenes is the tits when it comes to being titillating.

  10. Watched it a couple nights ago finally...sheesh, even for a non-squeemish person like myself, some of this movie was not easy to get through. I thought the casting was spot-on. The lead actress was excellent and the guys that played the four rapists totally creeped me out. To address something "Ido" said I agree that Connecticut woods might not be the scariest in general but in this movie they sure scared the heck out of me, once or twice I got a slight "Deliverance" vibe from those woody scenes. All in all I'm glad I watched it for my own cinematic education especially with the 70's being my forte and key interest but I doubt I would watch it again and won't be adding it to my home collection very soon.

  11. I'm glad to see you weren't too traumatized by this ordeal masquerading as a movie.

  12. @yum-yum: the way I'm wired, the "putting up her hair" scene would probably drive me crazy. I only made it through part of Jess Franco's "Eugiene" with Soledad before almost loosing my mind. Just Soledad walking around in a short skirt with knee boots and her long brown hair drove me fucking wild.

    @Tommy Ross: Things were probably much freakier back then. Again, so much more built up now. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine still have serious pockets of "Deliverance" level weirdness. Even when I drive up to central Vermont to visit one of my best friends, people at nearby gas stations give me dirty looks and mutter under their breath when they see my out of state license plate.