Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrera, 1981)

If this film had just been about a mute seamstress who wanders around Manhattan's Garment District shooting men with a 45., I would have been a giddy outdoorsman. But this film had to go and add unorthodox body disposal to the mix. (Oh-oh, here we go. What's so bad about "unorthodox body disposal"?) Are you kidding? There's nothing bad about unorthodox body disposal. In fact, when I found out there was going to be unorthodox body disposal in this film, I was downright ecstatic. I think what I'm trying to say is: I  unorthodox body disposal; the more unorthodox, the better. The moment the protagonist in the exceedingly awesome Ms. 45 (a.k.a. Die Frau mit der 45er Magnum) begins to drag the lifeless corpse of the burglar/rapist she had just bludgeoned to death with an iron to the bathroom was when I knew a body was about to be disposed of in an unorthodox manner. I know, judging by the words I've written so far, I run the risk of coming off as a sick twist (I mean, really, man, take your love of U.B.D. down a notch). But I'm not going stand or sit idly by and pretend I don't like the idea of a mousy woman  of Romanian-Swedish extraction (with luscious, pillow-esque lips) dumping human remains in places you wouldn't normally dump human remains, it's just not the way I operate.

If that wasn't enough, it–like I already sort of implied–takes place in New York City in the early 1980s, the story revolves around the fashion industry, there's rape and revenge, and the film's female lead wears black stockings with a skirt with a modest slit after midnight... while, of course, dispatching a gang of nunchuck-wielding thugs. In other words, it manages to check all the right boxes.

I know what you're thinking: New York City. Fashion. The Early 1980s. Rape and Revenge. These things are a must when it comes to producing a halfway decent motion picture. And while I agree, any clod can wear black stockings with a skirt with a modest slit after midnight. I think it's safe to say, you're going to need an actress, one who is pretty fucking dynamic in the everything department, to make those particular articles of clothing come alive.

Now, I don't want to go overboard with the adjectives, but Zoë Lund (credited as Zoë Tamerlis) is stunning, hypnotic, breathtaking and sexy as hell as Thana, a shy mute seamstress who tries to live her life in a city rife with busybodies.

And what's the best way deal with busybodies? That's right, a lipstick-tinged bullet fired from a .45. Well, that's the best way to deal with male busybodies. If you're a meddling or prying person and you happen to be a woman, she'll just shoot your dog.

Let's be honest, though, while every apartment building in New York City seems to have an annoying female tenant, usually an old woman who has lived there since the Eisenhower administration, the city is filled with men who insist on sticking their noses where they don't belong.

After working another long shift in the Garment District, Thana (Zoë Lund) and her fellow seamstresses, including the alluring yet frightfully forthright Laurie (Darlene Stuto), attempt to go home. (Hold on, "attempt"? You make it sound like a war zone.) Isn't it? I mean, you try being an attractive woman in New York City. Inundated with a flood of cat calls, cheesy pick up lines and vulgar propositions ("I want you to sit on my face") from the men assembled on the sidewalk (an assortment of construction workers, douchebag layabouts and garden variety creepozoids), the women can't walk an inch without being harassed. While the alluring yet frightfully forthright Laurie takes the abuse in stride (she tells them to "fuck off"), Thana seems frazzled by all the untoward attention.

Making it to the subway in one piece, Thana goes to the store to pick up some groceries. As she's doing this, a man can be seen breaking into an apartment. Thinking Thana is about to come face-to-face with a burglar, the film, directed by Abel Ferrara (The Driller Killer, Fear City), throws us a curve ball by having Thana pulled into the alleyway behind her building by a masked assailant (Abel Ferrara) and raped.

Staggering home, Thana takes a moment to compose herself on her couch and... Aw, man, the burglar's still there, isn't he? Yep, there he is, standing in Thana's living room, pointing a 45 at her. It's at this moment that the burglar adds "rapist" to his title, when the burglar/rapist forces himself on Thana. No doubt thinking to herself: Seriously? Raped twice by two different men over the span of a five minute period, Thana decides she's had enough and hits the burglar/rapist over the head with a tchotchke. Dazed by the knock on the head that had the gall to undercut his raping momentum, the burglar/rapist tries to recuperate by cowering on the floor. Not one to dilly-dally in the face of a neutered burglar/rapist, Thana grabs an iron and crushes his skull with a series of well-timed blows.

The next day at work, Albert (Albert Sinkys), Thana's not gay boss, yells, "I said a v-neck, not a scoop neck," to one her co-workers (never in the history of humanity have I seen a straight man get so worked up over the shape of a collar). It's at this moment that Thana notices a janitor putting a new garbage bag into a waste basket. Entranced by this sight, Thana's co-workers, including Albert, think she's feeling not well. But on the contrary, Thana couldn't be better. She knows exactly what she has to do.

She might not say much, but her technique when it comes scattering body parts all across Manhattan speaks volumes.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Granted, she chopped up the burglar/rapist into small, easy to carry to pieces. Only problem is, she has a bizarre habit of disposing them during the middle of the day. Meaning, the chances of someone spotting you dumping your mysterious packages throughout the city are pretty good.

And wouldn't you know it, a douchebag layabout (Vincent Gruppi) spots Thana leaving one of her mysterious packages on the street. Seeing this as an opportunity to talk with the woman who dropped the mysterious package, the douchebag layabout grabs it and runs after Thana. Cornering her in an alleyway, the douchebag layabout runs toward Thana, mysterious package in hand, and as he's about to give it to her, she pulls out the burglar/rapist's 45 and puts a bullet in the douchebag layabout's brain.

From this day forward, all douchebag layabouts, garden variety creepozoids, not gay fashion designers, pimps, wealthy Arab sheiks (and their clueless chauffeurs), pushy photographers, petty thugs and garrulous barflys better think twice before approaching Thana on the street, as she's got a bullet fired from a 45 with your name on it.

You know what? I think all men should steer clear of Thana. I mean, look what almost happened to that guy making out with his girlfriend in Chinatown. He came this close to being shot dead, and he didn't even look at her. So, yeah, men of New York City, watch out, you could be next.

The scene featuring the petty thugs is pretty great because... well, Thana kills five gang members in the park. As is the scene with the garrulous barfly. But mostly because Jack Thibeau plays the garrulous barfly. Anyway, you might remember Thibeau as the burnt out Lt. Gilmore in the Miami Vice episode "Shadow in the Dark" (one of my personal favourites). While I'm on the subject of Miami Vice, Zoë Lund is in "The Prodigal Son" and Abel Ferrara directed "The Home Invaders" and "The Dutch Oven."

On top of adopting a more aggressive attitude towards the opposite sex, Thana significantly alters her wardrobe. Gone are the mousy berets, Thana now wears black leather pants, skirts with slits and red lipstick.

Culminating with a misandric mass shooting at a Halloween party, one complete with black stockings and plenty of blood splatter, Ms. 45 solidifies its status as the ultimate feminist fantasy. Sure, not all feminists want to dress like sexy nuns and gun down random men (even men in drag), but a lot them, at least those with a sense of humour, must have gotten kick out of the sight of  Zoë Lund ridding the world of male scum. Fuck what they think, I thought the film was a real hoot.  Four stars. I laughed, I cried, I saw the tops of  Zoë Lund's stockings.


  1. This one is so great, loved it even more in the theater recently!

  2. Don't worry, all your readers are aware you're a sick twist. It's on of the main reasons we love your site. I've only seen this one once, but that party massacre scene of our protagonist shooting people in a nun costume really sticks in my mind.

  3. Easily the greatest film from the "rape/revenge" subgenre and one of Ferrara's best films. I've always thought of this film as where Ferrara really found his art and grindhouse meeting in the middle calling card, both grimy and stylish at the same time. That finale is something else.

    Then of course there's Zoe, who doesn't have to say one damn word throughout the entire film and still kills it. Her performance alone places Ms. 45 above and beyond all other films of its ilk.

  4. I've noticed that the music used during the Halloween party finale has an annoying/awesome habit of popping into my brain every once and awhile.