Sunday, September 25, 2011

Naked Vengeance (Cirio H. Santiago, 1985)

When you find that the scales of justice are failing to tip favourably in your general direction, do you: a) Shrug your shoulders, smoke a cigarette, and go buy some ham, b) Accept the fact that the lowlife who murdered your husband, the redneck with a gym membership who filled your parents full of lead, and the unruly mob of former high school acquaintances who gang raped you to the point of mental and physical exhaustion will all go unpunished for their dastardly crimes, or c) Kill them all. I don't want to influence your decision, but please say 'c.' While I'm all for the purchasing of pork products and acting indifferent in the face of injustice, there are times when revenge is the only reasonable course of action a distressed woman with freakishly small nipples can take. And judging by the manner in which the retribution is doled out in Naked Vengeance, you won't be losing any sleep whatsoever over the way the culprits are dispatched in this movie. In case you're wondering, I happen to think murdering a classmate because he or she stole your eraser is wrong. I'm also against killing sprees that involve people who are disgruntled, and I'm not a big fan of rogue snipers with a score to settle. However, castrating rapists and drowning them in a pastoral lake that may or may not be located in The Philippines while in the buff is totally acceptable, especially if the perpetrator participated in the brutal gang rape of someone while they were trying to recover from the death of a loved one at the hands of a different rapist all-together at their parents' house in the country. Now, I've seen plenty of movies where the recently bereaved have to overcome adversity, but the amount of crap the recently bereaved lead in this film has to put up with was ridiculous. Hell, she can't even go to the supermarket without being harassed by a non-stop cavalcade of lecherous fiends.

Your classic American revenge story as told from the perspective of a wily Filipino named Cirio H. Santiago, Naked Vengeance may seem like yet another tale of rural comeuppance gone awry. But this particular semisolid lump of retaliatory cinema has got a brunette ace of up its sleeve, and that ace is Deborah Tranelli (yeah, that's right, Phyllis from Dallas). Wait a minute, how did they persuade Deborah Tranelli to appear in a film like this? I mean, the gang rape sequence isn't exactly a walk in the proverbial park in terms of conventional acting. What gives? Well, my theory is that in exchange for agreeing to give it her all in an extended gang rape scene, the producers allowed her to sing the film's theme song. It's a fair trade, if you ask someone who is not me, because the song, "Still Got a Love," and the gang rape are two of the things that make this film so freakin' memorable.

I'm no vengeance expert, but I think you're gonna need a lot more than a catchy theme song and a fireside gang rape sequence to create a half decent revenge movie. You're absolutely right. While I enjoyed the song, when Deborah sings the line, "there's so many wounded losers, so many broken hearts," I thought about the type of person who might get chills listening to lyrics like that, and the gang rape scene had an intensity about it that reminded me of the gang rape scene in Savage Streets, part of me sincerely hoped the film had more to offer than mushy yet defiant song lyrics and tasteless thrills.

On the morning of their five year wedding anniversary, a young L.A. couple in the throes of domestic bliss are getting ready for the day ahead of them. Reluctant to take part in a celebratory dinner at a fancy restaurant to commemorate their modest matrimonial milestone, Mark Harris (Terrence O'Hara) finally agrees to attend after his wife Carla Harris (Deborah Tranelli) promises to move the dinner to from 7pm to 9pm and to wear her black stockings and garter belt. The moment the words "black stockings and garter belt" left his mouth I knew he would never get to see his wife's supple lower half sheathed in the nylon and lace he requested. And, unfortunately, I was right. While leaving the restaurant, Mark notices a woman struggling to escape the clutches of a belligerent man in the vicinity of a dumpster. Ignoring the fact that the dainty black garter belt lurking underneath Carla's dress is currently pressing tightly against the aerobicised firmness of her sweat-drenched stomach, Mark leaps to the woman's aide. Even though Carla tells him to be careful while he was leaping, Mark, after a brief struggle, winds up dead as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Frustrated that none of the witnesses, nor the woman her husband tried to help, are willing to admit they saw anything, Carla feels as if the justice system has let her down. A useless detective (Carmen Argenziano) attempts to explain why the case against her husband's murderer has hit so many snags, but Carla is too distraught to give a shit. Tired and emotionally drained by the whole experience, Carla decides to leave town and visit her parents in Silver Lake, the small California town she grew up in, to clear her head.

While the name "Silver Lake" sounds like the ideal place for one to clear their head, it's actually not ideal. In fact, it's the complete opposite of ideal. You wanna know why it's not ideal? No? Well, I'll tell you anyway. It's because there are people living in Silver Lake, and cobbled together from what I've accidentally gleaned over the years, people are the worst. Okay, I'll admit, that was a tad misanthropic. However, if the people in the town you just arrived in resent the fact that you left their backwater burg to appear in fancy television commercials for plastic wrap and dog food in the big city, don't expect the welcome you receive to be all warm and fuzzy when your grieving ass shows up all of a sudden wearing designer sunglasses and a blue dress with a taupe belt.

What takes place next is what I like to call "the harassment chapter," as Carla encounters one indignant Silver Lake resident after another. While the female residents of her hometown seem content to merely throw her the occasional catty glance, it's the menfolk who really seem to relish in tormenting our chic (her taupe belt is wonderfully complimented by a pair of a taupe pumps) heroine. A gas station attendant named Sparky (Nick Nicholson) and Burke (Ed Crick), a vulgar hanger-on with vending machine issues, are the first to hassle her. The youthful gardener, Timmy (Steve Roderick), who works for her parents, leers at her in a highly suggestive manner as she gets him a glass water, but his technique was more subtle. The same can't be said for Arnold (Don Gordon Bell), an ice house employee, Fletch (Kaz Garas), the town's butcher, and Ray (David Light), the bartender at a local watering hole, as they all make overly aggressive advances toward the fashionable brunette.

As expected, all their attempts to woo her are met with failure. In an effort to make doubly sure that his animal magnetism wasn't on the fritz, Fletch takes a second run at her in the parking lot of Ray's pub. After he starts pawing at her, Carla plants the pointiest part of her well-proportioned knee firmly into the creamy centre of the bucther's crotch, causing him to feel a fair amount of discomfort. When she finally does get home, Carla slips out of her disco-inspired one-piece to reveal that she is wearing a pair of black panties with a black bra. You'll notice she isn't wearing black stockings or a garter belt underneath her clothing. This may sound like a bit of a stretch, but I chose to see her decision not to wear any superfluous undergarments as her subtle way of honouring the lingerie loving legacy of her late husband. Sadly, Timmy, who's been watching her get undressed through her window, doesn't pick up on the subtlety of Carla's tribute.

An increasingly disheartened Carla tries to report Timmy's peeping and Fletch's groping to Sheriff Cates (Bill McLaughlin), but that goes nowhere fast, as he basically tells her that "boys will be boys" and that she should start thinking about closing her drapes at night. Meanwhile, over at Ray's bar, the gang can be seen commiserating over the fact that they all failed to make any romantic headway with Carla, even though she's, as one of them puts it, a "closet nympho."

When word gets out (way to go, Timmy) that Carla is "home alone" (her parents have gone away for the weekend), the five of them, including Timmy, decide to pay her a surprise visit. After Timmy somehow manages to knock himself unconscious, the drunken quintet proceed to take turns sexually assaulting her in a scene that was off the charts in terms unpleasantness. And just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, Carla's parents arrive home earlier than expected. I don't think I need to explain what happens next–you know, given Carla's recent track record (the gal can't seem to catch a break). But let's just say Carla is not a happy camper when all is said and done.

Since Silver Lake seems to lack a functioning sexual assault evidence kit (a device that would have easily detected that Carla had been raped by five assailants), and with a catatonic Carla in the hospital under the care of a doctor (Joseph Zucchere) who looked like a slimmed down version of Alex Karras, the five rapists, content in the knowledge that Timmy is the one being blamed for the death of Carla and her parents, go about their day as if nothing had happened. Whoa, did you say, "death of Carla"?!? Yeah, I did. The five rapists, get this, think Carla's dead. Oh, man, are they in for a nasty surprise.

Inspired by the vengeance-laden hysterics coming from the patient in the room next-door, Carla decides right then and there to take matters into her own hands when it comes to dispensing justice. After Ray the bartender is set ablaze while closing up his bar, Carla says, "burn, bastard." When she said that, I was like, yes! In that, I hope she says something like that after every rapist is eliminated. It seemed like they were gonna continue the bastard motif when she gets around to taking care of the next rapist, but, unfortunately, she stopped saying "bastard" after she castrates and drowns Burke in the lake near the hospital.

Nevertheless, the sight of a naked Carla, her flyspeck nipples shimmering in the midday sun, saying, "drown, bastard," after slicing off Burke's primary raping genitals with a hunting knife was a thing of uncomfortable beauty. Just for record: When I refer to the smallness of Deborah Tranelli's nipples, I don't mean it in a negative way. My attitude when it comes to nipple size is one of benign indifference.

Getting back to the bastard motif, the opportunities for Carla to vocalize bastard-based zingers seemed to diminish the deeper she waded into the vengeance pool. Besides, what are you supposed to say after you cut a mechanic in half with the jeep he's working on, push a man into an industrial-strength ice maker, and ventilate a man's forehead with a shotgun? I mean, "subdural hematoma, bastard" is a bit of a mouthful.

Surviving a back alley assault that resulted in the death of her husband, putting up with a comprehensive campaign of sexual harassment, and enduring a brutal gang rape that was punctuated with the murder of her parents, Deborah Tranelli gives a courageous performance as Carla, the pluckiest brunette avenger ever to give up black stockings and garter belts cold turkey. Seriously, I was literally in awe of Deborah's work in this film, especially during the gang rape scene, the lakeside castration sequence, and the butcher shop melee. It takes a special kind of actress to drown a man utilizing a grappling hook without any clothes on, and Deborah Tranelli is pretty darned special. Sure, she doesn't utter pithy one-liners after every kill, but as far as revenge movies go, Naked Vengeance is a definite winner.

video uploaded by AussieRoadshow


  1. Excellent review! Always wanted to see this one. Big Cirio Santiago fan!

  2. I need some more naked Vengeance in my life.

  3. @Ty: Thanks. If the films you cover on Comeuppance Reviews are anything to go by, your eyeballs and Naked Vengeance seem made for each other.

    @Cinema Du Meep: I know exactly what you mean.

    @Erich Kuersten: Judging by my visual presentation, you'd think she was the only person in the movie. But she isn't. However, there's no law that says that I can't pretend she was.

  4. I like ham.

    Yummers, I'm in mourning. Our Sirius CanCon channel has switched formats. Gone are the Hip, Gowan, 54-40, Blue are new(ish) bands like Theory of a Dead Man, and other stuff I've never heard, and most of it sucks.

    In my mourning, I went and bought a Roots hoody online. It should be arriving today.

    We're behind again in Jeopardy! Sigh.

  5. This looks radilicious. I've seen a bunch of Santiago's films but not this one. I am fucking ashamed of myself.

    I noticed that Karim called you "Yummers" which I have done on occasion. Is this catching on, or is it an obvious term of endearment? I'm betting on the latter, so from now on I will occasionally refer to you as "Yummage", as I don't like being obvious. We'll see how that goes.

  6. Ham's good.

    New(ish) bands?!? I had no idea people still made and produced music. ;)

    Speaking of music, I walked up Yonge St. the other day (it had been almost a year since my last full scale jaunt up the once iconic strip), and became mildly depressed when I came the across the vacant lot where Sam The Record Man used to be.

    Just watched a CBC produced doc about Canandian music in the '90s, a follow up to the Skinny Puppy-less one they did about Canuck music in the '80s, and all it did is remind me of how much I dislike grunge, and its egregious cousin, post-grunge.

    The Tea Party (death panels, three-cornered hats) want to buy the domain name of The Tea Party (Doors-esque rock band from Windsor)

    I've been listening to nothing but minimal wave (analogue synth-pop made between 1978-86) as of late.

    A most excellent choice; after all, it is hoody season (well, at least it is up here). Anyway, I've never worn Roots gear (the stuff doesn't usually come in all-black), but I did have a Beaver Canoe sweatshirt in grade 8.

  7. Thomas Duke: A bunch?!? I've only seen one Santiago flick. :(

    Just for the record, I'm not writing about these movies in order to make you feel fucking ashamed (if you'll recall, there was some fucking shame expelled back when I posted my entry about a north of the border produced piece of horseshit called The Tower.)

    I don't think "Yummers" is catching on. However, if you feel as if your uniqueness is being undermined, feel free to call me "Yummage," but only if I can call you "Dukie Wookie."