Saturday, February 16, 2013

My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #87: Thriller -- A Cruel Picture

When director Bo Arne Vibenius set out to make the most commercial movie ever, little did he suspect what impact 1974’s Thriller: A Cruel Picture (one of its many titles) would have on future cinema.  If this movie hadn’t of been made, we would have never had Elle Driver in Kill Bill.  That role was directly inspired by Vibenius’ Frigga character, played by the amazing Christina Lindberg, whose first centerfold spread in a men’s magazine (Lektyr) happened while she was still in high school.  This movie that inspired Tarantino may not be the most commercial movie ever made, but it sure raised a few eyebrows.

Frigga is a young woman who was left mute by a sexual assault in her youth.  One day she accepts a ride from a stranger and quickly finds herself forcibly addicted to heroin and pushed into prostitution.  When she angers the man who did this to her, she gets her eye taken out to teach her a lesson.  Not one to just take her lot in life lying down, Frigga uses her money to buy weapons and take martial arts classes in order to extract her revenge on all who have wronged her.  (Kind of like a low rent The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)  Prime exploitation stuff. 

As if the subject matter weren’t controversial enough, the eye removal scene was actually filmed with the cadaver of a young female who had recently committed suicide.  The film also had hardcore sex scenes added to it to help boost revenue. 

Those who have watched a lot of exploitation will tell you that this Swedish film isn’t actually all that rough and tumble, and they are correct.  It would shock the hell out of the average moviegoer used to Julia Roberts and superheroes, but all things considered, it really isn’t as nasty as it sounds.  In fact, at times it almost seems like a made-for-television movie.  So why do I have it on the list?

Thriller has a certain quality to it that you can’t quite put your finger on.  It’s definitely a product of the early ‘70s, and it feels like a foreign film trying to be American.  Vibenius, who directed and wrote the film under a pseudonym, tried something fairly gutsy and stylized, and had very little money with which to do it.  What he created wasn’t exactly what he was trying for, I’m sure, but it was something magical.  No one who has ever seen the film has ever forgotten it … no matter what title they saw it under.  (My favorite being Hooker’s Revenge.)  It’s that kind of courage that’s missing from a lot of cinema.  Sure, filmmakers have grand ideas, but how many have ever said they were going to make the most commercial movie ever created and then threw in a mutilated corpse, rape, drug addiction, copious amounts of nudity and blood, and hardcore sex scenes?  Bingo.  No director in his or her right mind would attempt such a thing … and then try to make it artistic!  The audacity of Vibenius is amazing.  I can only find that he has written and directed three films in his short career, but this one is actually more than enough.

Only in the ‘70s…

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not receive this film for review.  Clicking on it may earn me a commission.

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