A lot's been said about this rape/revenge classick in the last two decades. Usually at a fevered pitch. It's been dismissed. Championed. Banned. Praised. Vilified. Now in its 25th year, and no less a lightening rod, the man who felt "possessed" to write, direct and edit the flick, Meir Zarchi, breaks ages of silence to speak about his oft-maligned creation more candidly than ever. It's also his historic audio commentary, along side that of a certain close, personal friend of all B-aficionados, two ambitious new audio mixes and a sharp anamorphic transfer that easily made this disc my top pick of 2002 and seals Elite Entertainment's "Millennium Series" as a fan-thrilling force in the fringe cinema marketplace.
So, now that Meir's no longer mum, what's he got to say? Plenty! From choice nuggets from particularly scorching reviews, to the sobering tragedy that inspired him, to astonishingly rich anecdotes from the set. It's clear that Mr. Zarchi works from very detailed notes that astutely address both his fans and detractors alike. No doubt CineSchlockers will likely savor every word. In fact, it may even come as a shock to learn Meir absolutely HATES the "sleazy, exploitive" title I Spit On Your Grave. That and the famously salacious poster were brainstorms of schlockmeister Jerry Gross who stripped Zarchi's flick of its original title -- Day of the Woman. Dunno if he's kin, but Jerry sounds like my kind of people. With respect to Meir, of course.
One thing's for certain, Mr. Zarchi knew how to sneak up and grab an audience by the privates. You don't merely WATCH this movie. It's EXPERIENCED. Physically. Emotionally. And for a stretch of about 30 agonizing minutes it's dang hard to endure! What's on the screen is revolting and it's SUPPOSED to be. It's the story of Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton). She's a bright, sophisticated young woman who escapes the bustle of New York City to spend a country summer writing her first novel and lazing along the Housatonic River -- only to be brutally and repeatedly gang raped by rednecks! During these successive attacks, Zarchi's camera is unflinching. Like a point-blank bullet to the head -- again and again -- his audience is forced to endure every excruciating moment of Jennifer's hell. Then after she's left for dead, Jennifer picks herself up, tends her wounds, and begins, in silence, to plot her equally brutal vengeance. Luring them with their animal lust, she coldly executes each of her attackers one-by-one. Both the most fitting and famous act of revenge is when she coaxes one of the rapists into a bubble bath, emasculates him with a carving knife and then locks the bastard in the bathroom to bleed to death. It's Old Testament "eye for an eye" stuff, making it nearly impossible not to CHEER every time one of these inbred sleazeballs gets theirs. Why? Because Zarchi, and to an extraordinary extent Ms. Keaton, make the audience identify and suffer right along with Jennifer. Her justice becomes OURS in a genuinely powerful way. Now, those CineSchlockers concerned that ol' Meir might be in total denial about his having made THE most infamous exploitation picture -- ever -- should take solace in his tongue-in-cheek wish for a SEQUEL!!! Someone call Ginsu and get that sucker funded!
Two breasts. Four corpses. Knife pitching. Biting. Wangdoodle whittling. Gratuitous shower scene. Harmonica playing. Wild-ass boat maneuvering. Loitering. Skinny dipping. Gratuitous Robert Redford reference.
Jennifer as murder-minded seductress, "I could have given you a summer to remember the rest of your life!" Johnny's redneck rapist logic, "This thing with you is a thing that any man would have done! You coax a man into doing it to you. A man gets the message fast. Whether he's married or not, a man is just a man!" Jenny offers Stanley a gut full of Evinrude, "SUCK IT, BITCH!!!"
In addition to Meir's track, and something that's been LONG overdue, is the FIRST audio commentary by legendary drive-in movie guru Joe Bob Briggs who ponders with wit and wisdom as only he can, "Is this the most DISGUSTING movie ever made, or is it the most FEMINIST!?" Joe Bob's an especially appropriate choice given his rabid, informed support of this flick in answer to the unprecedented lengths fellow critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert went to crucify the picture. (Mr. Ebert, incidentally, was invited to record a no-holds-barred commentary, but declined. However, excerpts from his original review and others are included among the bonus materials.) Thankfully, Elite's smartly recognized the tremendous entertainment value of this track and signed an exclusive deal with Joe Bob to host and record commentaries for a continuing series of dubious cinematic achievements! First up: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. Also of note among the extras is an expansive gallery of promo materials from around the world, including Zarchi's original poster design. (1978, 101 mins, 1.85:1 anam, DD & DTS 5.1 & mono, Two commentaries, Review excerpts, Radio and TV spots, Poster gallery, Trailers.)
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.