Directed By: Abel Ferrara
Starring: Zoë Tamerlis, Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stuto
Tag line: "It will never happen again!"
Trivia: First shown at the Cannes and Milano Film Festivals before its official 1981 release
Like I Spit on Your Grave and They Call Her One Eye, Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 fits neatly into the rape / revenge subgenre, yet stands above the rest in the way it delves into its lead character’s psyche, showing us not only the events that drive her to kill, but also the fractures in her mind that push her further down the rabbit hole than most.
Thana (Zoë Tamerlis) is a pretty young mute employed as a seamstress in Manhattan’s garment district. While walking home from work one evening, she’s dragged into an alleyway by a masked assailant (played by director Ferrara) and raped. But her nightmare doesn’t end there, because when she gets home, she finds a thief (Peter Yellen) has broken into her apartment, and when he sees her torn blouse, he decides to have his way with her as well. This time, however, Thana fights back, and hits her attacker over the head with a clothes iron, killing him outright. Afraid that someone will discover what she’s done, she picks up the thief’s .45 caliber pistol, drags his body into her bathtub, and cuts him into pieces, storing the parts in her refrigerator and disposing of them little by little each day (dropping them in trashcans, leaving them in abandoned alleys, etc).
Though she tries to get on with her life, Thana cannot shake the trauma of what’s happened. Her co-workers, including her overly-amorous boss Albert (Albert Sinkys); and her neighbor Mrs. Nasone (Editta Sherman), notice that Thana has not been herself lately, yet none of them realize how angry she truly is, and before long, Thana is patrolling the city, using her newly-acquired .45 to take out every thug and low-life she comes across. But her hatred of men soon extends beyond the criminal element, and eventually, the confused young woman exacts her revenge on the innocent as well as the guilty.
As shocking as it is disturbing, Ms. 45 features a sterling performance by Zoë Tamerlis, who perfectly conveys first the innocence (a mute living in New York, we’re led to believe that Thana was an introvert prior to the attacks, and rarely left her apartment), then the passion that drives her character to kill (later in the movie, she puts on make-up and strolls the streets at night, drawing the attention of the city’s seedier elements, then making them pay with their lives). In addition, we witness her descent into near-madness (there are a few frightening scenes where Thana is convinced her initial attacker is in her apartment, waiting to rape her again), and while our sympathies remain with her throughout the film (at one point, she shoots a pimp who is beating up a prostitute), we recognize that Thana has been damaged beyond repair, and as her actions become bolder, it’s evident she’s on a downward spiral, and most likely will never recover.
As with Ferrara’s The Driller Killer, Ms. 45 was shot in New York, often in some of the city’s dingier sections, bringing a heightened sense of reality to what is already a bleak motion picture. This, along with Tamerlis’s top-notch performance, makes Ms. 45 an admittedly dark, yet ultimately engrossing revenge / thriller.