Tuesday, February 9, 2016

#2,003. Ms. 45 (1981)

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 Thana gets home, she finds a thief (Peter Yellen) has broken into her apartment, and upon seeing 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, Thana drags his body into her bathroom and cuts it into pieces, storing the parts in her refrigerator and disposing of them - little by little - each day (dropping body parts 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 overly-amorous boss Albert (Albert Sinkys) and even her neighbor Mrs. Nasone (Editta Sherman) notice that she has not been herself lately, yet none of them know how angry she has truly become, and before long, Thana is patrolling the streets, using her newly-acquired .45 handgun (which belonged to the thief she killed) to take the fight to every thug and low-life in the city. 

But Thana's hatred of men soon extends beyond the criminal element, and before long the confused young woman is exacting 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 (we’re led to believe that Thana was an introvert well before the attacks), then the passion that drives her character to kill (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). 

Along with her transformation, we witness Thana's eventual descent into madness (there are a few frightening scenes in which she's convinced her initial attacker is hiding in her apartment, waiting to strike again), and while our sympathies remain with her throughout the film (she even shoots a pimp who is beating up a prostitute), we recognize that Thana has been damaged beyond repair, and is on a downward spiral from which she will most likely 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.


Unknown said...

I love this movie. It's classic '70s exploitation. The gritty atmosphere from that period that permeates this type of movie is a favorite of mine. The soundtrack is great, too.

Unknown said...

They should have done a sequel. "Nun tougher"