Ms. 45 from 1981 (Director: Abel Ferrara, Writer: Nicholas St. John, Stars: Zoë Tamerlis Lund, Runtime: 80 min)
Ms. 45 is about a mute woman named Thana who is attacked, twice, on her way home. In the second act she fights back and kills her attacker. She tries to deal with the attack but her growing paranoia about being attacked by men, and being discovered having killed a man, she arms herself with the 45 her attacker had. From protection she goes into a killing spree, setting her sights on men regardless.
Directed by Abel Ferrara, an indy director known for controversial films and starring the late model turned actress/filmmaker Zoe Lund Ms. 45 is a considered a cult classic. Born of the rape and revenge exploitation genre but ditching revenge part to become a film about the reign of a serial killer. Starts in a designer/garment shop, giving you the place of Thana’s work. When her and her co-workers are off the walk down the streets of New York getting the whistles and cat calls of men. Its an incredibly effective scene. Most the men are portrayed as assholes. They attack women, harass women, they want to lure woman to get something. Its easy to buy into the hatred Thana develops. Even if she goes from killing the scum of the Earth to wanting to kill all men. The final sequence is excellently put together and shows how far Thana has come from the scared woman defending herself to the cold blooded killer. I am not familiar with anyone in this film but was taken at first by the beautiful Zoe Lund. She’s stunning throughout, and conveys a lot of motion through her body language. The fear, confidence, and hatred come through shining. This woman has to essentially carry an entire film without uttering a single word. Play off other actors who have dialogue and she does it wonderfully. There are other performances but none really matter save hers. Though I guess I should point out the neighbor is a bit of a turn off.
Visually the film is simple but Abels use of the city is fantastic. It feels like it can beat down on the viewer. There’s a scene where she’s running from a man who finds a bag she left and just wants to give it to her. he chases her all over and its just a great scene. The angles, movement, and everything works so well. The music and sound design are top notch, adding layers to this film. I really can’t even think of anything wrong except the neighbor or, with these films, the subject matter can be repulsive to the viewer which I understandable. These kinds of films easily go bad.
There’s a lot of symbolism and motifs I missed so I link to this excellent article as three women discuss the film.
So, a good film.
One of the films that is cited as inspiration is Thriller: A Cruel Picture. Another exploitation film of the rape and revenge styling. A direct inspiration for multiple films and characters including visual homages in Kill Kill because of course. Tarantino liked utilizing elements of exploitation films with women in that picture (Lady Snowblood. I still need to catch the second film). I’m going to check this one out sooner or later, since Ive had it for months. Sitting on top of my Lady Snowblood set. Maybe afterwards I’ll write up something on this controversial, provocative film type.