Thursday, February 10, 2011

Act of Vengeance (1974)

Act of Vengeance

Written by David Kidd & H.R. Christian
Directed by Bob Kelljan

Linda...Jo Ann Harris
Jack...Peter Brown
Karen....Lisa Moore
Angie...Patricia Estrin
Nancy...Jennifer Lee
Tiny...Lada Edmund, Jr.

After lunch truck operator Linda is raped by a sadist in an orange jumpsuit and a hockey mask, she goes to the police.  There she's made to feel as if she is the criminal, as if she was "asking for it".  Once it is made perfectly clear to her that there is little to no hope that the police will find this man, Linda meets up with the rapist's other victims and form what they call a Rape Squad.

Through their 24-hour help line, the girls rush in to help like a sex crimes A-Team whenever a woman is in danger.  A good portion of what follows is almost episodic in nature, as the Squad deals with a number of unrelated problems and predators--a forceful night club owner, an abusive pimp, a heavy-breathing obscene caller, etc.  But it's all just training and preperation for the final confrontation with the hockey mask wearing rapist, who has been keeping tabs on their vigilante activities all this time.

This film is a bit of an odd duck.  It's shot and looks like a made-for-television shocker--and in fact, if it was remade in toned-down form, it could probably air on Lifetime.  Don't get me wrong, this is an exploitative revenge thriller with a few moments of choice sleaze: for instance, the rapist makes his victims sing "Jingle Bells" while he brutalizes them; and when the girls aren't out Rape Squadding, they sometimes sit around chit-chatting while hot-tubbing in the nude.

Sleazy and exploitative, sure.  But not nearly as sleazy and exploitative as the majority of flicks in the controversial rape-revenge genre.  Most of the other movies in this category know full well that they are trash, and they don't try to hide it.  Act of Vengeance, however, seems to feel guilty about its base nature and so attempts to compensate by over-reaching and taking itself seriously, attempting to deliver a message.

That message is simple:  Men suck.

As is par for the course, nearly all of the men here are misogynist assholes, not just the Jingle Bell Rapist. While passing out fliers advertising their Squad and spreading their message, a pair of robust bastards heckle one of the girls with calls like, "Stop rape? But that's my favorite sport!" and "A little rape once and a while should make life more enjoyable." Class acts all the way.

Despite its somewhat schizophrenic personality, its moments of absurdity, and the sometimes pitiful scripting, fans of the revenge thriller may want to check this one out.  Sure, women have had their revenge before.  But have they ever had their revenge while looking this badass?

ALSO KNOWN AS:  Rape Squad

Rated R
90 Minutes
United States

"I've rung more bells than a god damn cathedral and I'm gonna ring yours."

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