Ms. 45 (1981)

Ms. 45 (1981), directed by Abel Ferrara.

A mute seamstress is raped twice a few minutes apart, once in an alley and again by a burglar in her apartment. She kills the burglar. Now unhinged, she puts him in the tub, dismembers him, puts the pieces in garbage bags and leaves them around town for unlucky street people to find. (None of the above is very explicit; there is no nudity but the rape scenes are horrifically raw even without it).

She uses the burglar's gun to shoot men who frighten her, then those who are merely irritating. She goes into full vigilante Death Wish mode by dressing sexy and luring street gangs to their doom. Finally, like Carrie at the prom, she has a total meltdown at the office Halloween party and massacres all the men. It's always men.

This is a great rape and revenge exploitation picture, so called because it's the sort that critics hate at the time and appreciate 20 years later. Zoë Tamerlis Lund is wonderful in all aspects of the character: abused victim, traumatized survivor (has she survived?), sexy avenger and finally psycho. No lines: she's mute.

It's oddly structured. The first part is realistically grim (streets full of garbage, men as predators), but becomes more fantastic with flashes of dark absurdity and even humor. I think I like the first half better, but it has to go somewhere and I won't argue with the director here.

Many good little bits that elevate it above the ordinary: when the women leave work they walk a gauntlet of crude men yelling lewd comments, then we see Thana shopping the meat section of the grocery. After the first rape she is left in the alley with the rest of the garbage, but when she strains to lift the dead man into the tub, her position is from behind like that of her first attacker.

I don't know where she gets all that ammo. Her Halloween costume is "sexy nun" and I wonder if the director is working out something for himself here. Every man in the picture is disgusting: either brutal or just slimy. But it's wrong to call this a "feminist Death Wish", unless you think the concept implies insanity (well, maybe). Our heroine is nuts.

Effective score, approaching police siren intensity at times. No nudity. The violence, mainly shooting effects, is not as gruesome as it might have been.

This is long out of print in region 1 DVD. The thumbnails are from the French region 2 PAL disc, said to be the only uncut edition: L'Ange de la Vengeance ("Avenging Angel").


The Blu-ray is a good upgrade over the PAL DVD. Fine color. Night scenes have a lot of noise, but some of the daylight images have rather good hidef detail. Certainly not a top-tier disc, but I wasn't expecting that for a minor catalog title.

Better yet: the running time is the full 80 minutes, 3 minutes longer than the PAL DVD, which was supposed to be uncut. I could tell I was watching a different cut of the movie, although I'm not sure why the edits were made. They did not seem to be related to sex and violence.

Some extras give melancholy background on the short troubled life of Zoë Tamerlis. She seemed a bright spirit, burning out too quickly. According to her husband (they were separated) she contracted a lung infection in Paris and her then-boyfriend wouldn't take her to the hospital because they were dealing cocaine and he didn't want any attention. It spread to her heart and she died soon after.

She was only 19 in this film. That's incredible.

I don't recall seeing a disc from "Drafthouse" before, but they've provided good value here: very decent Blu-ray image, extras, and booklet.

The thumbnails are from the PAL DVD:

The sexploitation poster: