aka Day of the Woman

Dir. Meir Zarchi. USA. 1978.

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Original Version Uncut and Remastered

This film has such a rep and notoriety a lot that isn’t in it has been claimed to be in it as it has been given the status of ‘video nasty.’ In the UK, the 1984 Video Recordings Act made sure that certain titles were taken off the shelves in order to protect the moral well-being of minors whose parents may subject them to lurid subject matter. ‘I Spit’ along with ‘Driller Killer’ and ‘The Burning’ were among the tabooed titles and were only available for a long time on the black market. It is the epitome of revenge movies, but with a calmer and more sensible retrospect on the heightened atmosphere surrounding the banning of this and other films of the same era and genre, what was all the fuss about, and indeed does it still deserve some respect as an exploitation classic and notoriety as a rape revenge movie?

Well, yes. It is still a worthy film and with some very powerful scenes but there are a lot of references to other woks here that did not get banned, or had as much of a fuss made about them. The camerawork is a little unsteady and the acting has that staged appeal typical of exploitation style with emphasized movements and actions. An aspiring novelist – a New Yorker is going to the woods to get some peace and inspiration. Of course there is the usual bent of city slicker coming to a sticky end in the countryside at the mercies of those unsophisticated locals which has been done in ‘The Shuttered Room’, ‘Deliverance’, and of course, ‘Straw Dogs.’ Jennifer looks every minute a seventies woman, wafer thin, wispy and whimsical, played by Buster Keaton’s granddaughter Camile Keaton. Just as soon as she arrives she is gawped at by the neighbourhood trash who wonders ‘if good-looking girls shit too…’ They come to the conclusion that ‘New York broads are loaded and fuck a lot’ (obviously, if Sex and The City is anything to go by) so they (the trash) start on their campaign to tease and taunt the foxy Out of Towner.

There is a long shot of Jennifer on a boat in the middle of a peaceful lake – which vaguely looks like the final sequence in Friday 13th pt II. It more than likely started here. ‘She’s a wild one’ one of them says as they circle her in a speedboat completely shattering any hopes of getting any writing done that day. The action comes in thick and fast though as the men inflicts two lots of rape on this woman, not just the one – she is also beaten/raped in her own home – or her place at least. The idea of this is considerably more sickening than the reality as one of the actors in the group of rapists ‘Mathew’ – played by Richard Pace, cannot act to save his life and looks awkward in his own skin. It looks like he is there by accident to make the numbers up or something. One of the rapes looks just plain silly with the guy tossing his body about all over the place.

One of the worst aspects is the humiliation, taunting and tearing up of the girl’s work. There is not just anger at women here – there is genuine envy for sophistication of life and spirit that Jennifer symbolises. The beating comes after the rape, just to put the boot in and to make sure Jennifer really gets the message how disgusting she is for allowing all of this to happen. She is left – but then Mathew has to go back to finish her – not doing so ensures the second act of this exploitation classic.

The fact that there is no police involvement at all is very perplexing. It would have been a far better film had Jennifer sought legitimate justice first, become a victim of the system to compound her anger and then sought cold, cold revenge a while later. As it is, intending t kill her, upon finding out she was not dead, they would have just raped her again, or killed her, getting rid of any trace she was there. Jennifer is powerful again turning on those that hurt her and driving herself mad into the bargain.

The castration scene is overblown but very bloody, the scene with Jennifer in the speedboat coming at her victim with a hatchet is very effective – a modern day Boudicca. There is a seduction scene with Jennifer in a long white nightdress, looks very nice. 1970s Penthouse, so does the shack that Jennifer has hired for the duration. Her universe looks enticing indeed, pre and post rape. It is probably this that gives her the confidence to enact a roaring rampage of revenge.

The wife of one of the victims goes looking for him at the petrol station where Jennifer was first taunted: “my husband never fucking disappears on me – he’s not that kind of a man.” Little does she know that he has disappeared for good – and that he was that kind of a man.

This flick has a lot going for it and anyone who collects films of this era and genre should have it in their collection as it is part of our censorship past. It is a better film than most of those out of the 1970s and there are elements in here that you would find in Cape fear, Blair Witch, The Last Exorcism, Friday the 13tt, The Evil Dead, in fact any film that has isolationism in the woods as an element compounding ‘fish out of water’ fear. Exploitation films were cheaply made and looked it – but the ideas they yielded were used for major ventures that would often not have the heart or moral core of films like this.  I Spit on Your Grave, 1978 has had a great rep for a long time, which speaks volumes for its cred.

Gail Spencer

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