Sunday, January 09, 2005

Comfortably Numb: Thriller—A Cruel Picture a.k.a. They Call Her One Eye (1974)

After being wined and dined by a slick, savvy, Swedish playboy (i.e. pimp), teenage Madeleine (Christina Lindberg) is forced into a life of prostitution and heroin addiction. Tony the pimp (Heinz Hopf) controls Madeleine’s every move, and even disfigures her beautiful face by plucking out her eye when she refuses to comply with servicing a “john.” But when one-eyed Madeleine learns that Tony has sent hate-filled letters to her rural parents--which subsequently break their hearts and propel them to kill themselves--she focuses to emancipate herself from the tyranny of victimization through the holy communion of kung fu, learning how to drive a car “faster than any man,” and the baptism of the shotgun. Violence equals freedom for the eye-patch wearing assassin and let all who oppose her drown in streamers of slow-mo blood.

In many ways, Thriller is the ultimate revenge, exploitation picture, and it’s obvious why it strongly influenced Quentin Tarantino for his marvelous, though radically tamer Kill Bill films. Brutal, sleazy, and oddly poetic, Thriller manages to exhilarate the viewer as much as confound. Director Bo Arne Vibenius (who was Ingmar Bergman’s assistant director on Persona and Hour of the Wolf) films the proceedings in a rather curious, cold, deadpan Swedish style that ultimately castrates our demand for cinematic catharsis. By the end, we’re left feeling a bit soiled and numb. Nevertheless, it’s a deliciously satisfying guilty pleasure.

Available on DVD from Synapse-Films.

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