Ms. 45 (1981)

She was abused and violated. It will never happen again!
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Ms. 45 - She was abused and violated. It will never happen again!

Back in the days when every male in New York was a desperately sex starved Quadrophenia fanboy (a condition exacerbated by fashion designers and hair stylists), Abel Ferrara decided to deliver Ms. 45 to the possibly suspecting public. Despite a slight odour of a feminised Driller Killer, Ms. 45 is exploitation at its finest and Ferrara doing what he does best. Gritty, dirty revenge with a smattering of the surreal. In the hands of a less talented director this could have easily become a bad taste comedy due to the exaggerated themes utilised to grab the attention of the audience. "A double-raped, shy and mute seamstress goes on a rampage with a 45 dressed as a nun" sounds like a synopsis that would have Lloyd Kaufman moist in the trouser department and, while his interpretation would most likely be splendid, Ferrara not only makes this concept plausible but quite grubby on the brain to boot.

The absurdities are used wisely. A lot of the fear-empathy is derived from how scary the world must be when you can't vocalise your angst, a thought that probably doesn't cross the mind of the average human often. This film makes that thought happen and draws the viewer into that world. Thana (played by Zoë Lund as Zoë Tamerlis - her role as the anti-heroin(e) is an ironic word play pun that won't go unnoticed by people from her future) is drawn down the path of insanity yet this isn't emphasised and explained like many films with a similar theme. Her craziness evolves subtly and doesn’t become apparent until later on despite it happening before you really notice. It is the slight happenings that make Ms. 45 stand above other movies and the attention to detail that gives re-watch value. Little things like all the food on the side as she crams a corpse into the freezer and the background news report stating that the murdered sheik still had $128 000 on his corpse subliminally enhance the experience. Thana is not a random choice of name either.

The directorial slights of hand are accompanied by some forthright punches to the baby making organs. The loud and often discordant soundtrack, the odious rape scenes right at the beginning and the overall despair of the background population throw the viewer's emotions around like a bipolar's during rag week to very good effect. By the time it gets a bit over the top the investment in the film is already there and nothing but a mute killer nun would satisfy the appetite for destruction.

If being forced to have sex twice in the same day can be belittled by the phrase "having a bad day" then Thana had a bad day. What starts as a bit of vengeful rebellion becomes a fervor fuelled obsession. By kill number three she is looking for any excuse to extinguish the living ability of the male population; her honourable gene pool cleansing soon becomes a eugenically motivated hunt and any slight of sleaze becomes punishable by death. Careful methods of execution and body disposal soon deteriorate into a sloppy kill spree. Thana's newfound confidence and dress sense indicate that she is starting to relish what was once the source of her anguish. The culmination of this blood lust reveals itself to the world at a fancy dress party where Thana disguises herself as a lusty nun in a monumental bullet shower (this is possibly due to the hired entertainment only knowing the one song for the duration of the event).

Ferrara throws in the odd hypnagogic scene like some kind of nerd who has just discovered the word hypnagogic. The Russian roulette self assassination scene is odd; Thana's failed attempt to murder is rectified by man ego. The bag lady walking through the scene announcing that "all women do is laugh and sing and say the word pussy" is quite random but worth being included because of what is her bag. These little diversions could be classed as filler yet add to the overall unhingedness of the big picture being depicted. Ms. 45 is a unique look at the traumas of life with enough tomfoolery to enable a disengagement from the real world while maintaining the filth that an effective exploitation film should deliver.
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