Ms. 45

(USA, 1981, 80 mins, DCP)
CAST Zoe Tamerlis,Peter Yellen, Jack Thibeau, Steve Singerewton


Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant; King of New York) opined that this, his second feature*, made his previous film, Driller Killer, look like ’scratchings on the cave wall’. Who are we to disagree?

Still working the gutter no-budget beat - a correlative to New York’s no-wave punk music of the period - he brings a patina of slick visual sophistication to this rape/revenge exploitation thriller; more importantly, he allows a coherent, if extreme, feminist position to emerge, with the victim embracing her sexuality and sensuality as she proceeds to wreak revenge on the male denizens of NYC.

Seventeen-year-old Nastassja Kinski-lookalike Zoë Tamerlis plays Thana, a shy deaf-mute who works in New York’s garment district. Raped twice within the film’s first ten minutes (one of the rapists is played by the director himself, behind a mask) she kills her second assailant and chops him up in the bathtub (an episode that finds its way into Alan Warner’s novel Morvern Callar). Gaining confidence, she arms herself and woe to the chauvinist who crosses her path. It’s a provocative, disreputable movie, with several punchy, subversive images that make it well worth seeing. Regrettably, Tamerlis never really came through on her promise, though she co-wrote and appears in Bad Lieutenant as Zoe Lund. A heroin addict, she died in 1999 of ’heart failure’ at 35.

Screening in a newly restored DCP version.

*unless you count his porno, Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy

["Ferrera] is clearly a talented fellow. One can only hope he finds something else to make movies about very soon." Janet Maslin, New York Times