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Review: ‘Ms. 45’

Genuine Grindhouse From Abel Ferrara

Above: Zoe Lund stars in Abel Ferrara's grindhouse cult classic "Ms. 45."

Aired 4/4/14 on KPBS News.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the revival of Abel Ferrara's grindhouse cult classic, "Ms. 45."

If all you know about grindhouse films is what you learned from Quentin Tarantino, then let me school you on the real thing with a revival screening of the 1981 film "Ms. 45" (screening once only, Saturday at 10 p.m. at the Digital Gym Cinema).

Grindhouse originally referred to theaters that showed exploitation films in the '70s and early '80s. These films tended to be porn, slasher horror, blaxploitation, and dubbed martial arts films. They were marked by extremely low budgets, and excessive amounts of sex, violence and odd subject matter. Take Abel Ferrara’s "Ms. 45."

The trailer sensationally proclaims: "Every day on every street in every city, women are insulted, abused, threatened."

Companion Viewing

"Last House on the Left" (1972)

"Thriller: A Cruel Picture" (1974)

"I Spit on your Grave" (1978)

Poor Thana (Zoë Lund) is a mute young woman raped not once but twice in one day (the first rapist is played by director Abel Ferrara). This sets off a perverse feminist revenge tale. Thana begins a killing spree, first as personal revenge, later as vigilante justice, ridding the streets of scum like a female version of Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver."

Ferrara epitomizes the grindhouse style. His film is rough, raw, violent, angry and completely riveting. But he’s never been able to fit into the mainstream. His ferocious insistence on doing things his way quite simply scared Hollywood. So he’s remained on the periphery, making brilliant, unsettling films ("King of New York," "The Addiction," "Bad Lieutenant"). "Ms. 45" came as video and cable TV was sounding a death knell for grindhouse theaters so it's a film from the twilight of the era.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have a true love for the genre and have paid tribute to it in films like "Death Proof," "Planet Terror" and "Machete." But they’re making an homage, an imitation funded by millions and backed by a studio. "Ms. 45" (unrated) is the genuine article and there is no substitute. Check it out.

"Ms. 45" screens as part of the late night genre series curated by The Film Geeks, the purpose of the group (literally film geeks from a number of local film festivals) is to bring independent genre films from both the U.S. and abroad to San Diego at the new micro cinema at the Digital Gym. We are all volunteering our time and often putting out money to insure that these films show in San Diego. That's how passionate we are about these movies. My geeky cohorts in this mad adventure are Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, Phil Lorenzo and Brian Hu of Pac-Arts, Michael McQuiggan of FilmOut, and Victor Laruccia of the San Diego Italian Film Festival.

There will be a reception at 9:30 p.m. with complimentary drinks and treats with the film, a revival release from Alamo Drafthouse, screening at 10 p.m.

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