Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Act of Vengeance (1974)

... aka: Rape Squad, The
... aka: Violator, The

Directed by:
"Robert Kelljchian" (Bob Kelljan)

College student and lunch truck driver Linda Schumacher (Jo Ann Harris, one of the stars of Don Siegel's underrated The Beguiled just a few years earlier) is getting ready for a date when she's attacked by a psycho decked out in a hockey mask and orange jump suit. He kicks her in the head, chases her into a barn and then punches her in the face before raping her. As if that isn't bad enough, this guy really gets off on humiliating her by making her say "Thank you Mr. Rapist for choosing me" before the rape, sing "Jingle Bells" (!) during and then forcing her to tell him "I loved it" afterward. A battered, bruised and hysterical Linda goes to the cops to report the assault and is treated like she's at fault by crude, condescending officers who insinuate her skimpy attire provoked the act. One of the cops even goes so far as to mock her by saying "I wished that would happen to me sometime. I'd just lay back and enjoy it." After discovering the doctors can't help either when no traces of semen are found, Linda goes to her compassionate boyfriend (Steve Kanaly) for comfort. Uh oh! He's a man too, so he just tells her she's a whore and possibly even a "diesel dyke." Yes, men sure can be pigs.

During a suspect line-up at the police station, Linda meets four other women - Nancy (Jennifer Lee), Karen (Lisa Moore), Angie (Patricia Estrin) and Teresa (Connie Strickland) - who've also been a victim of the same man and are clamoring for justice. Since the police won't really do anything, the girls decide to organize their own vigilante group called "The Rape Squad" in hopes of educating and protecting other vulnerable women in the city. This involves passing out flyers, manning phones, going to black belt Tiny (Lada Edmund Jr.) for martial arts training and sitting in a Jacuzzi tub naked discussing their future plans. The ladies raid a rapist club owner's apartment, destroy everything he owns and pretend like they're pouring sulfuric acid on his penis (which is actually blue dye to "mark" his manhood so he can be easily identified in the future). They also set an obscene phone caller (Stanley Adams) straight by humiliating him in public ("Let me see your wang!") and kick an abusive pimp's ass during a hilarious scene. For an encore, our heroines foolishly head out into an abandoned zoo late at night to meet up with their attacker (former western star Peter Brown), whose sexual assaults are beginning to amass a body count.

Oops! This ad got the "Teresa" and "Nancy" characters wrong.

With earnest performances from a cast somehow taking all of this completely seriously, laughable dialogue ("Just thinking of challenging a rapist gives me the chills!"), exploitative nudity at every opportunity and poorly choreographed karate fight scenes, this AIP release is impossible to ever take seriously. However, none of that really matters as it's undoubtedly a hell of a lot of fun watching a bunch of ticked-off women running around beating up men and spouting insipid one-liners. Adding greatly to the amusement factor is the fact nearly every single male character, right down the smallest of parts, is an exaggerated sexist jerk or perv. The girls can't even walk down the street without some guy chirping something like "A little rape every once in awhile should make life more enjoyable!" Though rape itself is hardly funny, that doesn't mean a film attempting to seriously tackle the subject and failing miserably to pull it off can't be!

Noteworthy also for featuring a psycho decked out in a hockey mask and orange jump suit a number of years before Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers entered the horror villain pantheon with their iconic looks, this was actor-turned-director Kelljan's follow-up to a series of successful low-budget genre films he'd made like the two Count Yorga films (1970-71) and Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973). Veteran character actor Ross Elliott plays one of the cops, Joan McCall (GRIZZLY) and Penthouse Pet Anneka Di Lorenzo (Caligula) have small roles and Jay Fletcher has a memorable bit as "Pimping Percy." The DVD is from MGM and it's well worth a watch for fans of 70s trash.


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