I’ve always found the Rape and Revenge genre, to be somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, after bearing witness to some of the most brutal of cinematic applied atrocities, it’s undeniably satisfying seeing the harvesters of said sadistic sorrow, ultimately reaping what they’ve themselves sewn, in an equally beastly and unrelenting manor. Yet to get to the revenge, of course, one must trudge along through the rape. For obvious reasons this can prove to be a disturbing and uncomfortable experience, and was the central contributing deterrent in, as to why until now, I hadn’t bothered watching Bo Arne Vibenius’s Thriller: A Cruel Picture.
Thriller begins under a seemingly serene setting, as a little girl named Madeleine, dressed in her bright yellow dress, prances joyously about the park, amidst a beautiful fall landscape. Madeleine unwittingly stumbles upon a strange older gentleman, who appearing friendly enough at first, begins dancing merrily along with the young girl. In an instant the mood turns foul, as the man’s face morphs from its kindly origins to that of a snarlingly savage beast, oozing a dark gruel from the corner of his mouth, as he begins having his way with the poor girl…
Many years later we find Madeleine (Christina Lindberg), now a young woman, living on a milk farm, with her parents. As a repercussion from her traumatic assault, she has been stricken mute, unable to speak even after countless medical specialists’ attempts to appease her misfortunate predicament.
At the behest of her father, Madeleine takes some time away from the farm, and heads toward town, only to just narrowly miss her bus. Coincidently, a sleazy looking man by the name of Tony (Heinz Hopf), happens by. He offers her a ride in his flashy new GTO, wines and dines her, and then lures her back to his place. Once there he fixes her a drink, insisting that she “drink’s up”, seconds later she’s passed out cold on the couch...
Madeleine awakes days later, and in a daze she heads for the door, only to be knocked to the ground by Tony and drugged once more. On her next awaking, Tony informs her she is now addicted to heroin, she makes another frenzied attempt at escape, only to be chased down Tony's car, and drugged yet again.
Tony now makes his intentions clear, each day asside from Sunday, Madeleine will be given a list of people she must sleep with, if she complies, she’ll be given two pouches of heroin. He then instructs her to behave, and sends her into a room to await her first client. Upon the clients arrival he commands Madeleine to remove her clothes, only to receive a face full of a claw marks. Tony enters the room enraged, scalpel in hand, and proceeds to stab her in the left eye.
Completely worn and disheartened, Madeleine resigns to accepting her current predicament, living only for the drug, in hopes to numb her never ending misery. Shortly thereafter she begins compiling a stash of money, skimmed from her customers, for “extra services”, in hopes to curb her addiction, an idea she procured from Tony’s other forced prostitute, Sally. Madeleine continues in this vein until the discovery of her parents’ death, who under false pretenses concerning her disappearance, commit suicide.
Profoundly horrified Madeleine proceeds to seek out instruction in firearms, driving and self defense, setting the course for a ravenous revenge…
Ironically, director Bo Arne Vibenius’s attempt to make the “most commercial film ever”, resulted in the Swedish film censors first ever ban, on April 4, 1973, due for the most part to, Vibenius’s decision to include hardcore sex footage, and possibly the usage of a real human cadaver for the “eye scene”.
While Thriller doesn’t prove to be a great film, it’s undeniably memorable, and for the most part, an entertaining one. The stylish presentation consists of an array of alluring imagery, which most often effectively conveys the appropriate ambiance. Where style befalls hindrance, is through over-embellishment, such as the continued use of crawlingly slow motioned action sequences, nauseatingly overused throughout the second half of the picture.
The added hardcore sex scenes unfortunately do more to detach the viewer from the film than heighten its intensity. Obviously staged elsewhere and inserted later, they disrupt the natural flow, appearing as no more than a trivial novelty. However, strangely enough, the implementation of the cadaver is used far more effectively, in a similar vein to that of Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou.
Thriller’s strongest attribute lays in its initial foundation. This instills a compelling launching ground for the events that follow, escalating steadily early on, and resulting in a pertinently vested interested in the films ultimate conclusion. This proves essential towards the end of the film, where the pace, already starting to suffer the ill effects of stagnation, begins to drag even further.
It also goes to say Christina Lindberg, makes the film. Perfectively suited for the role of Madeleine, she produces a subtle crutial tranquility, exuding an innocence, which when paired with the subject matter, and shadowed by films understated score makes for all the more harrowing of an endeavor.
While it could potentially be effectively argued otherwise, I can’t attribute much else to Thriller aside from unadulterated, albeit stylish, exploitation. That’s not adherently a bad distinction, but in the case of Thriller, I’ve found my initial viewing ample, subjugating any further need to return in the near future.
Synapse pulled no punches when releasing the Limited Edition red covered Thriller: a Cruel Picture DVD, which includes the full and uncensored pornographic inserts. For those uncomfortable with hardcore hairy European pornography, Synapse kindly offers a taint free release in the form of its yellow covered "Vengeance Edition". Both releases are presented anamorphically in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and include both the original Sweedish language and English dub in dolby digital 2.0 mono.
If you're looking for extras the LE is your best bet as the Vengeance Edition is limited to liner notes and trailers. As for the LE, it comes equipped with original TV spot and trailers, extensive still galleries, including behind-the-scenes photos and a whole gallery devoted to nude photographs of star Christina Lindberg shot on the set. Also included is an alternate fight sequence, brief outtake reel and rare photographs taken from a fight which had to be removed from the film due to an erroneous mishap at the processing lab.