Ms. 45 / Angel of Vengeance (1981)

“No, you are much too beautiful to be a model.”

Synopsis:
After being raped twice, a mute seamstress (Zoe Tamerlis) goes on a murderous rampage against men.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
This “impressive low-budget cult movie” by controversial director Abel Ferrara is surprisingly compelling. Unlike the infamous rape-revenge flick I Spit on Your Grave (1978), relatively little time in Ms. 45 is spent showing Tamerlis being raped; these scenes occur right away, are remarkably short, and aren’t exploited for voyeuristic kicks. Instead, the bulk of the movie focuses on Tamerlis’s retributive rampage through New York City, as she becomes a vigilante heroine for “all the women of the world who don’t speak out against the daily outrages they are subjected to from men.” As Peary notes, the film is filled with “striking, highly stylized” imagery, “much humor”, and “weird yet believable characters” (including Tamerlis’s nosy landlady, and her landlady’s annoying dog, Phil). Unknown Tamerlis gives a “strong, sympathetic, sexy performance” as mute Thana; indeed, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in this unique role. Unfortunately, she made few films after Ms. 45, and died of a drug overdose at the age of 37.

Note: In his review, Peary makes an astute comparison between Ms. 45 and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), noting that “both [women] suffer sexual harassment going to and from work, both kill men who force themselves on them; [and] while corpses rot in their apartments… both lapse into temporary shock states.” But while Deneuve’s Carole “goes crazy”, Tamerlis “remains rational” in her quest to wreak revenge.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Zoe Tamerlis’s haunting performance


Must See?

Yes. This film is both stylish and satisfying, and deserves its cult status. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies 2 (1983).

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One Response to “Ms. 45 / Angel of Vengeance (1981)”

  1. A once-must as an acknowledged cult item – but I’m not personally wildly enthusiastic.

    At its core, ‘Ms. 45’ is (admirably) a film about a woman who becomes unhinged as the result of rape. As a film, ‘Ms. 45’ ultimately becomes unhinged itself.

    Although served up in a more or less realistic manner, the film is best approached in a non-realistic way. Some of it is awkward and strains necessary credulity – both esp. in the first half. But the film does begin to ‘boogie’ about the midway point. (Does it ever.) Gradually, though, you may very well lose the thread of the heroine’s ‘logic’. (And, of course, that may be the point, but it doesn’t really work for me.) As things escalate, Ferrara’s confident, detached direction turns fully stylized – as if he had no other choice. Still, ambiguity reigns here – and that could very well lead to lively discussion after.

    I will admit that, throughout, Tamerlis is indeed “haunting” in the lead role. She’s so committed that you buy it, even if simultaneously you may not get it.

    The film is shot amazingly well on a low budget.

    And the final shot is a very unexpected and welcome relief.

    Currently available on YouTube in a single clip.

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