THRILLER : A CRUEL PICTURE — Synapse Brings the Infamous Grindhouse Revenge Film to Blu-ray

“The Movie That Has No Limits Of Evil…” Proves it in HD

There are few slabs of exploitation cinema as grim as Bo Arne Vibenius’ rape/revenge sleazefest Thriller: A Cruel Picture, also known as They Call Her One Eye or Hooker’s Revenge. The film rose to infamy when it was name checked back in 2003 by Quentin Tarantino on his Kill Bill press tour as the inspiration behind the eye patch-clad Elle Driver. Banned in its home country of Sweden, the film was unavailable for almost three decades in any form other than 5th generation bootleg VHS tapes on eBay (where I purchased mine)—until 2004, when Synapse Films released a restored special edition of the film in two flavors: one with and one without the infamous hardcore bits that were spliced in post production to amp up the shock value, of which this film already had no shortage of. To top the package off, the film starred Swedish nymph Christina Lindberg at the apex of her erotic modeling and film career, which even had her starring in Japanese exploitation for Toei.

Thriller is the story of Frigga (Lindberg), who is sexually assaulted by an mentally ill old man as a young child and is rendered mute for the rest of her life from the trauma. The film then picks up a decade later when the young woman who has been living and working on her family’s farm misses her bus to the city, for what we assume is a psychologist appointment. When the handsome Tony (Heinz Hopf) pulls up, offering the starstruck farm girl a ride to town in his red sports car, he wines and dines her, before getting her hooked on medical-grade heroin and forcing her to prostitute herself to keep her next fix coming. When she attacks her first would-be client, Tony gouges out one of her eyes with a scalpel, prompting Frigga to spend the rest of the film coordinating her eye patches with her outfits. In order to cover up the abduction, Tony sends off a heartbreaking letter to Frigga’s parents on her behalf, blaming them for her running away.

This results in the double suicide of her parents and is the proverbial last straw for Frigga, who then starts overcharging her clients, skimming the cash for lessons in kung fu, firearms, and stunt driving. This culminates in a third act that has the petite woman driving around in a stolen police car with sirens blaring like a death rattle and hunting anyone who’s crossed her, “high on horse” with a sawed off shotgun at her side. Once the film puts its foot on the gas, there’s no stopping as Frigga gets bolder and bolder in her rampage through the Swedish countryside, working her way up to Tony’s comeuppance. It’s brutal and unrelenting, the kind of film that Tarantino himself called “the roughest revenge movie ever made!” The inclusion of the infamous hardcore inserts have the same uneasy effect as the real animal trauma in Italian splatterfests, mentally blurring the line between fact and fiction.

Thriller rises above the gutter with its pure audacity and some solid performances led here by Lindberg, who turns in a completely silent take on the woman who’s pushed too far. It’s on her tiny shoulders that the film resides, as those she encounters are forced to match her dedication. This works to give the piece the weight it needs to dig into some real emotional traction as Frigga descends into a hell of Tony’s creation. Thriller is a film that makes its audience earn its third act rampage by having them sit through some truly disturbing sequences that easily qualify the film’s notorious reputation. Scattered throughout the film are bizarre slow motion sequences that work to amp up the violence in a very budget-friendly way, but also show off Lindenberg doing her own stunts, taking down men almost twice her size.

Synapse, known for their transfers and restorations, here presents the same transfer as their previous UNCUT DVD nearly a decade ago, which was mastered at 2K and pressed on Blu-ray. This time, the film is presented completely uncompressed on Blu-ray. The original transfer, given that the film was shot on 16mm, was definitely a benchmark at the time and with all that space and bit-rate at its disposal, it still holds up here. Like most no-budget exploitation films, the double edged sword is that increased sharpness and clarity really highlights the film’s budgetary cinematography shortcomings. Some scenes are just completely out of focus or, in one of my personal favorite examples, the camera is solely focused on this exquisite chandelier lamp instead of the scene playing out under it. While the transfer is unchanged, the colors appear to be slightly tweaked, with a warmer palette for the film. For the completists there is a DVD of the CUT version of the film included in this package as well.

Thriller is still hard to watch and as shocking as ever, but that third act more than makes up for the first two as Frigga gets her bloody vengeance any way she can. The hardcore bits with the extra clarity feel even more jarring every time they show up, since they are clearly not the performers on screen, and the eyeball trauma scene is somehow even more grotesque — if humanly possible. Given that Synapse did their homework the first time, this transfer is just as good as most boutique products hitting the shelves today. You can see from the included screens that there’s also a matter of the source material to be reckoned with, and a badly done restoration could betray the film’s grindhouse roots.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture is available at Synapse Films.

Click on one of the screenshots below from the Blu-ray for a larger version:

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