Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrara / U.S., 1981):
(Angel of Vengeance)

Eros and Thana(tos) in Manhattan, a feverish vision. The mute Garment District caterpillar (the indelible Zoë Lund) is patted on the head by her lecherous boss and shrinks from the bawdy displays that tickle her colleagues. She’s raped in a back alley, at home awaits a second intruder: "This oughta make you talk," he slobbers as he invades her, upon which the girl clobbers him dead. The attacks unmoor her psyche, and crack her chrysalis open -- the sleek wraith who emerges favors black stockings and gory lipstick, seizes her assailant’s revolver and goes hunting in the city. "I just wish they would leave me alone," she once wrote of men on a scrap of paper; now she baits them as a porcelain-skin executioner, photographers and pimps and pashas are all annihilated over the course of her luxuriating rampage. Abel Ferrara at once acknowledges Repulsion with the bludgeoned corpse dumped in the bathtub, though his main object of derangement here is Johnny Belinda, the sadistic melodrama of exploited heroines magnified and complicated by grindhouse nastiness. His New York is warty and garbage-strewn, but it’s also a metropolis of a thousand vibrant Basquiat figures where the only way to interrupt a barfly’s brilliantly odd monologue ("We made love all over the house... We’d start in the living room and end up in the bathroom... Then I went out to the kitchen and strangled her cat") is to hold a gun to his head. Nicholas St. John’s pungent screenplay is a blueprint of exploitation and retribution full of drains regurgitating shredded flesh, body parts crammed into duffel bags, and saxophones shrieking into the night. Above all, there’s Lund’s zonked-out grace as her Thana wraps the film’s gender conflicts in a sexy nun costume, unleashing a slow-mo apocalypse in the climactic phantasmagoric masquerade and expiring between a male partygoer in bridal drag and a female co-worker wielding a phallic knife, the word "sister" on her lips. A whiff of Umberto D. turns up in the final shot, a lone speck of light in the Ferrara inferno. With Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stuto, Helen McGara, S. Edward Singer, Jack Thibeau, and Editta Sherman.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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