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I Spit on Your Grave (1978) - Blu-ray Review

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I Spit on Your Grave - 1978

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4 stars

Now, this is hardcore ‘70s cinema.

Brutally engaging and rough around the edges, the original I Spit On Your Grave returns like an avenging siren to home theatres with this splendid HD treatment.  Controversially described as “the worst film ever made”, I Spit On Your Grave makes its case for strong thematic female policy against the tirade of a male-driven world at its goriest.

Made in 1978, I Spit On Your Grave is what happens when an aspiring novelist retreats into a rustic setting to concentrate on her writing and runs into three strangers, Johnny (Eron Tabor), Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleemann), and their mentally challenged friend, Matthew (Richard Pace), who brings groceries to her front door.  Jennifer (Camille Keaton) simply wishes to relax, get a little loaded, enjoy the sun a bit and write the great American novel.  The men simply want to have their way with her…and then some.

I suppose, the whole ‘Spit’ angle comes into play with Jennifer’s hard-boiled revenge.  The men, after repeatedly raping her, leave her to die, but she doesn’t die.  She plans her revenge against them all.  If you can make it past the scenes of horrific rape, then you’ll witness the most brutally planned revenge scenarios ever documented on celluloid.

Originally entitled Day of the Woman, the film, directed by Meir Zarchi, has been known to isolate audiences exactly like the isolated house where the horrific events unfold.  Cold and violent, Zarchi’s film is the litmus test for strong stomachs. Rape revenge flicks simply don’t get any better or any more uneasy than this staple of shock cinema.  Jennifer seeks forgiveness before she enacts the most brutally shocking scenes any man could ever face; slicing one of her victims penis off right before bringing him to climax in a bathtub.

Famously spat on by critic Roger Ebert, who dismissed the film as “a vile bag of garbage”, I Spit On Your Grave has sequences of ingenuity that are authentically shocking still to this day.  The film also feels as fresh as it did when it was finally granted release by MPAA in theatres back in 1980.  Yet, it is the precursor to so many horror films of today.  It’s no stretch of the imagination to suggest that Jennifer is the first incarnation of Jigsaw.  Whether you appreciate the Saw series is inconsequential, the intent of the comparison is to showcase just how influential and ahead of its time the film was.

To suggest that I Spit On Your Grave is an irrelevant piece of cinema fluff is a huge misnomer to the film and its impact on our culture.  This is brutal stuff, yes, but hidden in the violent brutality is an exposed nerve of human nature when it comes to the sweet release of bloody revenge.  While the sympathies in this film always roll toward Jennifer, when you start rooting for the next victim to die a horrible death, you begin to understand just how harrowing and how deeply that exposed nerve runs ... for everyone – male and female.

Exploitative viewing?  No.  Essential viewing? Yes, for the Horror Hounds out there, that is.  It might seem a bit passé in its approach to gore and pacing, but, for those willing to give it a chance, I Spit On Your Grave is anything but old-fashioned.

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{2jtab: Film Info}

I Spit on Your Grave - 1978

MPAA Rating: R.
Director
: Meir Zarchi
Writer
: Meir Zarchi
Cast:
Camille Keaton; Eron Tabor; Richard Pace; Anthony Nichols
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
After it was all over... she waited... then she struck back in a way only a woman can!
Memorable Movie Quote: "It won't stop bleeding!"
Distributor:
Elite Entertainment
Release Date:
November 22, 1978
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 8, 2011

Synopsis: New York magazine writer Jennifer Hills (Keaton) is writing her first novel, and decides to spend the summer in a cottage on a lake in the countryside, where she can write it undisturbed.

Three local men, two ne'er-do-wells and a gas station manager, are disturbed by Jennifer's independence, and periodically harass her by driving by her cottage in their speedboat, or making sounds at night. One day, while Hills is relaxing in her canoe, two of the men surprise her in their speedboat, grab her boat's towrope and tow her to shore. As she tries to escape, she's met by the other two men in their group and she realizes that they had planned this abduction. It appears they have done so ostensibly so their mildly-retarded friend Matthew can lose his virginity. Jennifer fights but is chased by the men through the forest. They capture her and brutally sodomize and rape her repeatedly in a lengthy and graphic sequence. After she crawls back to her house they attack her again. Matthew finally rapes her after drinking alcohol, but says that he can not climax with the other men watching. While she is being tortured, the other men ridicule her book and rip up the manuscript. As she passes out, the men order Matthew to stab her in the heart, and then leave. Matthew cannot bring himself to do this, and dabs the knife lightly in her blood so it looks as if he killed her.

In the following days, a traumatized Jennifer pieces both herself and her manuscript back together. She goes to church and asks for forgiveness, and then begins carrying out a plan.

First, she lures Matthew back to her cabin and entices him to have sex with her under a tree. As he becomes oblivious to the surroundings around him, she strings a noose around his neck and hangs him. She then cuts the rope and drops the body in the river.

She picks up one of the men at the gas station where he works—he thinks she is attracted to him and wants him. She then stops halfway to her house and turns a gun on him. She orders him to take off all his clothes. He tells her that what happened was all her fault and he feels no guilt—she enticed all of the men by walking around with sexy legs and low-cut tops. She acts as if she believes him, and lowers her gun. She invites him back to her cottage for a hot bath. She manually stimulates him in her bathtub, and tells him she killed Matthew. He doesn't believe her. As he nears orgasm, she picks up a knife she has hidden under the bathmat (which she took from Matthew—he had brought it with him to kill her) and cuts his genitals. He screams and calls out for his mother while bleeding to death. Calmly, she leaves the room and locks him in from the outside. He dies from blood loss and she disposes of him in her basement. She burns his blood-stained clothes in her fireplace.

The two remaining men take their motorized boat to Jennifer's cabin, with an axe in hand. As they attack her, she escapes with the boat and the axe. She then swings the axe into one man's back. The other man swims up, grabs hold of the motor, and begs Jennifer not to kill him, telling her that their treatment of her was the other men's idea. She quotes back to him what he said when she asked for mercy: "Suck it, Bitch!" and turns on the motor, disemboweling him before speeding away. the film ends with a shot of Jennifer smiling as she speeds away.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

I Spit on Your Grave - 1978

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 8, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Anchor Bay presents I Spit On Your Grave with a quality 1080p transfer.  It’s a solid attempt to save a film from the consequences of time and mishandling.  Mostly, it succeeds with eye-popping colors and dark levels of color.  Yet, the transfer isn’t without its flaws.  Pops, singed edits, and some banding occurs throughout the length of the film.  Its unequal in parts, leading me to believe this transfer is culled from a variety of sources, others not as vibrant.  The sound, presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack, is present and, at times, makes itself known with gentle subtleties, but there was never much to the soundtrack and, to be fair, there’s no reason to expect anything different from this release.

Supplements:

Commentary:

There are two FANTASTIC commentaries.

  • One is provided by Writer/Director Meir Zarchi who explains the inspiration for the story and why the film is not correctly appreciated as a social commentary.
  • The other commentary is provided by Historian Joe Bob Briggs.  More engaging than Zarchi’s track, Briggs brings a certain gravitas to the surroundings with his thoughtful analysis of the film.

Special Features:

Anchor Bay has done a serviceable job of adding supplemental material to the disc.  I would think that there would be more material, but maybe the film is just too small of an affair for the money to be spent.  What you do get are some quality reminiscences about making the film from Zarchi, some pretty interesting title sequences, and a handful of adverts.

  • The Values of Vengeance: Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit on Your Grave (30 min)
  • Alternate Main Titles
  • Trailers
  • TV & Radio Spots
  • Poster & Still Gallery

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