DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Thriller: A Cruel Picture (Limited Edition)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 26, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    Thriller: A Cruel Picture


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Synapse
    Year: 1974
    Rated: UR
    Film Length: 107 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
    Subtitles: English
    Retail Price: $29.95





    The rape/revenge genre has always been one of my favorites because there’s just something interesting about seeing a victim take the law into their own hands and deliver a fate much worse than any court system could do. While this film never made a huge splash in American when originally released, a certain Death Wish film did and that went on to have four sequels as well as many imitations. The hype surrounding Thriller: A Cruel Picture hit full stride after the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and it’s clear to see the influence this film had on that one.

    At the start of the film a young girl is in the park playing with an older man who eventually molests her. Flash forward fifteen years and the girl, Madeleine (Christina Lindberg) is now a mute due to her attack and lives on a farm with her parents where she works around the house trying to make good with her life. She has to walk to the bus stop in order to get to town where she sees various doctors who are trying to help her but one day she misses the bus and makes the mistake of getting into the car with a suave man named Tony.

    Tony takes her out to dinner and seems to be a nice guy just out for a good time but when they return to her house Tony drugs her and Madeleine eventually passes out. For the next week Tony forces heroin into Madeleine and after writing a note to her parents saying she has run away, Tony forces her into prostitution. To make matters even worse is that the heroin addiction is kicking in so she has no choice but to stay at the house and work so that she can have the heroin. The sexual abuse she suffers isn’t bad enough because Tony also sends a message by gauging out her eyeball, which causes her to wear an eye patch and become known as “One Eye”. As Madeleine continues to work, during the day she starts training in weapons as well as karate so that she can seek vengeance against all who has done her wrong.

    The rape/revenge genre was clearly influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Springs and the exploitation crowd joined in with cult shockers like The Last House on the Left and the infamous I Spit on Your Grave, which like this film, is still banned in several countries. I went into this film expecting a poorly made exploitation film but that’s certainly not what I got. It’s interesting to note that director Boarne Vibenius worked for Bergman and the influence is certainly right in front of our eyes. The film has gained a huge cult following as an exploitation film but what really sets the film apart is the style of filmmaking that makes it more art house than anything else.

    Director Vibenius takes the film very seriously and he takes his time telling it, which could lead to boredom but that never happens here. Vibenius creates a very unique world that certainly looks like the 1970’s but it seems like a land we’ve never seen. Much like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, this film takes the viewer to a land and time that seems very distant but we are very familiar with everything going on. This film has its own time, space and rules and the viewer is just going along with the ride expecting anything to happen and anything usually does happen.

    Unlike The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave, this film doesn’t go for any shock value and instead keeps the story pretty straight throughout. That’s not to say the violence and sex aren’t over the top but they fit in with the story where they don’t seem out of place and not once did I feel the director trying to go for shocks instead of telling the story. The violence in the film is certainly graphic, especially the scene where our female hero gets her eye ripped out. Legend has it that a real corpse was used to pull this stunt off and it certainly appears so. It’s also clear that this here scene had an influence, camera wise, on Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.

    The rest of the violence, from a sawed off shotgun, contains all sorts of red blood flowing but this here is so poetically shot that it comes off in a romantic sense, which to me, is the director showing our hero getting a kick out of her revenge. Strange sound effects are added to the slow motion violence and the beauty of how all of this is edited together again sets this film apart from all others. There’s also some hardcore sex scenes used in the film, which we could debate on for years. Some feel hardcore sex scenes take away from the story while others feel it can help matter. I’m usually one who feels the hardcore sex takes away from a film (Jess Franco’s Doriana Gray for example) but like the violence, the sex scenes never take away from the story and while they are shocking to see, to me it’s just the director adding more strangeness to the film and giving us a better idea of the torture our hero is going through.

    Christina Lindberg gives a remarkable performance, which is something else you wouldn’t expect from a film like this. Just look at the scene in the restaurant before she gets taken advantage of. Her innocence shines through like no other performance that pops into my mind and what’s even remarkable is how much we can feel her thoughts without her having to say a word. Lindberg has become a cult favorite due to her beautiful looks but she isn’t a slouch of an actor either.

    Thriller: A Cruel Picture is a very mean and brutal film but at the same time it is so poetically beautiful that it comes off more like a Bergman film that a trashy grindhouse film that we’ve seen countless times. I’ve seen dozens of these rape/revenge tales and this one here is certainly among the best and most unique out of all of them. This is a film that has been talked about for ages but rarely seen and I certainly hope folks check the film out and if they do, I’m sure the cult following is going to get a lot bigger and the film certainly deserves all the hype we’ve been hearing for years.


    VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.78:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Synapse went back to the original vault materials to create this new transfer and it looks remarkably well even with the minor problems that are to be expected for this type of film. The strongest part of the transfer is the colors, which come off looking very well and full of detail. The autumn leaves are full of detailed colors that jump right off the screen as are the outfits worn by Lindberg. Many have seen faded photos of Lingberg’s red eye patch but what till you get a look at it here. The black levels are also good throughout and another highlight are the flesh tones, which also look very good. There’s a lot of grain on the transfer but this certainly isn’t a bad thing. There’s a difference between dirt and grain and this here is an example of the ‘grain is good” theory. The print shows some minor wear throughout but this is to be expected from this type of film. I’ve been following Synapse from their first release with Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos and once again their track record remains very high.

    AUDIO---The Dolby Digital Mono track is in the original Swedish language with optional English subtitles. An English dubbed track, also in Mono, is also included. I sampled both tracks and they are pretty much identical outside of the spoken language of course. Both are free of any major distortion and only a few scenes have some minor hiss. Once again this is a wonderful example of how a Mono track can be every bit as good as a new 5.1. The detail in this track really caught me off guard from the various sound effects to the opening sequence when the little girl is walking through fallen leaves on the ground. The detail of her footsteps going through the leaves will show you how well this track sounds. Dialogue is clear throughout and not once did I have a problem hearing what was being said.

    The English dub of the film is also very well done and actually sounds quite natural, which is something we don’t usually find on dubbed films. Synapse has also done a wonderful job with the English subtitles, which are easy to read throughout the film.

    EXTRAS---Here we start off with a TV spot as well as three theatrical trailers. The trailers are unique because each one features a different title the film was released under. There’s a Spanish trailer under the Thriller title and another under the They Call Her One Eye title. The third trailer is under the title Hooker’s Revenge and is paired up with the House of Whipcore trailer. Up next is a still gallery, which is broken into five sections. Here we get various behind the scenes shots as well as some publicity material but Synapse, who cares about their male audience, has been kind enough to devote a special section to Lindberg—in the nude. Yep, we get some very nice (and I do mean very nice) nude shots that were taken on the set. Also include is an outtake reel that runs just over a minute and features some more slow motion shots of the shotgun blasts as well as the victims falling. The most interesting outtake is an alternate eye gouging scene. Up next is an alternate harbor fight scene, which was put together after they uncovered some trims and alternate footage. This here is a very nice touch to have. Up next is “Movie In Pictures”, which is the strangest extra I’ve ever seen but I loved it! Here we get the entire movie shown through picture and in thirty-eight seconds. It might give you a headache trying to view each frame but it’s quite nice. Finally we get filmographies for Lindberg and the director as well as nice liner notes by Robert Marcucci.

    OVERALL---I’m sure many will be buying this for all the hype around the film but you’re going to be in for some shock when you discover how well-made this film actually is. I was expecting to recommend this to genre fans but those wanting a very well made art film should also check this movie out. Synapse has done their usual high-tech job delivering what could be their best work with the transfer and a wonderfully nice audio track. The extras are also very well done especially that certain photo gallery, which should keep fans busy.

    There’s been a lot of controversy over this release due to the director getting money hungry and passing around a lot of various lies about this being a bootleg product. I’ve kept my mouth shut the past few weeks but I might as well address the issue here. For years this film has only been available through crusty bootlegs making the film near unwatchable and we finally get a great looking version where it’s clear a lot of love and hard work went into it. It’s a shame the director is bashing this release due to money when he could be giving interviews and bringing the film itself more attention.

    I’ve known certain friends who work for smaller studios and it often baffles my mind when a director tries to hurt a release for the dumbest reasons out there. As I said earlier, I’ve been following Synapse since their first release and even then Don May was constantly kind enough to keep our website up to date with any changes, problems or whatever. May has always traveled around message boards talking to fans and he’s always been very honest in this situations. No one has ever questioned the heart Synapse puts into their releases so hopefully the director will wise up and keep his mouth shut. If he’d rather have his film seen on fifth generation bootlegs then he needs to ride off in the sunset because he certainly isn’t doing himself any favors.

    Synapse has delivered another wonderful disc for the fans and that’s what’s really important here. Since day one Synapse has delivered Criterion-like discs of various cult films at a reasonable price. The director nor this film wouldn’t be anything without the fans and they are the ones Synapse is working for. Their love is written all over this disc so the director should put down his e-mail address, stop the slander and instead talk about the film. Not only did Synapse make a wonderful release but they’ve also released this thing totally uncut, which means not all stores will be able to carry this DVD. Having the guts to release this uncut shows that they are caring about the fans and not just the money, unlike the director.

    The disc is limited to 25,000 copies and can be ordered direcly from Synapse's website and various other retailers.


    Release Date: September 28, 2004
     
  2. Will K

    Will K Screenwriter

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    Well, that does it. This'll be my first blind buy in three years. Excellent review.
     
  3. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    As a filmmaker who's worked with Don and appreciates his efforts, I'd like to chime in with some praise for him and the great Synapse Films.

    Synapse released the DVD of my film A BETTER PLACE, and working closely with Don for over two years as we painstakingly put the release together was an absolute dream for this director and we remain great friends to this day. The dedication and perfectionism this man puts into his releases is all-but unmatched IMO, and for filmmakers like myself who want an in-depth hand in the creation of the DVDs of their work, he was incredibly accomadating and actively encouraged me to basically do whatever I wanted with the DVD. Everytime I had an idea, Don was like, "Yeah, let's do it!" It was a tremendously gratifying experience, and probably one of the greatest experiences I had during the entire process of making and releasing A BETTER PLACE.

    Oh, and his upcoming LEMORA disc is STUNNING. There was some talk in another thread regarding so-called "70s fade"- I'd love to see that reviewer try and detect any "70s fade" in LEMORA's lush, colorful, incredibly film-like transfer, and its edge-enhancement free image should be used as an example for the folks at some other, much bigger studios on how to do a film-to-tape transfer and DVD compression right.

    Vincent
     
  4. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    I can't wait for Lemora or Thriller, but out of interest, what colour are the subtitles on Thriller? Are they white or yellow?
     
  5. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    The subs are yellow.
     
  6. Michael DenBoer

    Michael DenBoer Auditioning

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    Excellent detailed review Michael I can’t wait to get this title in my possession. I have bought several of Synapse’s titles and for Thriller: A Cruel Picture Don May is giving this film the kind of red carpet treatment one would expect from Criterion. Michael is Thriller: A Cruel Picture a better film then either The Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave?
     
  7. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Not too many agree with me on that part but it's always bothered me. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a very underrated film IMO but again, I think it goes for way too much shock value instead of trying to tell a story. There's certainly nothing wrong with shock value but I feel the director's use too much of that to hide problems with the actual stories.

    I was really shocked at how well made this film was. I certainly wouldn't put it in the same league or genre of LAST HOUSE or I SPIT. It played out much closer to a Bergman film and the shock value wasn't noticed by me. The film is certainly very violent and the hardcore sex is there but these two items never get in the way of the director trying to tell a story. The film is very mature, never goes over the top and plays like an art house movie and not a cheap exploitation film. I love exploitation, hell I love Jess Franco but I'd never try to pass them films off as art. With THRILLER, I'd pass it off as art and it's quite a beautiful little film.

    I'm not sure if others agree with me but the film was a lot better than I expected. Again, I was expecting a cheap, badly made film, which had become legendary due to the over the top violence and rape. That certainly wasn't the case so I hope people will give this film a shot.
     
  8. Michael DenBoer

    Michael DenBoer Auditioning

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    Yes that scene you mentioned from Last house is completely unnecessary and IMO was a disgusting attempt by Craven trying to shock his audience. I Spit on Your Gave is IMO an extremely well crafted film that has a meaning deeper then most exploitation films. Count me in as a fan of the wonderful world of Jess Franco I currently own about 40 of his movies.[​IMG]
     
  9. Anthony Thorne

    Anthony Thorne Supporting Actor

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    I've been reading about this title for years. I remember when Bob Sargent, editor of VIDEOOZE magazine (a really smart mag, title aside) raved about THRILLER and said it was of his favourite discoveries of the year - that he'd really hit the mother lode with such an unexpectedly great movie. I never caught up with any of the various tapes floating about, so I'll be glad to finally catch it via this disc.

    I also think the director could be doing something much more productive than harassing Don May Jr. Synapse is evidently one of the few companies that actually gave a shit about this movie before the recent KILL BILL publicity brought it back to people's attention, and Don prepared a marvellous transfer, extras and a nicely designed package for it in good faith and the hope of making it more widely appreciated. I can think of a couple of companies that wouldn't even have bothered to do a transfer of the quality that Synapse have prepared for it. I hope Don has good success with this title and that he keeps the crazier Bo Vibenius messages for his memoirs. Vibenius is evidently acting like a tool at the moment, but his movie is meant to be quite something. I'm looking forward to watching it.
     
  10. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I got around 30+ e-mails/PMs from people asking where they can buy this. Online places like Amazon, www.xploitedcinema.com , Diabolikdvd, DVDPlanet and Deep Discount. Synapse's website also has the title for sale.

    I'll get back to you about the B&M stores.
     
  11. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    True but sometimes they don't make very good movies. Meaning, outside the shock value there's really little else. I think it's good when you can have the violence/sex mixed in with a good story, good characters and great direction. To me, THRILLER has all of those things so I hope people will check it out. Fans of CINEMA, not just genre fans.
     
  12. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    i suspect the hardcore may keep this out of the major stores. I had similar difficulty finding Blue Underground's EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (which also has hardcore inserts) in the stores, and ended up getting it online.
     
  13. Michael DenBoer

    Michael DenBoer Auditioning

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    just got my copy of Thriller a Cruel Picture can't wait to dig into this wonderful DVD.
     
  14. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    Xploited now has Thriller in stock a month early. I ordered a copy a few minutes ago.
     
  15. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    In case anyone needs a recommendation, I've order well over 100 discs from Xploited and they are certainly the best company to deal with out there. Top-notch service all around.
     
  16. Ralph Jenkins

    Ralph Jenkins Stunt Coordinator

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    I just received my copy of THRILLER today from Xploitedcinema. I agree that their customer service is excellent, and I will likely be ordering from them again in the future.

    Looking forward to checking this flick out tonight.
     
  17. Benjamin Ricci

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    This is certainly the best presentation of Thriller I've ever seen. Synapse films generally are impossible to find at B&M stores, so just head to Amazon to pick this one up. (Quick edit, I'll have to check out Xploitedcinema, thanks for the recommendations)

    On a side note, Vincent, the hidden commentary on A Better Place is one of the best Easter Eggs EVER! (Lynch doing the guy from Fangoria with the lisp had me on the floor)
     
  18. Ralph Jenkins

    Ralph Jenkins Stunt Coordinator

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    Actually, I just picked up Synapse's Lemora at Best Buy the other day. I'll be surprised if they carry Thriller, though, because of the content.

    I just finished watching the movie and I liked it a lot. It reminded me a bit of the FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION pictures from Japan (which came a few years before it). Both feature a beautiful, mute heroine who exacts revenge on those who done her wrong. The main difference is that where the SCORPION films are often phantasmagorical, THRILLER is almost totally realistic (with the exception of a few over-the-top action scenes).
     
  19. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    A quick question about Last house On the left. (Not to thread crap, I plan on ordering Thriller) I found last house for a decent price, but it is released by MGM. Is this in fact uncut? It appeared to have decent special features on it. how is the quality, and is their a better version to get? I thought there was an ELITE version out some time agao, but I think it is out of print.
     
  20. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    LAST HOUSE is as "uncut" as it's ever going to get. The DVD features a documentary talking about this but a complete uncut version will never see the light of day. It's been lost and what deleted scenes are on the disc are without sound. The quality is as good as it's going to get as well.

    The Anchor Bay UK version features some better extras as well as the stuff on the MGM disc but the film is cut. If you're a fan I'd recommend both discs since the ABUK has a cast commentary, which is just as shocking as the film.
     

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