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  Ms. 45 Let The Gun Do The Talking
Year: 1981
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Zoë Lund, Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stuto, Helen McGara, Nike Zachmanoglou, Abel Ferrara, Peter Yellen, Editta Sherman, Vincent Gruppi, S. Edward Singer, Stanley Timms, Faith Peters, Lawrence Zavaglia, Alex Jachno, Jack Thibeau, Jayne Kennedy, Wayne Caro
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Thana (Zoë Lund) works as a seamstress in New York's garment district and while her boss Albert (Albert Sinkys) is strict, it's a job she appreciates for her affliction is that she cannot speak, and working there she does not have to communicate much. Because of her muteness she is withdrawn, not making a willing attempt to "talk" with her coworkers, but she does not realise today that this state will become a liability when she is going home and is attacked by a rapist in a side alley. She cannot cry out, and must endure the ordeal, but worse is to come...

Often described as the female Death Wish, or it was at the time, Ms. 45 was also compared to Roman Polanski's Repulsion for its portrayal of a much-abused young woman going off the rails and finding her outlet in murder. It starred Lund when she was called Zoë Tamerlis, and a high school student when she was plucked from obscurity to star in director Abel Ferrara's follow up to his far more rough and ready, though thematically similar, The Driller Killer. Being a vocal proponent of heroin, it's perhaps not a shock to learn she died of drug-related causes when she was just 37, but seeing her legacy of unusual films it was a terrible waste of an individual talent - she was a writer as well.

Lund was never a true movie star, but if this work had been seen more widely outside cult circles then it may have raised her profile higher, although her performance here as an avenging angel of death was one which many fans still treasure. Thana's bad day consists of being raped on the way home, but also being raped when she gets back to her apartment by the burglar who has broken in and found nothing worth stealing, yet she happens to fight back when she clubs the attacker over the head. She then kills him with an iron and spends the rest of the film disposing of his body parts in bags dotted around the city.

Understandably, this sends her over the edge, but witnessing the type of people she has to deal with every day, you may wonder that she didn't snap sooner. Every male in this film is some kind of overbearing, sleazy or vile potential rapist, and now that Thana has appropriated the gun of the man she killed, which significantly never runs out of bullets (are we seeing her fantasy life of empowerment made real?), she takes it upon herself to reclaim the streets for womankind. She turns serial killer, and with her male victims making the viewers' skin crawl you're not sure if you should be applauding her forthright behaviour or pitying her that it has come to these extremes before she can feel she is in control.

Of course, there's another option, and that is that we should fear her as if she were a horror movie villain, not something that often happened in those vigilante movies that were ushered in by Death Wish, if anything we are intended to respect those who pick up their guns against a wave of criminality, using like against like. Yet being Ferrara, there is a mood of religious mania in Nicholas St John's script, and not only because Thana ends the film donning a nun's habit and going berserk at a fancy dress party, but because the view of sex as something that is out of control in society if it turns men into irrepressible leches can also be seen as a puritanical as well as feminist point. Some were quick to champion Thana as an icon of female power, but her dreadful experiences have turned her into a highly conservative maniac - after all, the sex means death tenet of many a slasher movie could just as well apply here. At least thanks to Lund we understand Thana, and sympathise that living in this hellhole would turn any sensitive person crazy. Music by Joe Delia.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Abel Ferrara  (1952 - )

Controversial New York director whose films frequently centre around sex, violence and moral redemption, and often feature Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken or Willem Dafoe. Debuted in 1979 with the infamous Driller Killer, in which he also starred, followed by rape-revenge thriller Ms. 45/Angel of Vengeance. Several slick, less distinctive movies followed - Fear City, China Girl and Cat Chaser, as well as work on TV shows Miami Vice and Crime Story.

1990's King of New York was a return to form, while the searing Bad Lieutenant quickly became the most notorious, and perhaps best, film of Ferrara's career. The nineties proved to be the director's busiest decade, as he dabbled in intense psycho-drama (Dangerous Game, The Blackout), gangster movies (The Funeral), sci-fi (Body Snatchers, New Rose Hotel) and horror (The Addiction). He continued to turn in little-seen but interesting work, such as the urban drug drama 'R Xmas and the religious allegory Mary until his higher profile returned with the likes of Welcome to New York and Pasolini.

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