This week in the grindhouse, in honor of Drafthouse Films re-releasing it in theaters, we’ll be taking a look at Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45. In this follow up to his feature debut, Driller Killer, Ferrara shows a bit more maturity in his directing skills, but the film is seriously lacking in almost every way and at times is downright ridiculous in its content. This of course makes it a must see.
The film stars Zoe Lund as Thana, a young, mute seamstress living in New York just trying to get by. One day, while walking home from work Thana is accosted by a masked man (played by Ferrara) and sexually assaulted in an alley. After the ordeal she makes her way home, only to find out another man has broken into her apartment and again she gets brutalized. After killing the man with an iron, she procures his firearm and so begins her bloody path of vengeance.
Clearly taking a cue from Taxi Driver, Ms. 45 plays out like a female version of Scorsese’s classic, however, whereas Travis Bickle only killed people that really deserved it, Thana kills men for no reason other than that they are men. After being attacked, she forms a hatred towards males and dispatches any man she sees objectifying a woman, or even kissing a woman. For the most part, she simply roams the streets until some poor soul hits on her, and then she blows their heads off.
The few men she kills in and around her apartment get chopped up into pieces and scattered throughout the city. This form of body disposal might be a safe bet if it weren’t for Thana’s nosy neighbor and her dog constantly getting in the way. This introduces a certain amount of risk to the story, as well as some particularly gross scenes involving feeding the dog ground up human.
As Thana’s bloodlust increases, so to does the amount of men that go after her in one way or another. This leads me to believe that either every man in New York during the early 80s was a sleaze, or Thana had the worst luck of anybody in the entire world. To exacerbate the situation, she begins to dress more provocatively and wear more makeup in order to lure men into her deadly grasp.
Accompanying the film is some of the worst music I’ve ever heard in a motion picture. The never-ending screeching saxophone is so annoying I wanted to actually watch portions of the film on mute so I wouldn’t have it penetrating my brain any longer. Also, during the film’s big climax that takes place at a Halloween party, there’s some screeching saxophone music going on, however the camera continuously cuts to a man playing the trumpet.
Although there are certainly a fair share of negatives surrounding Ms. 45, this is still a film I would recommend to fans of B movie revenge flicks. The over the top violence and strong female lead make it a fun watch, despite some of the more graphic subject matter. It’s a giant step up from Driller Killer, but it still contains all that gritty, dirty, New York backdrop that Ferrara is known for.
Drafthouse Films is re-releasing the uncut version of the film in theaters December 13, and if it’s playing in your area, I’d highly recommend checking it out even though the saxophones will make you want to stab yourself in the eardrums.