February 16, 2015

Movie Review: Rape Squad (1974)

The 1970's were a wild and crazy time. While I do not remember much of the decade do to my youth, but reliving it through the movies, well dang, it was a free for all. You could pretty much make a movie about anything you wanted, make it as sleazy and over the top as you want, make it gritty, unsavory, disgusting, anything. You would likely be able to find a home in the grindhouse/drive-in scene at the time. Think about it, what are the chances of getting a movie made called Rape Squad these days? Nevermind what it is about, the title alone would be enough to get you black listed. Of course, it did get re-released as Act of Vengeance, but still...

The movie, which I saw under the Act of Vengeance title, was directed by Bob Kelljan. He also directed films like Scream Blacula Scream and Count Yorga, Vampire, before moving onto primarily television work. Screenwriting duties were handled by David Kidd (under the pseudonym Betty Conklin), who also wrote The Swinging Cheerleaders (using the same pseudonym), and HR Christian, who also wrote Black Mama White Mama. The movie is a mix of (s)exploitation and militant feminism. It is an odd mix to be sure that probably shouldn't work, but does. I also suspect this is why Kidd used a woman's name as his credit, to give the illusion of female involvement and the rise of the militant feel. I could be completely off, but it seems right.

Linda (Jo Ann Harris) is brutally attacked and raped by a man in a hockey mask (nearly ten years before Jason Voorhees would make it fashionable) and wearing a jumpsuit (similar to Michael Myers, albeit in a different color). He is a sadistic fellow, he likes the struggle, the screaming, and all of that stuff, it is not so much about the sex as it is the power. This guy likes it. On top of that, he forces her to sing “Jingle Bells” through the entire thing. It is all rather unsettling.

She goes to the police and reports the crime, but they do not seem all that able or willing to do anything about it. One of the cops even suggests that she just lay back and enjoy it. This flip and unwarranted comment leads to an amazing confrontation between the cop and Linda, and it also reveals just how good a performance she was going to deliver for the rest of the movie. The next step is a lineup of guys in hockey masks as Linda and a revealed group of fellow victims attempt to identify the rapist.

Realizing they are not going to get anywhere with the police, they decide to band together and form a rape squad, where women have other people to go to for help when the law proves useless. Of course, they decided to do this while sitting naked in a hot tub, nothing says feminism like exploitation of sexuality, right? This new group leads to other confrontations as they put out flyers in a parking lot with a couple of rather forward construction worker types.

Their work picks up. They go out proactively looking for creeps and perverts, not to mention responding to calls from folks who see pimps roughing up their girls. Of course, the guy in the hockey mask is still out there, still watching. Clearly, everything is building towards a climax putting the rapist, dubbed Jingle Bells, and the Rape Squad.

Rape Squad, or Act of Vengeance if you prefer, is a solid film. It straddles a couple of lines, yet manages to hold its own. It has a solid cast that works well and is believable. The lead performance from Jo Anne Harris is fantastic. Yes, the writing leads into a few moments where logic is lost, but never mind that, there is enough sleaze and kung fu fighting to go around for everyone. It may not be the best way to go about preventing rapes, but the movie certainly entertains.


Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment