Review Date: January 15, 2012
Released by: Scorpion
Release date: January 24, 2012
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: No
Joan Collins sure had to pay her dues for fame. Before becoming a household name in the eighties as rich bitch Alexis Carrington in Dynasty
, Collins had acted in over 70 different movies on both sides of the Atlantic. Sheís kind of like Sharon Stone where, despite playing significant roles in many productions, horror or otherwise, for several years, nobody really took notice until she landed the perfect role. Before that though, she sure had a lot of embarrassing ones, including the woman possessed by a sex offender midget in The Devil Within Her
and one ravaged by giant ants in Empire of the Ants
. After watching Revenge
, Iím ready to add that one to the list, too.
The film begins at a funeral, where Jim (James Booth
) and Carol Radford (Joan Collins
) lead the procession for their dead daughter. Their little girl was raped and killed, and the lead suspect, Seely (Kenneth Griffith
) gets out of any jail time on a technicality. Wasting no time contemplating morals or trying to go through the judicial system, Jim and his son Lee (Tom Marshall
) decide instead to take matters into their own hands. One night after coming home from the candy store (no, he doesnít have a big brown panel van) Jimís gang attempt to kidnap Seely and almost botch the whole thing when their car wonít start and a dog decides to play tug of war with their blanket. How nobody in the crowded community does not witness the pandemonium is another question, but they end up getting Seely into the Radford cellar and proceed to beat him to the point where heís unresponsive. Justice hath been served.
Or has it? Jim and Lee try to continue on unbeknownst to the women in their lives as they run the family business. They have a little drinkery attached to their home. Carol stumbles upon Jimís vigilante work and has to act quickly the next day when the delivery company wants to do their regular drop of liquor into their cellar. Carolís doing more than just concealing a dead pedophile though, because midway through her shift at the pub she sees the cellar door slowly rise and Seely try to make his escape. Heís alive! With the passion of revenge now subsided, Jim and his family must try and decide what they are to do with the man who took their daughterís life.
Through a number of circumstances, Seely remains cooped up in the cellar (apparently his glasses being broken is enough for him to abandon all survival instincts) and as the film nears its conclusion, weíre left to wonder if he really is the killer. See, Lee has been having trouble in bed with his girlfriend, and pretty much any film post-Psycho dictates that sexual repression or dysfunction turns people into killers. When Carol tries to console her step-son about it all, he lashes out in the cellar at the captive Seely and then proceeds to prove his manhood to the child murderer by raping his step-mom on the cellar floor. The movie still gets a little sleazier before finally revealing the true killer of the Garrison daughter followed by one final act of revenge.
There is something disingenuous about this movie, and about a lot of English-made horror films. Hammer was basically built on the audiences Universal cultivated for Dracula
and The Mummy
, and the stories for their films were taken piecemeal from the Universal predecessors and their sequels. And then when Blow-up
was a smash hit they made a bunch of weird cash-in swinging sixties thrillers like Straight on ĎTill Morning
or Goodbye Gemini
. With The Exorcist
we got The Devil Within Her
. And so on. While its early rape revenge story may seem a lot like The Virgin Spring
, itís doubtful the filmmakers of Revenge
were even aware of such cultured allegory. Iím guessing its genesis lies more with Straw Dogs
, released the same year but largely publicized in Variety and such well before. Whatever its inspirations, Revenge
just doesnít feel like an honest movie. When I say disingenuous I mean that the movie doesnít seem to really care about the characters or the themes therein, but more about hitting exploitable notes to draw an audience.
A lot of what happens in Revenge
had me just wondering ďWhy?Ē None of it seems to make much sense other than to try and get a rise out of the audience. The family chase down and beat this suspected rapist, but after the thrill of this so-called ďrevengeĒ they just kind of forget about the character and sloppily go about their business in order for there to be a lot of suspense with the possibilities of the rapist escaping or showing himself through the cellar to their bar patrons. Whatís even worse is that after that element has been exploited, the rapist doesnít even escape when the shoddy script gives him no real reason to still be down in the cellar. Heís completely free, but he doesnít try to escape because he broke his glasses. Really? Iíve seen movies where blind people traverse a lattice on the outside of a house to climb into the second floor and momentarily take out the killer without a weapon (Iím looking at you, My Soul To Take
, you baffling beast of a film!). If a blind guy can do that, then surely a dude with, at worst, blurry vision, could make his way out of one of the two exists in the brightly lit cellar. But instead he stays, not because thatís what his character would do, but instead so the film can manipulate the audience into feeling sorry for the jellybean-buying pedo.
And then thereís that ghastly scene where Joan Collins is raped by her son in the cellar while the rapist sheepishly watches. After enduring something as degrading and nonsensical as that, you have to wonder if Collins regarded the midget rape in The Devil Within Her
a worthy step up for her career a few years later. The scene in question in Revenge
is just a nasty one, and with little to no dramatic pretense. Lee is hardly developed as a character, and then one scene he has some sexual dysfunction and the very next one he is ripping the panties off his mom and forcing himself upon her. I appreciate depravity as much as the next guy, but this curveball definitely hits high and inside. Itís just not necessary, and instead something that reveals the petty ambitions of its makers, looking no more than to shock with expletives than to intrigue with tension or story.
So we watch the now innocent-looking captive squirm while Lee violates his own mother, the filmmakers forcing pathos towards a character weíve otherwise been led to believe is a rapist. So what happens next scene? Spoilers, if you care, but heís confirmed to be that very rapist and then killed off in the closing moments of the film. His character actions and arc make no sense, and thatís because he, like the rest of the people in this movie, is not a character but instead a pawn and a plot device. Revenge
has no heart, no emotion, no suspense and no thought or style to really distinguish it from infinitely better comparable films like The Virgin Spring
or The Last House on the Left
. To speak in the terms of the bar owners of the film Ė this keg is flat.
has an interesting mix of location and set footage, and both look quite good on this Scorpion transfer. While the color balance scene to scene might fluctuate between slight green or yellow hues, the colors on display are very vivid and lifelike. The scenes in the kitchen set, with the blue cupboards and all the red clothing that Collins is cleaning, appear particularly ripe. While there is still the odd white and black spec here and there, itís a surprisingly clean transfer too, cleaner than a lot of other Scorpion releases. One grip I have with this transfer, though, is the way theyíve handled the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The best way to go to ensure the maximum resolution is to anamorphically encode the track in 16x9 and to add pillar boxes on either side of the frame. If you do it that way the resolution for the actual image would be about 786x480. The way it has been done here, by letterboxing a full frame 1.33:1 transfer, the resolution is only 640x390. It makes a difference, especially when youíre having to use the zoom function on your HDTV to rid yourself of the windowboxing that happens on all sides of the frame the way itís presented now. In short, the transfer is again top quality by Scorpion, but their formatting here is a problem.
For a cheap movie thatís fermented over 40 years now, itís quite amazing to not hear any hiss or playback noise whatsoever. The higher and lower frequencies seemed to have been chopped to achieve this, resulting in a slightly flatter mono track than weíre accustomed to with vintage titles, but it sure sounds clean. Sound effects come through sharp and dialogue is recorded well. Above average for its type.
There isnít much here, and I donít blame Scorpion either. All we get is another Katarina Nightmare Theater playback option with her patented introduction and short extro before some movie trailers for other Scorpion properties. Fun fact with the menu Ė it uses the Base 02 font, and since that font doesnít have an apostrophe the art design folks had to create it especially for the menus. Personally, I would have just used the comma and moved it up.
Props to Joan Collins for slogging it out in shoddy productions all these years before Dynasty
, and Revenge
is probably the slog sheíd like to remember least. The production values are decent, but the material is calculated, empty and often in bad taste. I canít remember another movie where they actually have a scene of a child molester buying candy in earnest. The image and sound are both above average, although the choice to present the 1.66:1 aspect in full screen sacrifices some resolution. If you think there could never be a bad rape-revenge movie, well then, hereís Revenge
on your naivety.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - D
- Running time - 1 hour and 32 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 2.0
- Katarina's Nightmare Theatre option
- Katarina's trailers