Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 1st, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Sweden, October 30th, 1974
Director: Bo Arne Vibenius
Writer: Bo Arne Vibenius
Cast: Christina Lindberg, Heinz Hopf, Solveig Andersson
DVD released: September 28th, 2004
Approximate running time: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Swedish, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: A young girl is raped by an elderly man in the park and the trauma leaves her mute. Flash-forward years later Frigga/One Eye (Christina Lindberg) is mute and she meets Tony (Heinz Hopf) a wealthy man with a nice sports car. He offers to drive her into town and once they arrive through a series of events he convinces Frigga to come back to his place.
Tony is a pimp who abducts young women and he gets them hooked on heroin which is part of his hold over these girls who work under him. After a failed escape attempt and scratching a client’s face Tony has had enough trouble from her so he still a knife into one of her eyes. Frigga starts training and planning her revenge after she finds out about the death of her parents.
It is hard to believe that Bo Arne Vibenius once worked for Ingmar Bergman as an assistant director on Bergman’s 1966 film Persona. In Thriller a Cruel Picture Vibenius time and again shows us his lack of style and execution as a director. Through a series of slow motion shots to hide Lindberg’s lack of athleticism and he spends most of the movie setting up pedestrian camera movements and angles. It is easy to see by watching this why Vibenius only directed a couple films before drifting into obscurity.
The sets look un-lived in and the actors go through the motions with little or no sign of any emotion. The screenplay also written by Vibenius is filled with more holes then a block of Swiss cheese. How did Tony know Frigga’s parents address or even better why didn’t any of the girls run away on their day off? Christina Lindberg is about the only good thing in this mess of a film. Through her characters verbal silences she reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s “Man with no name” and Meiko Kaji “Sasori” whose characters relied mostly facial expressions and their actions to convey what they were trying to get across.
Ralph Lundsten’s score sounds dated, still it works well within the action of film. The reinserted porno footage actually is one of the better jobs I have seen so far in a film like Thriller and it is one of the films things that works and makes sense in the film. Looking at this film some thirty years after its release it is hard to believe that this film was the first film ever banned in Sweden. Outside of the hardcore footage this film is relatively tame even by exploitation standards. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga recently renewed interest in Thriller a Cruel Picture and one has to wonder how many viewers will come away wondering what Mr. Tarantino found so special about this film.
Synapse presents Thriller a Cruel Picture with a brand new anamorphic enhanced transfer that retains the films original 1:78:1 aspect ratio. The colors are very good as they show off the dated seventies style furniture and clothing. The flesh tones appear natural through out the film and the black levels are rich in detail. There is a lot of grain present though out the film which is most likely due to the films low budget and not anything to do with Synapse’s transfer.
Audio include the original Swedish language and English dubbed tracks which are both in Dolby Digital Mono. Both tracks are extremely clean as the dialog and action is easy to hear and follow. The English subtitles are easy to read and follow. Thriller a Cruel Picture is the best Synapse DVD release that I have seen to date and they obviously to great pains to makes sure that this film sounds and looked the best it could.
The DVD’s menu is a montage of moments form the film as a radio spot plays in the background as the menu’s load. Extras include an extensive stills collection with the following galleries; in bed with Christina, behind the scenes, deleted fight scene, production photos, advertising and promotion. Other extras include the films original trailer, the U.S. trailer titled “They call her one Eye”, a T.V. spot and a double feature trailer for Hookers Revenge and The Photographer’s Model. There is also a section that contains alternative footage like an outtake reel, alternate harbor fight scene and movie in pictures. Filmographies for Christina Lindberg and Bo Arne Vibenius have been included.
Rounding out the extras is a brief liner notes written by Robert Marcucci that offers little incite and barely scratches the surface in regards to the film. David Zuzelo wrote an extensive piece about Thriller a Cruel Picture that is informative and sheds more light into the making of the film. It is a shame that Synapse didn’t include it as part of their DVD.
This DVD looks and sounds amazing; still the extras included only are kind of a let down and a documentary or a commentary track discussion the film in detail would have been nice since this release is supposed to be the definitive release of Thriller a Cruel Picture. I am a huge fan of exploitation films and considering all the hype leading up to the release of DVD I expected more then an average film. This title is just to hard to recommend and because of it is limited release with only 25,000 copies before it will be gone forever some might want to buy it before it becomes scarce.
Note: Robert Marcucci’s liner notes for this DVD edition of Thriller a Cruel Picture have been scaled down from the essay’s original length. I have had the pleasure to read Robert’s complete essay and it is to bad Synapse felt the need to compress his work. Since the liner notes feel fractured in their current state and his essay works better as whole.