For the record, the Video Nasty with the most name revisions (according to my research) is Apocalypse Domani with a full 26 release titles to date... that we know of... so far. But, hey, Fourteen's not bad... Well, actually, it's... it's terrible!
Day of the Woman's re-release as I Spit on your Grave was the release that earned the film its notoriety and popularity, along with the derision of critics and censors in virtually every nation it's seen the light of day in. In addition to being Banned in the UK by the BBFC, the film was also banned at various times in West Germany, New Zealand, Ireland(!), Iceland, Norway and even Canada (where it is still banned in some provinces to this day).
In many territories, banned films are re-released as time goes on and social mores change, however, I Spit on your Grave wasn't banned in Australia until 1997, a full 15 years after it was originally released there (it was released uncut there in 2004). Even in its native USA, I Spit on your Grave is the name of the edited version, somewhat less extreme than the original Day of the Woman. It's this re-release version that still managed to offend all kinds of viewers out there, including, but not limited to Roger Ebert. This is the title it was banned in England under and has gained its most notice under, therefore most of the releases out there (including the current UNCUT versions) use the "I Spit on your Grave" title instead of Day of the Woman.
Ironically, this film, so commonly reviled for its misogyny and advocacy of violence toward women, was originally intended by its writer/ director Meir Zarchi to be a Feminist Film... hence the title "Day of the Woman" (the director's preferred title). He claims that it was inspired by an actual rape case and that he never intended it to be an exploitation flick at all...
Whether Zarchi intended the Exploitation angle or not, that's certainly how this film was marketed and it's certainly the way this film comes across. Many DVD releases advertise this film as having "one of the longest and most violent gang-rape scenes on film", making me wonder who keeps track of these things and what runners up were of that weird-ass notation. Is this claim accurate? Well, it's certainly the most drawn-out rape scene I've ever seen. The frequently used expression "hard to watch" certainly qualifies here and may actually qualify as an "understatement".
Camille Keaton gives a good performance as New York writer Jennifer Hills. Though she has had short stories published in various magazines, she's ready for her first novel, so she rents a cabin by a river out in rural Connecticut to focus solely on that project. The first thing she does when she arrives at that homestead isn't writing, it's stripping down completely naked for a skinny dip in the river. As Keaton is very cute, this is a good thing and... well within her rights to do, of course.
Soon she meets the local not-too-bright grocery delivery boy named Matthew (Richard Pace) who more than appreciates Jenny and her tight, see-through shirt and tiny cut-offs. Naturally he soon goes to blab to his moron, redneck, douche-bag, hick, pervert friends whom Jenny already met at the local Gas Station.
And a trio of hicks like these put anything and anyone on any version of The Dukes of Hazzard to shame... or, glory as the case may be. Johnny (Eron Tabor) is the most respectable of the bunch, owning a crappy gas station, being married to an actual (we think) woman (Alexis Magnotti) and having two kids (actually Zarchi's kids). That said, if you saw him looking at you in a diner, you'd probably pay the bill and leave. Yes... he's the respectable one. Then there's the genetic defective hootin' and hollerin' trash bag in flesh named Andy (Gunter Kleemann) who walks around without shoes or shirt (at a service station, no less) but wears high-water pants and suspenders. Lastly there's the oft-silent Stanley (Anthony Nichols) who looks like one of those quiet, nerdy guys in school that weren't picked on because they had that whole "Unabomber" look. You know, the kind of freak-force likely to take a job at the post office simply BECAUSE he wants to "go postal". The kind of dork who would show up at Cheerleading Practice and just sit there in the bleachers in his rain coat... watching. Shudder.
This is actually kind of refreshing to see, because, for my money, there simply haven't been enough movies about the Hillbillies in Connecticut! Yes, those deep woods, backward fucking hodunk, podunk, "Well Dem Dar" Motherfuckers that seem to be in every third Southern movie are finally on a plot of land adjacent to Stars Hollow! This is the film the Connecticut Board of Tourism does NOT want you to see.
The core of the movie details the commonly Bikini-Clad Jenny enjoying her time in the country amid the noise-making of those very hicks. Then, one day their harassment turns to terror and Jenny is dragged to a secluded location in the woods to be assaulted, violated and humiliated repeatedly. Terror being the truly operative word here. Zarchi clearly knew what he was doing when it came to depicting this entire sequence as being deeply horrible. An argument could be made that this was somewhat eroticized (and has been made, actually, by the British Board of Film Classification). However, for all the hootin' and hollerin', this is a truly horrible depiction... and it goes on and on and each time the raped, beaten and bleeding Jenny thinks she's getting a reprieve, rescue or even rest it all starts up again.
Once she's left to die the film takes on a different tone. Trust me this is not The Accused! There is no court room to be seen here. The law is most assuredly in Jenny's hands and her carefully planned vengeance stretches out the final act of the film in varied horrible ways.
It's around this point that Keaton really shows her acting chops. In truth the gore makeup that she sports during her convalescence looks pretty damned phony (except for the accentuated real scar on her jaw). Regardless, there isn't anything about this ordeal that Camille Keaton seems to take lightly from the horror to the aftermath to the plotting to the revenge.
Many of her methods of revenge are disturbing less for what happens to the guys than for what she goes through to carry this out. I can't give Zarchi credit for some of the methods he wrote into the script. However, neither does he allow the targets of Jenny's rage to ever come off as victims or even sympathetic characters. Even in their pleading these turd-loaves show the very depths of their deplorable nature as they attempt to argue that Jenny was asking for it or deserved it. Yeah, let's see how that goes over.
The idea of a Revenge-for-Rape thriller that ended up on the Video Nasty List screams "Virgin Spring rip off" louder than the gang at Cheers screamed "NORM!", Day of the Woman actually bears a stronger similarity to Deliverance. I'll admit, however, that Jenny is a lot better looking than Bobby was and, to her credit, she never actually "squeals like a pig". Still, this doesn't point very heavily to Day of the Woman amounting to a terribly original flick. The film has an overall cheap look (though Meir Zarchi does okay for his budget) and the special effects are obvious and extremely fake-looking. Further, with the noteworthy exception of Camille Keaton (incidentally the grand niece of Buster), the acting is not at all good. In addition the dialogue is often forced and many of the situations contrived. A couple of the plot holes here are wider than the mouth of that ubiquitous river, man.
So what of the controversy of surrounding this film? Does it advocate violence against women? Well, this is an exploitation flick where many of the choices made here seem designed for controversy and the very reaction of "Oh no you di'in't!" Still, Zarchi's choices are more aimed toward horrible revenge against violent men rather than horrible violence against women. Is this a misunderstood Feminist Movie? IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'm gonna have to say no on that one too. Certainly the end result is squarely in the corner of our female lead, but "Feminist"? Not quite.
Two Stars out of Five for Day of the Woman AKA: I Spit on your Grave, the Video Nasty that gives us Deliverance from a woman's perspective, the longest rape scene on film, a strong female lead and still only manages to impress for the wrong reasons. It will always sell, of course, simply because so many censors said "Don't see it!" Ironic, perhaps, but Nasty for sure. So until the Levee Breaks, and Momma, we gots to go, I'll see you in the next reel!
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