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Synapse Films presents
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)

"The only thing that keeps you going is the dependency on dope. If you go without for too long then you really start feeling things."
- Sally (Solveig Andersson)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 19, 2004

Stars: Christina Lindberg, Heinz Hopf, Despina Tomazini
Other Stars: Per Axel Arosenius, Solveig Andersson, Bjorn Kristiansson, Marie-Louise Mannervall, Marshal McDonagh
Director: Bo Arne Vibenius

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (explicit sexuality, nudity, extreme violence, drug use, language; adults only)
Run Time: 01h:46m:38s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 654930303498
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (Thriller: En grym film, or as it was released by AIP in the US, They Call Her One-Eye) has had a few rounds of notoriety over the years, the first of which was as the first film so extreme that it was actually banned in Sweden (at least according to the hype). In the last few years, it has gained a new life from being cited by Quentin Tarantino as one of the inspirations for his revenge epic, Kill Bill. But over the years it has generally been seen in cut-to-ribbons versions, shorn of 20 or more minutes in most releases, and never available in any high-quality format. But thanks to Synapse, the wait for cult fans is over.

After being molested as a child, Madeleine (Christina Lindberg), mysteriously called Frigga in the English dub, is left mute and disturbed. When she misses the bus, she is given a ride by Tony (Heinz Hopf), who takes her home, gets her addicted to heroin, and turns her into a prostitute. After she claws a customer's face, Tony gouges out her left eye, and he gives her an eyepatch and refers to her as "the pirate" (or "one-eye" in the English dub). Another girl in the stable, Sally (Solveig Andersson) shares her hopes of escaping and shaking her addiction, while Madeleine decides to use her free time to learn martial arts, shooting, and driving. These come in handy when Sally is gorily murdered and Madeleine decides to take out her frustrations on her loathsome customers and Tony.

The gore is fairly copious, with plenty of squib work and gouting blood, not to mention the infamous eye piercing with its disturbing POV shot. What really sets Thriller apart from other violence exploitation films is that it also includes significant quantities of hardcore sex. The first graphic closeup is quite startling, since such intense sex and violence are typically kept quite far apart in modern films. But although the liner notes refer to the picture as pornographic, it truly isn't. It's very explicit, but the sex doesn't cause the story to grind to a halt, and it's a humiliation that's integral to the vengeance storyline. That's particularly the case as the film builds toward the climax, rhythmically alternating ever faster between sex, drugs, and Madeleine's preparations. But the sequences where Tony forges letters to Madeleine's parents, breaking all ties with them, and their aftermath, is incredibly poignant, providing the film with a rollercoaster of emotion.

Lindberg became a cult favorite as a result of this picture and she does an admirable job with the mute role, transforming from innocence to fury to the implacable avenging angel of the lengthy finale. Heinz Hopf is also memorable as the smarmy and cocky Tony, who thinks nothing of maiming and killing, but must face up to his own cowardice as Madeleine pursues him. Her seedy customers (both male and female) are a parade of grotesques, which sets them up nicely for the last half hour. The vengeance, except upon Tony himself, is not nearly as creative as that in I Spit on Your Grave, which it clearly influenced. However, there are some amusing moments including Madeleine's theft of a police car to pursue her antagonists. Despite a fairly straightforward slaughter, the revenge element is highly satisfying after all the abuse that Madeleine suffers. She makes a highly iconic figure in her black trenchcoat, armed with both black eyepatch and sawed-off shotgun.

Thriller managed to get back in the news again recently, as a man carrying an advance copy of this DVD into Canada was arrested. The charge in that case was kiddie porn, even though Lindberg was about 22 when she made the film. Nonetheless, caution is certainly called for with regard to this notorious and extreme film, finally uncut and complete. The DVD is limited to 25,000 copies, though they are not numbered, so genre fans wanting the Thriller experience are advised to act quickly.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen image isn't perfect, but for a low-budget film previously available only in junky bootlegs it's certainly an enormous step up in video quality. Color is very good though a little unstable and flickery throughout. There's little visible damage to the source print for the most part, other than a few speckles at the reel changes and a somewhat discolored lighter band along the right side in the last reel. Black levels and shadow detail are reasonably good.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Swedishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both the English and original Swedish 2.0 mono tracks are included. There's a moderate amount of hiss but it's not too distracting overall. The electronic score has a harsh and ominous edge that's quite appropriate under the circumstances. Deep bass is of course lacking and gunfire doesn't have much aural impact.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:03s

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtake reel
  2. "Movie in Pictures"
  3. Still galleries
Extras Review: Although the back cover recites a long list of extras, the significant ones pretty much boil down to trailers, outtakes, and still galleries. The brief set of liner notes are fairly unsatisfactory for a film with the notoriety of this one. A documentary or featurette really seems called for here. There is a TV spot and three trailers (including one for a double feature with The Photographer's Model under the name Hookers [sic] Revenge. A 1m:05s outtake reel includes some other versions of footage in the film, including the eye-gouging. There's an alternate version of the harbor fight, created by Synapse out of trims and outtakes, which allows Madeleine to demonstrate more of her martial arts training. Stuffed still galleries include 20 nude studies of Lindberg, 40 behind-the scenes shots, 30 production photos, and 25 shots from a fight sequence spoiled by the lab. There are also excerpts from the presskit. An oddball "Movie in Pictures" feature plays the entire film with single shots that cause the movie to flash by in a few seconds. Finally, filmographies (but oddly, no bios) are provided for director Vibenius (who shot it under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski) and for Lindberg. It's not bad but it certainly leaves one wishing for more.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A brutal and extreme film that carries an undeniable punch to the gut, finally uncut. Trailers and stills are the main extras, and the transfer is quite good, considering the low-budget origins of the film. For the very limited audience of the picture, this is a good presentation, but it's hardly recommended for the masses.


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