Act of Vengeance:

The Fish That Wouldn't Fly

No, it's not a consensual scene, though it looks kinda like one. And no, that's not Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. But it looks so much like him that this movie's claim to fame among mainstream fans is that many believe its villain, Jack, inspired Jason's "look." And they have a point.

copyright 2005 by Pat Powers

Act of Vengeance is one of those movies that's doomed before the first frame is shot. Here's why: It's a roughie sexploitation feminist melodrama about women who get raped and band together to do in their attacker when the cops prove uninterested in protecting them, and unable to do so as well.

Sexploitation and feminist melodramas are fundamentally at cross-purposes. You really can't serve both these ends at once. I have seen a hard-core XXX sexploitation film called Savage Fury in which the victims (led by enormously hootered Christy Canyon) band together to machine gun their rapists to death at the end, but there's no hint of seriousness to the film in question, with the "victims" not only participating in their rapes but clearly taking great pleasure in doing so. And the rapists pretty quickly lose whatever anger they started out with and turn into mellow studs in very short order. No sane person would take its "feminist" theme at face value. It was always all about the humping.

Act of Vengeance apparently really tried to serve both purposes. It follows the feminist melodrama formula very strictly. It shows the initial rapes, never at any time portraying the women as cooperating or enjoying their rapes, it shows the women trying and failing to get justice from the cops and then it shows the women banding together to defend themselves when no one else would.

In fact, the cops are so indifferent to the rape victims that it's over-the-top funny. The questions the cops asked were things like: "In what ways did you cooperate with your attacker?" "Would you say you enjoyed your attack a lot, a whole lot, or a great deal?" "Were you dressed for sex, for provocation or for the use of men?"

OK, maybe their treatment wasn't that outrageous, but it was close. It was like they were in a Gorean precinct house.

Note the beauty of the actress, and the way the light models it, almost as though the director wanted us to really enjoy the sight of her looking so gorgeous after being raped.

However the women who were attacked were very cute little honeys, who were shown naked and in ways that maximized their beauty during their attack. It created a very weird vibe -- an anti-rape feminist melodrama with lovely rape scenes.

No wonder it tanked at the box office.

But that's not even the weirdest part of the film, the weirdest part was that it had two scenes that had the victims gagged but not bound. One was gagged with a red bandana in a cleave gag, the other was gagged with some white cloth of indeterminate nature, a stuff gag.

Stuff gags, of course, can be spit out even if one is bound, and the particular cleave gag that the gal was wearing looked like it could easily have been forced out with the tongue.

Since both victims were unbound, they were free to use their hands to remove the gags. Since they were being terrorized by their attacker at all times when they were gagged, one can't blame them for not doing so.


ALSO FROM PAT POWERS
Still, I have problems with an attacker who gags but does not bind his victim. Let's look at this in terms of Evil Captor logic. You bind a victim so that she can't escape or fight back. If there's someone around who might offer help, gagging is a first priority so you only have your victim to deal with, rather than any rescuers she might attract. But if, as is the case in both scenes, there's no one around, binding is the first priority. Any victim who is unharmed and not bound is capable of running away or shoving a sharp thingie in you. (In fact, in the final scene the first rape victim, having learned some self-defense, beats the rapist to death with a shovel.)

Logic be damned since the attacker in this movie was a madman, as was made evident by his insistence that his victims sing "Jingle Bells" through their gags during his attack on them. I mean, the story was set in summer. No one wants to be reminded of Christmas in July.

All in all, Act of Vengeance is one weird little film. It's a lot like Opposing Force another film that features an attractive woman naked and gagged and raped, in which the rape is portrayed as an outrage, but the imagery is at least mildly erotic. What both of these films seemed to be trying to do is get feminist creds for having the "right" viewpoint, and getting guys and gals hot with scenes of cute, naked chicks being raped. (We ARE all aware that the number one fantasy among women is the rape fantasy, aren't we?) In doing so, they became neither fish nor fowl, but in either case, they definitely couldn't fly.