Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)

Kurly Tlapoyawa
3 min read
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You know that old saying that goes, “Hell hath no fury like a one-eyed woman pumping your sorry ass full of shotgun shells”? Well, after watching Thriller: A Cruel Picture, it’s pretty freakin’ obvious where that particular nugget of knowledge came from.

Thriller stars ’70s softcore kitten Christina Lindberg (Young Playthings) as Madeline, a young woman who was rendered mute after being molested in the park as a child. One fateful day, Madeline misses the bus and is quickly offered a ride home by a friendly guy named Tony (Heinz Hopf). Before heading home however, Tony takes Madeline out for a quick bite to eat and then swings by his place for a little chit chat. Unfortunately, Tony turns out to be quite the evil bastard, as he wastes no time in slipping Madeline a micky, and then pumps her unconscious body full of heroin. Once hooked, Madeline is introduced to the sex trade–forced by Tony to exchange her body for a needed fix.

While the original Swedish cut of Thriller was banned due to its explicit sex scenes, the newly released Synapse DVD presents the film in all of its full penetrating glory. At first, Madeline resists, but the heroin dulls her resolve, leaving behind a strung-out shell of a human being. After savagely attacking her first would-be John, Tony lays down the pimp-law by cutting out her left eye with a scalpel in a particularly grotesque scene. (A special treat for all you gore-hounds out there, as it has long been rumored that an actual corpse was used for this scene!)

But Madeline is a hooker with a plan–she saves every cent she earns from the various men and women who pay to have sex with her, and uses it to learn karate, practice stunt-driving and go target-shooting on her days off. Eventually, Madeline makes good on her escape, buys a car and arms herself with a double barrel shotgun. Here is where the “hell hath no fury” part kicks in. Decked out in a black leather trenchcoat and color-coordinated eye patches, Madeline serves up heapin’ helpings of revenge–’70s style. The action comes fast and furious, earning this film a valid reputation as one of the best entries into a blood-soaked genre.

With recent interest in rape-revenge films such as Baise-moi and Irreversible, it is more than worth it to take a look back at an almost forgotten gem of exploitation. Thriller stands as proof that the Swedes can do sex and violence just as well as anyone. And if nothing else, the film teaches a powerful lesson: It’s best not to go messing around with one-eyed mute hookers. (We also learn that every single car in Sweden will inexplicably burst into flames from even the slightest fender bender).

A drastically toned-down version of Thriller: A Cruel Picture was released here in the states under the alternate titles They Call Her One Eye and Hooker’s Revenge. After making the rounds on bootleg videos, where the film has languished in relative obscurity for the past 30 years, Quentin Tarantino sparked new interest in Thriller by using young Madeline as the visual inspiration for Darryl Hannah’s Elle Driver character in Kill Bill. Lucky for us, too, because this is one helluva film–stylish, gritty and raw. Packing enough punch and brutal imagery to do Sam Peckinpah proud.

Big Daddy Kane was right: Pimpin’ ain’t easy. (Synapse)

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