a Primal Root written review
Okay, we’re getting into a touchy area right now with Rape Squad, the 1974 Rape/Revenge exploitation sleaze fest. Hell, the title alone is enough to make one uncomfortable which may explain it’s alternate title… The rape/revenge format is one of the very few film genres that still disturbs me. I can watch a whole camp full of horny counselors get hacked into chop-suey and laugh my ass off but watching the depiction of anyone, woman or man, being sexually violated always chills my blood and makes me sick to my stomach. It’s probably the last form of violence you can film a fictionalized reenactment of and it will chill my blood.
That being said, the first act of Rape Squad is some pretty harrowing stuff. We are introduced to Linda ( played by the very lovely Jo Ann Harris) who is briskly established as running her own food truck and works with horses. It’s not ten minutes into the movie before Linda is attacked in the middle of the night at the stables. Jack, the man who rapes her, she later finds out is known to the authorities as “The Jingle Bell Rapist” as he always demands his victims sing the popular Christmas carol as he rapes them. Jack seems to be a little obsessed with the holiday season as he is constantly overheard singing carols and compare stripping his rape victims to unwrapping presents. Even stranger, it looks like he’s committing his raping spree in the middle of summer…a little explanation as to why this psychopath is so caught up in the yule tide cheer would have been appreciated. One thing I now know, there’s something REALLY creepy about someone not only forcing sex on you AND making you sing while they do it. It’s some pretty sick, disturbing shit. Not only that, but Jack dressed in an orange jumpsuit and wears a hockey mask and comes off looking like a rape happy, jail break spawnage of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. I’m sure those two are truly disappointed in their son…
The rape scene goes on for what feels like forever as Linda repeatedly fights for her life and escapes the clutches of her attacker several times before finally being brought down and violated. Jack likes to boast that he’s the best and Linda should thank him for kicking her in the face, slapping her around repeatedly and then raping her. It’s all very rough to take and it gets just about as bad as Linda faces the aftermath of having to go down town to the police station to report the crime. She is questioned about the details of the attack (were you drunk? Did you try to resist? Did you provoke the attack?) by a male detective in front of about a dozen perps and fellow lawmen. It’s grueling and extremely uncomfortable to watch as the traumatized young Linda does her best to put up with this disrespect (there’s not another female in sight) before finally justifiably laying into the detective about how she’s being treated like the criminal for having being dressed in a kind of Daisy Duke Lite ensemble when she was assaulted. Of course, she is labeled a bitch and sent to the doctor to undergo a rape kit.
The doctor lays Linda down and repeats the lines “Thata’ girl” and “Take it easy” as he probes and examines her vagina. It’s cold. clinical and the patronizing language the doctor uses makes the whole sequence feel as if Linda’s being raped all over again. The camera stays focused on Linda’s face as she fights back tears and bears the psychological and physical pain. The test results show no traces of semen so now the police assume she made it all up. And, the cherry on top of the insensitive police department sundae arrives as Linda is leaving the station and an officer makes the offhanded comment “Gee, I wish that would happen to me. I’d just sit back and enjoy it. HAR, HAR, HAR!” Linda stop dead in her tracks, gets in this assholes face and verbally turns him into mince meat. It’s really a pitch perfect response to his idiocy and must be seen and heard to feel it’s impact. It’s one of those little monologues where you want to get up and cheer.
The police do nothing, another woman’s house is broken into and she is, like Linda, slowly, methodically, brutalized by the same hockey mask wearing, carol singing, sicko that stalked her down the night before. The police hold a lineup held behind protective chicken wire (WTF?) and all five of the previous victims assemble in order to identify their rapist. This line up turns out to be a waste of time set up to illustrate how impossible the detective’s job is of tracking down the Jingle-Bell Rapist and even harder it will be for the victims to identify him. (“Well, shoot, guys! This case is just too damn hard! We should probably just give up.”) The victims join forces and create an all woman team they call “RAPE SQUAD”! They start taking martial arts lesson replete with a montage of them repeatedly whacking a sparing dummy in the ballsalogical region, creating an emergency phone line for victims of sexual predators, and providing chaperon service to the apparently all male police station so that victims might have a woman present while being asked “So, were you asking for it, miss?”
Not only that, but they manage to turn the tables on all manner of sex abuse scumbags from dirty night callers whom they accost in dark alleys, strip, shame, and threaten with law suits to angry horrifically scrawny slap happy pimps whose cars the RAPE SQUAD savagely beat with hammers and then crush their testicles and then kick them in the head till the lose consciousness. They even go as far as to go home with forceful, cocky guys to see if they might be the kind to date rape someone. Once the arrogant would-be raper makes their move, the RAPE SQUAD, moves in to destroy their apartment, beat ’em up, tie em down and dye their cock and balls Smurf Blue so they are marked and identifiable if they should ever raise their dicks to rape anyone.
The ladies kick ass and take names all while indulging is in a few totally nude sequences, one of which they go and dip themselves in a hot tub and discuss their plans to begin the RAPE SQUAD. It’s exploitation, pure and simple, and it;s to be expected. They dealt with the worse case scenario of the rape and it’s aftermath so disturbingly well that a little bit of the ladies getting naked and showing off how comfortable they are with themselves and their bodies is kind of commendable. Either that or I am trying to justify the filmmakers for inserting some titillating submerged full frontal nudity and luscious bobbing breasts in order to play to the crowds baser instincts…The hell with it, it’s an exploitation film and that nekkid shower/hot tub scene is integral to the plot! They just finished kung-fu practice, damn it!
The final act of the film bring the RAPE SQUAD face to face with their rapist as he leads the five of them into a final showdown in a dilapidated, abandoned zoo. The final battle is pretty hardcore and even a bit subversive, bloody, and savage. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how The Jingle-Bell Rapist managed to stay so well hidden while wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and blazing white hockey mask…Well, anyway, when the final conflict finally happens it ends up being a match between the rapist and RAPE SQUAD ring leader, Linda over the fate of the Squad and to deliver vengeance onto the individual who scarred the lives of so many woman…
Rape Squad aka Act of Vengeance was a far better film than I was expecting. The subject matter is handled with great care and some fantastic performances are given. The stand out being Jo Ann Harris as Linda who gives everything she’s got and really sells her rage, shame, trauma and eventual strength and triumph over her aggressor. She basically carries the entire picture and is one very talented actress for an early 70’s sleazy exploitation picture. I really do admire the first parts of the film dealing with Linda’s attack and the horrible aftermath. It feels earnest and like the filmmakers really wanted to make a point as to how horrifying the act of rape is and that victims of this crime should be treated with far more care. I mean, it seems almost unimaginable that those sworn to serve and protect would be so callous towards someone whose just been sexually assaulted. still, I’ve heard many accounts of just such thins happening to women who report being attacked and raped and, if you ask me, I would much rather be stalked down and murdered by a Jason Voorhees style slasher (yes, even the spear gun impale through the dick death from The Final Chapter) than go through what Linda does.
It’s only when the film switches gears from the rape to the revenge plot that it delves a bit into the campy side. Like I said, there is an extensive nekkid hot tub scene and some preventative rape violence that I cannot help but assume were played for laughs. Especially when they beat the living hell of of an angry pimp that looks like a skeleton wearing my grandma’s old wardrobe. But without the intensity of the rapes and the ordeal that happens being illustrated so effectively, I doubt the RAPE SQUAD’s actions would be as crowd pleasing as they are.
Rape Squad is not exactly a sexist film…nor is it a feminist film. This is a really odd package deal. I enjoyed it thoroughly and was pleased how all aspects of the picture were handled. It’s an exploitation film that falls into the usual cliches but not before grounding things in stark, cold, reality and showing us the dark side of violence and ignorance. Rape Squad aka Act of Vengeance is an above average grindhouse flick well worth checking out if you’ve got the fortitude for this type of endeavor.