Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette – #1 Act of Vengeance (1974)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette!

Act of Vengeance posterTitle: Act of Vengeance (aka The Violator, Rape Squad)

Year: 1974

Director: Bob Kelljchian

Netflix Rating: 2.8

Seen it before: No

Starring: Jo Ann Harris, Peter Brown, Jennifer Lee, Lisa Moore, Connie Strickland, Patricia Estrin

First Impressions: WTF? Is this even horror? It’s some kind of exploitation film for sure! I can tell that much by the poster. And the year. And the plot. And the era. Le sigh. Oh well, here we go…

The verdict: Ugh! Just ugh! Arg! Goddammit movie! Goddamn 70s! *Flails with rage*

Eh hrm. OK. I’m fine now. No I’m not. I lied.

First off the subtitle of this film should basically be Trigger Warning. So trigger warning.

Act of Vengeance is about five victims of a serial rapist who band together to fight abusive men and get revenge on their rapist after the police prove less than helpful. They deal with sexism, incompetent police, a stalker, a pimp, and a total lack of bras.

Act of Vengeance 2On one hand it’s a pretty basic 1970s revenge flick/exploitation film made to cash in on the popularity of the gritty vigilante craze. It’s certainly not one of the better ones though. The acting is mediocre to laughably bad with occasional bursts of competence. The music is cheesy saxophone style stuff that reaches levels of offensive as “sexy” tracks play over rape scenes. The directing is functional. It’s not confusing, the plot is simple enough that no one could mess it up.

But here’s the thing. First off the sexism is painful to watch. Made all the worse by the fact that it still exists and at those levels, making Act of Vengeance painfully relevant when in a better world it wouldn’t be. The police are terrible, but according to some of the Netflix reviews accurate to the time period. When Linda (Harris) goes to the police station to give her report, immediately after being assaulted, she is given no privacy, has to give her details to a male detective, gets ogled, and victim blamed. The police even bring the women in for a bullshit line-up and complain how hard their job is and how hard rape convictions are. And they still are. And the victims are still blamed. And this movie should feel more antiquated than it does. And the rape scenes are horrible 1970s rape for titillation made creepier by the sound track. A cheap and inexcusable excuse for showing breasts while trying to be serious? I don’t know. But it’s the 70s, so, boobs.

BUT, for all its sins Act of Vengeance is a silly grindhouse flick that makes some cogent arguments about victim’s rights and the empowerment of women. The women defend other women. Taking matters into their own hands, setting up a crisis hotline, taking karate lessons, and confronting men about their bad behavior.

Act of Vengeance 3The Netflix reviews are also very polarized. Some people love it, some hate it. Most of the hate is directed at the technical flaws like the acting, which I wasn’t expecting much from. The dialogue swings between ridiculous to serious, dropping a few f*bombs along the way. And Rapist Jack even gets to narrate his own life. No really. He goes around with a tape recorder planning his rapes and talking about himself in the third person. I couldn’t help but wish this were an episode of Criminal Minds, I just know there’s a diagnosis for Jack. Oh, and he has single-handedly ruined Jingle Bells forever.

If you like 1970s exploitation flicks there are far, far better ones to watch. Anything from Death Wish to Cleopatra Jones (one of my personal favorites) will serve you better.

Rating: 2/10

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Che Gilson

About Che Gilson

Che Gilson is a long time horror fan having been converted early by the Hammer vampire films that used to air on local TV stations after Saturday morning cartoons ended. Fed on a regular diet of horror novels she still loves a good scare. She is the author of several comic books, the urban fantasy novella "Carmine Rojas: Dog Fight" and the upcoming "Tea Times Three". While she can't seem to actually write a horror novel she still watches copious amounts of horror movies. She blogs on TV and writing at Twitter: @CheGilson