There are a lot of really high-minded art house films from Sweden, with respected actors such as Max Von Sydow. Yet I’m not going to talk about any of them. Today I am talking about another Swedish masterpiece. The rape-revenge-exploitation movie, Thriller – A Cruel Picture.
The film starts on an upbeat note showing us the main character, Frigga, as an innocent young girl. She promptly gets molested by some old Swedish creep. This traumatizes her so much she is mute for life. As she grows up into a young woman her parents have her attend a therapist every week to try to help her. One day she misses the bus on the way to town and gets picked up by some suave eurotrash takes her out for wine and dining.
After charming her, he takes her back to his place where he gets her drunk enough to pass out. Once asleep, he brings in his partner that injects her with heroin. She wakes up fiending for some more smack and he explains to her that she now has a new life as an unwilling prostitute who will work for him in exchange for her twice-daily doses of the H which will keep her from going into withdrawal.
Her first customer comes in and, before he can make non-consensual love to her, she scratches his face up. For punishment, the pimp takes a scalpel to her eyeball in probably the most graphic eye-cutting scene ever put on film. It looks real because the filmmakers allegedly used the real corpse of a girl that had recently committed suicide.
I’ll spare you a screenshot of the scalpel puncturing the real eyeball of a dead woman.
After the loss of her eye, she falls into line. She befriends one of the other girls who tell her to do “a little extra” for the customers for tips so she can save up like her. After a while, the pimp allows the girls out one day a week for free time knowing they will come back for their heroin fix. The girl explains to Frigga her plan to use the extra money to run to Switzerland to attend a rehab clinic. Frigga soon starts the same practice.
The pimp had been writing fake letters to Frigga’s parents telling them that she hates them and has run off with a lover. On Frigga’s first free day away from the whorehouse, she goes home to find out her parents killed themselves from the heartbreak of their little girl running off and supposedly hating them. She takes this about as well as you’d expect.
Frigga then starts her planning. On her days off, she hires a karate master to start teaching her how to fight. She also hires someone to teach her how to use firearms and an expert driver to tutor her on aggressive and defensive driving.
Eventually, enough time passes that she masters all these skills and saves up enough money to buy a car off a shady underworld fence. She then breaks into the firearms trainer’s shed and steals some guns and sets out to take revenge on her customers and lastly the pimp who made her into a heroin addict sex slave. The ending is all carnage with a very satisfying final revenge while looking cool as hell the entire time.
This movie is infamous for a few reasons beyond graphic violence. The original version, Thrilller – A Cruel Picture had straight hardcore porn scenes edited into the film in places. It’s very jarring if you don’t know it’s in the movie. Those scenes aren’t very long, but they are in there, and it can take you out of the story. Another cut of the film, They Call Her One Eye, is the cut of the film as it originally was before the porn was edited in.
You still get all the violence, the eye-popping scene, and standard nudity, but none of the XXX stuff.
In Daniel Ekeroth’s book on Swedish exploitation movies, Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema, it is revealed that the producers took out a huge life insurance policy on star Christina Lindberg, as real ammunition was used in the action sequences, and that she was asked to inject saline solution during the drug scenes.
Synapse films offered They Call Her One Eye “The Vengeance Edition” on DVD several years ago and have just recently brought out a new release of the XXX version on Blu-ray with a bonus copy of The Vengeance Edition on DVD.
Loaded with tons of extras and special features I recommend buying this release.
Thriller – A Cruel Picture is a bleak unforgiving exploitation masterpiece. But it is not for the casual film fan or the squeamish.