aka Angel of Vengeance
Written by Nicholas St. John (as N.G. St. John)
Directed by Abel Ferrara
Ms. 45 is a genre classic, a required viewing exploitation film, and among the best rape and revenge movies ever made. Zoë Lund (then Zoë Tamerlis) is haunting as the mute Thana, whose life as a seamstress at a fashion house is shattered when she’s attacked by rapists twice on the same day. The second attack ends with Thana striking a blow atop the assailant’s head, killing him. At first horrified at what she’s done, Thana attempts to cover up his death, and takes the gun he leaves behind. Soon, her paranoia as she disposes of pieces of his dismembered corpse causes her to kill again.
Thana transforms from silent victim to silent avatar of death, walking the streets at night to become a target of attackers so she can eliminate them. As no one likes scummy rapists, Thana’s actions cause the audience to cheer for her, the excitement of seeing bad people punished mixes with the thrill of someone fighting back against her oppressors.
It soon becomes apparent that Thana’s search for vengeance has moved beyond rapists. She starts stalking a guy who is just making out with his girlfriend in the street. The target have moved from bad men to men in general, and by the end of the film she’s shooting every man she sees, indiscriminate of whether he is an awful person or not. The targets even go beyond human males, her landlady’s dog Phil (played by a dog named Bogey, which is too cool of a name not to mention) is aware that some sort of delicious rotting meat is in her apartment, and Thana attempts to eliminate him by taking him for a walk in heavy traffic. The audience sympathy begins to drain away like a leaky balloon. But Zoë Lund is just too charming, you can’t turn against her entirely even if she’s aiming a gun at your face. Thana’s rise and fall becomes another tale of power corrupting, her power of life and death corrupting her into a force that lashes out indiscriminately and becomes as bad as the people who turned her onto that path.
As fun as gunning down the guilty in the streets goes, who really should be the judge, jury, and executioner? Many of the men Thana shoots are not the nicest of guys, but haven’t committed capital crimes. They may treat their wives/girlfriends like crap, complain, and talk rowdy stuff, but is that worth death? Thana sees the worst in men, and many of the depictions of men in the movie are men who are only seen at their worst. How much of the view of how the male characters act is clouded by her perspective? It’s an extra layer of haze that may be present over the entire film, or may not exist at all. After all, as a man, I know how sick and twisted many men are.