Combustible Celluloid
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With: Zoë Tamerlis (Zoë Lund), Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stuto, Helen McGara, Nike Zachmanoglou
Written by: Nicholas St. John
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 80
Date: 04/24/1981

Ms. 45 (1981)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

And Then There Were Nun

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Abel Ferrara's second feature was made for more money than his first cheapo, The Driller Killer, and it shows. Ms. 45 looks as cheap and sleazy as it needs to be, but this factor actually adds to the movie's vicious feel. Zoe Tamerlis (really Zoe Lund) plays Thana, the infamous mute seamstress who is raped, twice, in two unrelated incidents during the first ten minutes of the film. It's pretty hard to take, but the movie is on Thana's side, and she kills the second rapist. She goes a little crazy, and starts randomly killing all men.

For a while the men are all really sleazy and horrible and it seems as if they deserve to die. And Thana gets more and more dressed up each time -- with full, red lipstick, heels and stockings and, at one point, even a nun's habit -- attracting worse and worse men.

The key scene comes when she watches a young Asian couple. The boy has come to visit his girlfriend while she is working at an ice cream parlor. They kiss goodbye and he goes home, followed by Thana. The boy reaches his door and fumbles with the keys. Thana takes aim. We don't want him to die, because for all we know, he looks like the only nice guy in the movie. At the last second, he makes it inside and Thana never takes her shot. This is the scene that gives the movie its humanity, its shades of gray.

The film's stunning, almost phantasmagoric, climax takes place at a Halloween party. Ms. 45 established Ferrara as a grindhouse director with arthouse aspirations, and he he would continue to divide audiences in decades to come. Actress Lund went on to co-write Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant. She died in 1999 at the age of 37.

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