I hope you’ve enjoyed this wander through a previously unknown low-rent movie anthology series, as we come to the end and “Death Blow: A Cry For Justice”. After a proper horror movie, an unofficial sequel to “I Spit On Your Grave”, and a bizarre mental breakdown kind-of-slasher movie, the last in the “I Will Dance On Your Grave” non-series is a thoroughly miserable rape movie that manages to feel like a cross between exploitation and a Lifetime Issue Of The Week.
What it does have that elevates it among its brethren is a surprisingly well-known leading cast. Martin Landau – who described this later as one of the worst things he’d ever done – is a judge; Frank “Sylvester’s brother” Stallone is a dirty cop – there’s even rapist cameos for Don “Patrick’s brother” Swayze and Jerry “Dick’s brother” Van Dyke too! There’s also a great performance from Donna Denton (whose career never really went anywhere) as a law student / activist for an abused women clinic, and people like George “Buck” Flower and Henry Darrow show up in smaller roles. Of course, everything else about the movie puts it right down in the company we love.
First up, a warning of sorts. I appreciate that rape is an extremely unsettling subject, and has personal resonances for some that mean they probably don’t want to read some idiot on the internet mock a movie about it. But please bear in mind, any jokes I make are about the terrible movie this is, and not the subject, in any way.
We live in a world where it seems men have gone rape crazy. There’s a grand total of three guys who view women as anything other than meat, and two of them are the fathers of victims; so, one guy. Anyway, while there’s nothing graphic in this movie, very little nudity and blood, it’s just thoroughly depressing. It feels a little like an endless series of crime reconstructions from TV shows – a woman is shown saying goodnight to her friends, or her car breaks down, and some allegedly friendly man says “how you doin’ darlin?” before grabbing her and driving her off somewhere, repeat repeat repeat. “Buck” Flower rapes a Hispanic woman and tells her that if she says anything, he’ll make sure she’s deported. Just awful scene after awful scene.
Cut in with this is the formation of “Women Against Rape”, a direct-action group, and one that, if it wasn’t a real thing then, is a real thing now (there are many W.A.R. groups in the USA). A wealthy older lady is funding the McCormick Centre, for survivors of rape, where they get medical and legal help, along with some self-defence training. With help from paralegal Helen Shaw (Denton), they’re taking on the police department too, who pretend like they’re helpful, but Officer Taggert (Stallone) obviously couldn’t give a damn about these women. Sadly, neither do any other cops apart from one, who falls in love with Helen (sadly, his name and the actor playing him will be lost to the mists of time, because I wasn’t paying attention and there’s lots of actors on IMDB with no photos next to their name).
After being fired up with indignation over the police not caring about the files they’ve prepared about the literally thousands of unsolved rapes happening in LA, they start taking matters into their own hands, wielding a branding iron with “RAPE” written on it before graduating to a more final form of justice. And so the movie goes, with horrible event inspiring further horrible event, until its horrible conclusion.
Nothing in this movie works. The plot is mind-numbingly repetitive, the acting is mostly dull and flat, and it falls between too many stools. Given how it was lumped in with horror movies, there’s no horror; Lifetime movie fans will think it’s too grim; exploitation fans won’t think it’s grim enough. I have absolutely no idea who it was marketed to. There’s also the view of humanity it has. All men are rapists, pretty much, and women are doomed because the legal system doesn’t work (shown by the judge being powerless and the cops being utterly corrupt) and if they take matters into their own hands, they’ll get sent to jail. No conclusions are reached, nothing is resolved, and the statistics used at the end of the movie are a further reminder how appallingly women are still treated by the system (while it’s gotten better in recent years, perhaps slightly).
As it’s disappeared pretty completely (no DVD release that I can see, no TV station would touch it with a bargepole) I feel pretty confident none of you will be happening upon this movie any time soon. But if you do, avoid. I for one am delighted that this series is over and we can get back to the sort of stupid fare we’re more happy covering.
Rating: thumbs down