In a scarcity for me, I had only seen the 2010 remake before indulging in this 70’s slice of misogynistic, rape-revenge depravity. The remake definitely constructed byzantine contraptions to castrate and otherwise disembowel the chauvinistic molesters behind the heinous crime. For its part, I thought it was an adequately manipulative exploitation flick
On the other hand, the superior 1978 version is bereft of musical accompaniment as the beginning (with author Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) furloughing from New York to a backwoods cabin in Kent, Connecticut) is accentuated for its unpalatable inevitability. The film also thrives on its politically incorrect, low-budget limitations (a scene of the hillbillies harassing and towing the protagonist’s rowboat is filmed sans coverage other than a shore perspective).
Matthew (played with broad, nebbish arrested-development by Richard Pace that could be the muse for John Travolta in The Fanatic) arrives at her doorstep and between the subpar microphone placement and the stagy overacting, their exchange is quite cumbersome. In fact, it resembles the early craftsmanship of Lloyd Kaufman.
The yokels who perpetrated their male dominion over Jennifer aren’t especially drawn as libidinous masterminds. They’re hooligans whose oversimplified philosophy is that metropolitan women are promiscuous. The incident itself is portrayed in a more sordid light for the lack of score (other than the chirping birds and breeze between the trees), the snuff-film camerawork and the euphoric expression of carnal ecstasy when the main antagonist orgasms.
Meir Zarchi is a much more invective director with an underlying agenda than he is given credence for. For instance, when Jennifer crawls to the phone, the kick off the receiver is a galvanizing shock. He also ruthlessly commentates on the fragile male ego, victim blaming, virginal peer pressure and insecurity around female careerism (ex. The hayseeds titter at the latest pages of her book).
Naturally, the portion in which Jennifer systematically exterminates the foes is immensely gratifying and isn’t hyperbolized by traps that are Rube Goldberg devices like the remake. Keaton’s valiant performance should be plauditory as she reduces them down to their most vulnerable, aroused states before enacting her vendetta.