I Spit On Your Grave (a.k.a Day of the Woman) - The Original 1978 Director's Cut Blu-ray Review
The movie comes to US Region-A locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition restoration in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.78:1. Considering its age and its low budget origins – and the fact that the original prints were tinkered with so many times in order to appease the MPAA (cuts, and then re-insertions), this restored Director’s Cut looks surprisingly good. Sure, it doesn’t compare to recent releases in any way, nor does it stand up to decades-old classics which have undergone the best possible remastering and restoration techniques, but it is a polished-up, decent-looking rendition of a movie that has probably never been shown this much love and attention. Detail is good – never excellent, but never terrible – with the director’s preference for longer shots showcasing the limitations of the transfer, but also highlighting the upper end of the quality on offer. An early sequence where Jennifer goes skinny-dipping has the camera pull out to watch her from across the lake, and the whole shot looks amazing – from the foreground branches framing the image, to the mid-ground river reflection of the trees opposite, to the background of said trees. It looks beautiful. That’s not to say that some of the other shots don’t look considerably worse – the night-fishing sequence is terrible, strewn with an uncomfortable level of grain; and some of the lower-lit indoor shots don’t fare much better – but, overall, detail is good enough, softness is kept in check, grain is within an acceptable range, and defects are apparent but never distracting. The colour scheme is very 70s in nature, and a little faded at that, but generally skin tones look good, and the brighter outfits come across fairly well. This is not a great-looking movie – it was never going to be – but it’s far from bad, and looks considerably better than it has ever looked before.
The movie itself naturally has an extremely limited soundtrack – with just sound effects and dialogue throughout the whole thing. It incorporates what they call a ‘silent score’, i.e. there is no score, and it’s left to the words and atmospheric ambience to carry the movie. As such, this works quite well, but it leaves very little material for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack to show off. Sure, dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, largely emanating from the frontal array (even when you get yelps and cat-calls from off-screen); and the effects come across as reasonably authentic – from the soft water-plopping of the calm river, to the creaking of the trees as the hammock sways, to the outboard motor-boat engine being gunned across the screen, but directionality is not a strong point; rears don’t really get a great deal of action, and bass is practically non-existent. You can’t really complain – as noted, it’s a naturally quiet, subtle movie – and I’m sure there’s little they could have done to make this some kind of massively engulfing all-round affair.
First up we get the writer/director Meir Zarchi talking over his production. It’s interesting because in the introduction he’s less discussing the movie, and more reading a long essay which has been written about it. For this time he reads comments made – both good and bad – about the film, and it’s only after a few minutes that he gets into his own thoughts (again, which seem largely read and rehearsed). Still, it’s a very informative offering, and clearly his preparation for doing such a commentary has the bonus of being very effective in terms of content, despite the effect that it has on his delivery. He talks about the location, the way he shot the scenes, and frequently highlights the wonders worked in the editing suite to put everything together coherently; he discusses the cast, revealing the real-life individuals he based many of the characters on (with a great deal of focus on Camille), and it’s all good stuff, but the storytelling presentation can get tiresome, and even make you feel sleepy through its style and soft-spoken delivery. Worth absorbing, although perhaps best taken in smaller, more easily digestible portions.
The second commentary is with author and film historian, Joe Bob Briggs, who sets out to decide whether this is either the most disgusting movie ever seen, or the most pro-feminist movie ever made. He sounds like a “good ‘ol Southern boy”, and his attitude can be a bit grating, but it turns out to be quite beneficial to what he is trying to say – that the original critics’ criticisms were unfounded and smacked of complete and utter ignorance, and that this was clearly a very pro-women movie: portraying men as universally stupid and relentlessly depraved, and women as capable of overcoming anything and taking back the power without the help of a man. His comments are very sarcastic, and often spot-on, and his observations are very easy to relate to. Worth watching right the way through.
The Values of Vengeance: Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit on your Grave spends half an hour with the director, retrospectively reflecting on the production that he is best known for. He talks about the real event that inspired his making this movie, how he put the project together, his casting – Camille Keaton was the only real choice for the lead part, because the director felt she was just right, his personal relationship with her (marriage, then divorce), how he shot the movie using unusual shots, and then it took a year to edit all the footage together. He discusses the interesting option for music, and how they eventually decided to drop a score in favour of just effects. There’s also plenty of discussion on the eventual unsuccessful release, and how hard it was to get it accepted by anybody, most of all the MPAA, who insisted on cuts, but refused to state exactly what cuts were needed to secure an R rating. And interestingly he talks about the title change, and how heartbroken he was when it was renamed, and how he now insists that it is released as “I Spit on your Grave aka Day of the Woman.” He talks a little bit about how he wanted to do a sequel, but never struck a suitable deal to make it, and what he thinks of the recent remake – generally he seems okish with it. It’s a great retrospective interview, well worth watching every minute of.
Alternate Main Title
This is just a brief – literally 5 second – shot of the opening titles set against Jennifer driving out of New York, and here, instead of having “I Spit on your Grave” written up, it shows “Day of the Woman” instead.
There are Trailers, TV Spots and Radios Spots for the title, promoted as Day of the Woman, in its international releases, and as I Spit on your Grave.
Poster and Stills Gallery offers up a selection of a little over a dozen shots taken during the production, focussing mainly on the Director, his crew and the lead actress, with some poster samples shown afterwards (some of these are really don’t promote the film in the right way).
Finally, there are also a couple of trailers on discs start-up, including one for the 2010 remake.
Almost universally maligned by critics and audiences alike on its initial, censored, release, Meir Zarchi’s massively controversial Day of the Woman was quickly renamed I Spit on your Grave and re-released uncut to gradually become a cult classic, and one of the most infamous rape-revenge movies of all time. Retrospectively, many have come to realise that there is far more to this movie than initially meets the eye – and that many of the comments made against it are totally unfounded. It is veritably a movie that totally empowers the lead woman, even after dragging her through the depths of depravity first, and it attempts to justify its latter scenes of horrific revenge through its explicit and prolonged depiction of arguably the nastiest rape sequence ever committed to film. Still, even if you can see through the horrors to get to the morality play beneath it all, you’ll likely be haunted by what you have experienced through the eyes of the lead character. Much like many controversial- but-great films that have come since – from Requiem for a Dream to Irreversible – most will probably find that this is a must-see movie which you will likely never want to see again. And you may even regret having endured it in the first place. It is that hard to watch.
On Region-A locked US Blu-ray – currently the only available uncut release – we get video and audio in line with the low budget quality of the production, which does its best with the material, but which can only do so much. The extras are particularly interesting, and well worth exploring, as there is plenty of informative and revealing commentary upon the production, both from film historians and the director alike. Those who want to own this movie should consider this the definitive edition to pick up. Those who are curious should first ensure that they have strong stomachs and the resolve to survive The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill.
I Spit On Your Grave (a.k.a Day of the Woman) - The Original 1978 Director's Cut Blu-ray (1978) Information HubSuggested retail price when reviewed: £15.48
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